Various Artists – Long Division Festival 2021, Wakefield, 25th September 2021

Posted: 26 September 2021 in Live
Tags: , , ,

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a long time coming. Not only was Long Division postponed from 2020, but the usual may / June date pushed back – and back – to the penultimate weekend in September. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate Long Division over the more renowned Live at Leeds, which increasingly feels more mainstream-orientated and generally more commercial, while the smaller event has retained its predominantly local focus (plus the now-obligatory Scottish contingent, who are always welcome) and a sense of catering to a broader demographic, with up-and-coming talent sitting comfortably along well-established and even what I suppose you might consider more heritage acts. In short, there’s something for everyone, and with Wakefield being a compact city, none of the venues are more than a few minutes’ walk from one another.

An indication of a well-planned festival is the breadth and depth of the bill, where it’s possible to spread the quality over the course of the day instead of flopping listlessly around in the early evening before all five of your must-see acts all playing between half eight and eleven, and arriving early doors meant being rewarded with The Golden Age of TV being first on at WX – a new venue, and a good one, right next to the wristband exchange. WX is spacious – by which I mean huge., but has good sound, and band seem to enjoy the big stage. The band have evolved significantly during their time away, and if Bea’s oversized jacket has a touch of the David Byrnes, vocally, she’s transitioned from Florence Welch to Siouxsie Sioux as she leads the band through a tight and energetic set of guitar-driven post punk infused indie rock. They’ve certainly set the bar high for the rest of the day.

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The Golden Age of TV

Solo artist Mayshe Mayshe’s sparse, minimal ethereal synth pop provides a strong contrast. Although with no obvious or radical changes, with the hair dryer still a feature of her set, she conjures magic with vocal loops and atmosphere, with an array of heavily-echoed modes of percussion and some shuddering bass frequencies. There’s some really deft and dextrous pedal work and real-time mixing, and it’s a captivatingly understated performance.

It’s back over to the WX, where Hands Off Gretel open with ‘Milk’, and Lauren Tate is straight in with a full-throated roar and all of the Cortney Love guitar poses with her foot in monitor. ‘Bigger than Me’ from the new Angry EP is a rager: there’s no question they’re at their best when they really let it all rip, and less so when it comes to chat between songs, while Lauren has trouble with a bottle of water for much of the set. New song ‘War’ is also a stormer, and ‘Don’t Touch’ from new EP also has bite, if very strong hints of The Pretty Reckless. They close with a passable but middling rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’, and the lasting impression is of the style and the delivery rather than the songs.

Last time I saw Cud was 1992, and I had wondered just what kind of interest there would be in them in Wakefield in the middle of the afternoon. They’re one of those bands who were never cool, but then didn’t much give a fuck, and it seems little has changed, really. Carl Puttnam has still got the moves, and the look of a chubby pimp with lounge style vocals. They’re well-received, with a lot of middle aged people dancing down the front, especially to ‘Rich and Strange’ and the baggy groove of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ during which some guy in a ‘Child of Cud’ T got on stage and did a Bez. And you know what? Maybe nostalgia is what it used to be, and they were good fun.

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Cud

Remaining in the WX, it’s not quite as busy for Brix and The Extricated, who power through a lively set. She’s got all the energy and positively full the state with presence, a restless force and a whirl of red sequins and platinum hair. The Fall’s ‘Feeling Numb’ lands fairly early on, and after ‘Dinosaur Girl’, they’re into the timeless classic that is ‘LA’. It doesn’t get better than that.

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Brix and the Extricated

Only, perhaps it does: Big Joanie have got The Establishment rammed to capacity, and it’s remarkable to see how they’ve gone from supporting Charlie Bliss at Headrow House in Leeds just a couple of years ago to playing one of the buzziest sets of the day ahead of a tour supporting IDLES in 1,500 capacity venues. This, of course, makes this afternoon’s set all the sweeter, and what’s so pleasing to see is that the band themselves haven’t changed. They still stand out, with their standing drumming as the sparse power trio deliver simple chord repetitions with instant hooks. Less is definitely more and they looked to be really enjoying themselves, too, and if you‘re looking for examples of strong role models with a positive message as well as great tunes, they deliver, while being completely devoid of cliché.

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Big Joanie

Watching Lanterns on the Lake’s mellow, expansive post-rock with some smooth textures and dynamic drumming, I realise that I’ve witnessed – quite unintentionally – a day of music with predominantly female-fronted acts, and it’s incredibly refreshing considering just how depressingly testosterone-led most festival and gig lineups are. Equally, the stylistic range is remarkable. Lanterns are easy on the ear but by no means dull, with hints of Portishead, and they end the set with guitarist Paul Gregory with a shredded violin bow after a truly epic crescendo. The experience is subtly powerful and ultimately quite moving.

Skipping across town, we find Idlewild front man Roddy Woomble in a church laying an (almost) solo set. We’re seated, in pews. The same pews we saw Scots troubadour RM Hubbert a couple of years back. Place is tight for the performers, and Woomble paces a tight spot as he really inhabits the songs, where a retro drum machine and washes of synth back his voice.

Making a swift and sadly premature exit, I scoot (not literally) to dive bar Vortex for Weekend Recovery. A band who’s ever-evolving, they have a different lineup post pandemic, and tonight stripped back to trio, their sound is a lot harder, heavier and darker. Lori’s looking a bit Susie Quatro. ‘In the Mourning’ crashes in second in and drives hard. With Lori on sole guitar duties, it’s down to the dirty fat bass to fill out the sound, and it certainly does. ‘There’s a Sense’ soars and slams and nags, while ‘Yeah!?’ takes a slower, more sultry turn. The set closer and upcoming single single sees shared vocal duties with bassist and further accentuate the harder sound, and it’s a cracking close to a sweaty set.

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Weekend Recovery

We’re spoilt for choice of headliners, and while I’d have loved to have stuck around for The Lovely Eggs, trains make this unfeasible, and so I go for Hull’s brightest new hopes Low Hummer, a band very much on the up, and fast. Just a week after the release of their debut album, they’ve been booked to replace The Anchoress supporting Manic Street Preachers on tour in a week or so, they could well be on the brink of being big, and deservedly so. They may be a comparatively ‘new’, and youthful, too, but they exude a stong assuredness and they sound amazing, and so tight. Blasting in with ‘Take Arms’ and they pack the songs back to back with no pausing for breath and no messing about. The songs are built around steady repetitions, and they’re simultaneously dynamic and nonchalant in their delivery.

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Low Hummer

So while the rail network is shaky and world continues to go to hell, it’s beyond uplifting to be able to forget about it all for a bit and lose yourself in a day of quality music. It’s an incredibly welcome return for Long Division, who’ve not only done a great job with the lineup and scheduling with spacing between bands, but also wonderful to attend an even with such a great atmosphere, free of dickish behaviour – and with a general sense of community. Things are a long way from being back to normal, but Long Division provided the perfect escape. A triumphant return.

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