Review: Long Division 2015
June 18, 2015
Long Division 2015 opened on Friday June 12 with British Sea Power and support from local band The Grand, but the festival proper, where dozens of bands played across six venues within in a stone’s throw of each other in Wakefield city centre, took place the following day.
First up were The Spills in the minor hall of Unity Works. Dean Freeman, one of the festival’s main two promoters, introduced them by reminding us that The Spills had this same honour in 2011, and by telling us that they weren’t just one his favourite Wakefield bands, but that they were one his favourite bands anywhere.
[The Spills ® Jess Rowbottom]
Incredibly, with the exception of little bit of facial hair here and there, The Spills barely appear to have aged since their early beginnings in the last decade – and they are now one of Wakefield’s longest running bands on their particular scene. They still have the snarling vocals (although more shared than before) and dam-busting choruses, but the guitar parts have become even more wiry than before, and even more virtuoso. At times they reminded me of another Wakefield band, Imp, which shows the power of the musical hub that is Wakefield (yes, don’t laugh if you weren’t aware that Wakefield is its own musical hub).
Keeping up the self-promotion theme for Wakefield bands, was the next act, Piskie Sits, also featuring the other main promoter of the festival, Chris Morse, on bass. This was also in the minor hall and there weren’t any other acts on at this point early in the afternoon, so it was almost as if, one way or another, people from outside of Wakefield would have to experience some of the city’s creations.
[Piskie Sits, ® Jess Rowbottom]
Last year Piskie Sits closed the festival with a gig on Sunday that also doubled up as a recording for a live album where-by the audience listed to the gig through headphones. The band could relax this year, safe in the knowledge that any mistake would be confined to memory (and this review), such as the false start to a new song and the messy beginning to Big Fat Mouth, one of their standout tracks. Any mistake could be forgiven, of course, with a new drummer and the long hiatus they have had since September, when they closed last year’s Long Division.
The stifling humidity was also brought up by singer Craig Hale. “This song is called Dance of Death,” he said, “which might come true if it gets any hotter in here.”
Following Piskie Sits and opening the proceedings in the lovely, restored main hall of Unity Works, were Cry Baby Cry, a Wakefield super group of sorts. A three-piece noise-pop band with dual male and female vocals that is sat somewhere between catchy and angry in a getting-out-of-bed-on-the-wrong-side sort of way. Fierce and catchy, this band seemed more than at home in the festival’s most expansive arena.
[Crybabycry ® Ian Bower]
Another band with ambitions to play large arenas is Allusondrugs, who performed with a well-honed live style of neck-breaking head-banging, more screams than Saw IV and ear-splitting grunge-rock, although there wasn’t even the hint of a moshpit for this mid-afternoon performance. The only problem I have with them is that it’s hard to know if any of them actually have faces. I like my bands to have faces.
From one beautiful venue to another, Sam Airey’s melancholic folk was perfectly staged in Westgate Chapel. Poetic vocals and delicate arpeggios echoed around the pious setting while the audience watched attentively.
Next up, back in the main hall at Unity Works, were Menace Beach. Ten minutes into their proposed set-time they were still soundchecking, and even after that they seemed unhappy with their sound, and this was reflected in the shambolic nature of their early set. It was all up-and-down, snakes and ladders, but eventually it came together towards the end, although some people had left after the volume had gone up to twelve.
Menace Beach are a Leeds supergroup of sorts, with members sucked in from other successful acts (Komakino, Sky Larkin), so a muddled beginning should stand as no reflection on their potential.
[Menace Beach ® Luke Hannaford]
After Menace Beach I found myself walking the longest stretch of the day, roughly three minutes of walk in total, to Players Bar. The first time I had to negotiate Wakefield’s notorious Westgate.
Playing here were Cactus Knife. At first I was worried by the lack of people in the gig room (just four when I first arrived), but has they began blasting out druggy, drawn-out surf pop people began filling the darkened square and soaking up the sounds. Cactus Knife are from Wigan, and if I was a lazy stoner and I would compare them to A Northern Soul rather than Urban Hymns, but I’m not, so I won’t – there’s more to life than Wigan.
Secondly in Players, for me at least, were Kliene Schweine, one of the few bands that can be arsed to write political shit – and all credit to them for that. If there’s one genre of music that needs to stand up and throw a smelly turd in Nigel Farage’s face, then surely it’s punk? Kleine Schweine have all the anger of the Damned with the wit of Morrissey and political pretensions of Billy Bragg. And they’re a fine live act to boot.
Probably the biggest name on the line-up and highest profile of the headliners were Ash, closing the proceedings in the main hall of Unity Works (although after their performance the remainder of the audience took it upon themselves to turn the fully-lit arena into a bright, late-night disco by dancing to whatever music was played). Ash, with a couple of decades of experience behind them, have the clean discipline and strong sound that many of bands still have to learn.
I don’t profess to be a big Ash fan, but the joy with which they played unashamedly poppy punk/indie couldn’t fail to get anyone smiling, drinking, dancing and singing. Sometimes a hit parade is the best way to close a festival.
But that wasn’t it. As hinted upon earlier, it is now a tradition for Long Division to be brought to a close on the Sunday night of the weekend with a live recording performance, where-by the audience have headphones to hear what the band and the producers are hearing. The men behind the sound desk are the people behind the brilliant Greenmount Studios (Jamie Lockhart, Lee Smith and Rob Slater), and this year the band being recording were the Ainsley Band.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the weekend, the atmosphere was tremendous and the performance was about as intimate and involved as you could get. The audience were warned beforehand that any cough or slammed door could make it onto the final pressing, but of course most people were well-behaved. The Ainsley Band are more known for their rowdy live performances and solid pop, but all the punk pretensions were stripped back and replaced with a sadness that sometimes hinted upon country. Where there would be distortion, there was a fiddle, and where there would be shouting it was replaced, sometimes, with soft female vocals.
This was another of Wakefield proudly promoting itself, and showing that it doesn’t always have to do it at the top of its voice.