Wakefield is a cultural hotbed of art and music and Long Division represents the five days where the city comes together to celebrate its achievements. Attracting thousands of visitors from both inside and outside the city, it’s grown from humble beginnings in 2011 to being one of the most anticipated dates on the festival calendar.
This year’s event ran from Wednesday 29 May through to Sunday 2 June, with Saturday’s multi-venue music extravaganza once again dominating proceedings. Over 90 artists performed across 15 participating venues and spaces throughout the day, so here are Gigwise’s top eight picks from the eighth edition of Long Division.
Everyone loves a local hero, and in the case of Knuckle there are three. Although primarily based in Huddersfield, singer and guitarist Jonny Firth is a Wakefield legend in his own right, having played with a number of bands in and around the city over the past two decades.
But with Knuckle he appears to have struck gold, as this trio - who last month released their debut LP Life Is Hard When You’re Soft Inside via Wakefield indie label Philophobia Music - can unashamedly pack a punch or two. Such is the strength of their live reputation, their early afternoon set in the back room of Henry Boon’s - a homely real ale pub on the outskirts of the city centre - is so busy they've had to open the fire escape at the back of the stage so people can also watch from the street.
And their gig today takes no time to get going: bravely opening with a brand new cut (‘C U Next Thursday’) before diving headfirst into ‘Spilt Milk’, their recent politically charged single that sticks two fingers up to Brexit. Over the remainder of their 30-minute set, the trio draw from the best bits of their aforementioned debut LP. ‘Baby I’m A Dickhead’ and ‘Meet Me At The Station’ go down particularly well. Musically, they sound like a bar fight between The Black Keys, Queens Of The Stone Age and Idles, which is no bad thing, particularly as there are no losers at the end.
You might also like...
If I were a betting man, my money would be on these guys following the likes of Drahla and The Cribs in breaking new territories beyond West Yorkshire.
Imperial Wax probably get sick and tired of people saying this (and rightly so), but three of them played in the final incarnation of The Fall. Which is no bad thing if today’s performance is anything to go by, as those eleven years spent with Mark E Smith clearly served them well.
They only play six songs this afternoon but still manage to make an astounding impact in front of a large crowd in the spacious confines of Warehouse 23. Their debut album Gastwerk Saboteurs came out last month and is well worth checking out, which many people do at the end of the set when a queue forms at the merch stand.
The two singles which preceded the album elicit the biggest response, particularly the hard-hitting ‘Art Of Projection’, which sounds like the late, lamented Earl Brutus wrestling with a cement mixer. Elsewhere, the visceral and harmonious ‘Plant The Seed’ and ‘Rammy Taxi Illuminati’ prove fitting advertisements for the album.
Everybody loves a supergroup, especially when its members are too modest to admit to such a label. Nevertheless, that’s precisely what Cruel World are described as thanks to band members being past and present players with Post War Glamour Girls and Middleman, among others.
The beautifully ornate surroundings of Wakefield’s Mechanics Theatre suits their occasionally angelic, mostly slacker lo-fi down to the ground. Imagine Pavement covering Mercury Rev (or vice versa) with a spot of Lower Dens thrown in and you’re in the right vicinity.
The vocal interplay between James Smith and Harry Ridgway provides a subtle imbalance for their dissonant fusion of country and indie rock that’s both heart-warming and mind-blowing in equal measure.
While they have very little music out there at present (check out debut single ‘Boxer’ if you can pick up a copy anywhere!), we’re sure it won’t be long before labels are chomping at the bit to release their wares.
Photo:James A Mumby
Menace Beach are another band with a claim to being a supergroup of sorts, albeit one that’s firmly established in its own right. They have released three critically acclaimed albums since forming seven years ago.
Although essentially the brainchild of Leeds based/Derby born Liza Violet and Ryan Needham, the current five-piece line-up is arguably their most stable and as a result, musically proficient so far. With nods to bands like Stereolab, Broadcast, and younger upstarts such as W. H. Lung, their penchant for creating insatiable electronic orientated pop songs out of largely experimental passages renders them one of the festival’s most exciting performers.
With a film score in the making that focuses even more on eighties inspired synth pop, it promises to be an exciting time for Menace Beach in the coming months ahead.
Photo: Anthony Longstaff
We Were Promised Jetpacks
It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since 'Quiet Little Voices', the debut single from Edinburgh’s We Were Promised Jetpacks, landed unwittingly on our doorsteps. Quite possibly the finest debut release of 2009 along with the album that followed (These Four Walls) a month later, they were quite rightly tipped for bigger things at the time alongside (then) fellow label mates The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit.
Not that becoming famous was ever on the agenda, each preferring to exist on their own terms instead. Which has served We Were Promised Jetpacks well. Last year’s fourth long player The More I Sleep The Less I Dream continued the band’s theme of writing thought-provoking yet astoundingly personal lyrics over mostly brutally constructed arrangements. Most notably in the likes of ‘Hanging In’ and ‘Repeating Patterns’ which stand out quite charismatically here.
Elsewhere, debut LP These Four Walls is represented by the inclusion of a ferocious ‘It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning’, while ‘Ships With Holes Will Sink’ also raises a feral toast to yesteryear. The as-yet unreleased ‘Burner’ also bodes well for the four-piece's next record, while ‘Sore Thumb’ and ‘Boy In The Backseat’ off 2011’s In The Pit Of The Stomach provide timely reminders of We Were Promised Jetpacks’ consistency throughout their existence.
While live shows outside of their native Scotland are becoming more of a rarity nowadays, their set proves well worth the wait and admission fee alone.
Asian Dub Foundation
Whisper it quietly but Asian Dub Foundation are currently celebrating their 26th year of existence. Not that it makes any difference to their exhilarating performance in Warehouse 23 this evening.
Indeed as an exercise in turning back the clock, ADF are simply sublime. Playing a career spanning set encompassing material that stretches back to their 1995 debut Facts And Fictions – a rousing ‘Rebel Warrior’ at the end – they’re an infectious musical tour de force who’ve inspired literally dozens of artists all around the world.
Of course, with the current social and political climates enabling the rise of the right for the first time in decades, songs like ‘Naxalite’, ‘Stand Up’ - and in particular, ‘Fortress Europe’ - have never been more relevant than they are today. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that each and every song they play during their hour long set is rapturously received by all and sundry out front.
Photo: Anthony Longstaff
Who knew that Bis had a new album out? Me neither until this evening, which makes the four songs they play off said new LP Slight Disconnects a welcome addition to an already fun packed Best Of set.
Ah Bis, the first (technically) unsigned band to play Top Of The Pops back in 1996 with ‘Kandy Pop’, which when dispatched after only four songs results in a melee of flailing limbs. The trio – Manda Rin and brothers Sci-Fi Steven and John Disco – proceed to play a twelve songs set that’s innately more about looking forwards than reeling in nostalgia.
As with Asian Dub Foundation earlier, 1998’s ‘Eurodisco’ holds as much significance now as it did upon release twenty-one years ago. Meanwhile, ‘Action And Drama’ with its hookline “Give me eighties Madonna!”, and ‘School Disco’ take us back to a time when throwaway pop didn’t necessarily equate to over produced and badly performed music.
So coming back around full circle, ‘Sound Of A Heartbreak’ and ‘The Big Sunshine’ off this year’s album bookend the set in style which keeps the band busy signing records by the merch stand long after they’ve finished.
Photo: John Jowett
Peter Hook and The Light
With so many accounts of the Joy Division and New Order stories available it’s difficult not to form an opinion one way or the other. Over a decade has passed since Peter Hook became estranged with his former bandmates in New Order and while that split was anything but amicable, no one can deny he’s earned the right to headline festivals with his current band, The Light.
While the current incarnation of New Order (or “the band masquerading as…” as Peter Hook is often quoted as saying in interviews) continue to write new music, Hook and The Light revel in his and their past glories but also manage to do it exceptionally well.
So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that this hour-long set provides the perfect finale to a fantastic day of live music. Drawing on artefacts from both bands’ back catalogues, it really is difficult to criticise any set that features note perfect renditions of timeless classics such as ‘Ceremony’, ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ‘Blue Monday’.
Hook plays to the crowd throughout, making statuesque poses at the front of the stage, bass slung low, while the likes of ‘Transmission’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ are incredulously despatched from the archive. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ brings the house down, and with it the end of another Long Division.
Roll on 2020!
Photo: Andrew Benge