Long Division Festival in Wakefield, England June 1, 2019 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019  

Peter Hook

Long Division Festival

Long Division Festival in Wakefield, England, June 1st, 2019

Jun 12, 2019 Photography by Andrew Benge Web Exclusive
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Over the past eight years, the small Yorkshire city of Wakefield has established itself as an under-the-radar cultural hub and home to one of the best independent arts festivals in Europe.

Our attendance for the Saturday "music day" on Saturday June 1st tells only part of the story of a festival brimming over with art, talks, and poetry, much of it free to attend. Long Division takes cultural collateral and the transformative power of it, seriously.

 

Take the collaboration with Artwalk Wakefield, the huge charity quiz in aid of Andys Man Club, or its pilot education program #Youngteam handing the baton to a new generation (currently 16 to 19 years of age) with a qualification in delivering sustainable, community-minded events.

 

Long Division is a complete arts festival with a wide-reaching community and social conscience. But it is music we are here for, and in that respect, Long Division also excels with an ever-improving line-up of essential acts.

 

If anything, the only real downside is that it is a clash heavy day of music with very little room to breath. It's great but so easy to miss incredible acts.

 

Local-lads Knuckle draw a large crowd to Henry Boon's with punters spilling out into the street to catch the band from behind through open doorsas it is a sweatbox inside. The powerhouse trio raise the heat up a couple of notches with their foot-stomping garage blues and classic hard rock swagger. Singer Jonny Firth has a voiced dripping with soul and at the moments where the rhythm section is given space to get funky, there is an infectious energy. The tunes won't change the world, but if what you want is an uncomplicated, swaggering, booze-fuelled rock n roll party, Knuckle has you covered.

 

Knuckle

 

Imperial Wax, over in Warehouse 23, come with the air of expectation that can only come with classic pedigree. Now fronted by a kinetic Sam Curran, the three remaining members (Keiron Melling, Dave Spurr, and Pete Greenway) come from the last line-up of The Fall. While some of the hypnotic repetition of Mark E. Smith's indie legends is still present, this is a different beast. A high-octane rush of surf-rock bombast, garage rock energy, and post-punk rhythmic hooks, while Curran barks frantically, they prove to be one of the best new rock bands around this year. Through the rush of noise, interlocking guitar melodies dig wonderful depths. Get out to see them as soon as you can.

 

Imperial Wax

 

Following them, Menace Beach has too short a set to fully hit their stride and this is only an issue because of the interesting proposition the Leeds based band has become. As synths more and more replace guitars as their hook weapons their take on classic indie is morphing into something else entirely. Sure, in the live arena, these songs have a rock bite but with front-duo Liza Violet and Ryan Needham leading proceedings from a centre stage lab of synths and electronics, a swirling electronic undercurrent runs through their retro-futuristic punk meets Krautrock excursions. Pop melodies emanate from the vocals as they perform a tight run of undoubted bangers. 


Menace Beach

 

We Were Promised Jetpacks, strangely, never connected in the way hometown label-mates like Frightened Rabbit did, but today their consummate run through emotional post-rock, tinged indie indicates they deserve a reappraisal. I have been guilty of largely ignoring them in the past but this Warehouse 23 set has opened my ears to something potentially grand.

 

Next, it's heaving upstairs at Mechanics for Cowtown, understandably. There are few bands as fun to see live as this Leeds three-piece. They have a great song called "Emojicore" which aptly captures their smiling, weird, punky take on pop. Cowtown deliver pop in the Devo vein fraught with Oh Sees garage rock power and nerdy awkwardness. The shambolic nature of the sound masks incredible playing that does exactly what it needs to. Big riffs, squelchy synth bass and call-and-response vocals makes this brilliant.

 

Cowtown

 

On a rare festival day where nothing has sucked, it's hard to think that the highlight would be yet to come. But that wouldn't consider the fact that Asian Dub Foundation haven't taken to the stage yet. They never get the praise they deserve as one of the most vital UK acts of the 1990s and their explosive set simply reaffirms, they are needed now more than ever.

 

Asian Dub Foundation

 

They exude pure energy and love, as they blast through their combination of electronics, punk riffs, ragga swagger, hip hop bars, Asian rhythms, and progressive politics. In this age of division, ADF produce a unity party like no other, negativity dissipates, and everyone is one. In the throng of sweating, smiling dancers, everything seems possible. Even at the moment a balding racist spouts racist drivel, the response telling him to "fuck off" feels victorious. In this vibe bigotry just wilts and what more can you want than that?

 

And the party doesn't stop there, because back at Mechanics Glasgow indie-pop jesters Bis are blasting through their unlikely hit "Kandy Pop" (still one of the best songs ever performed on Top of the Pops in the UK). But apparently Wakefield never got the memo! The venue is eerily empty, but that isn't stopping the three-piece lifting spirits with their madcap, disco-indie bangers. They make a quip about "being allowed back" to Long Division (I have no idea what happened there) and create pure joy with "Euro Disco". The new songs are as good as the classics and Bis is still the most fun you can have.

 

In the ornate confines of Wakefield Theatre, Penguin Café's soothing, complex contemporary neo-classical compositions sooth the mind, body, and soul ready for the day's obvious main event Peter Hook and the Light.


A genuinely deserving receiver of "legend" status, Hook has everything in his arsenal to deliver a rousing nostalgia fest. His set bangs through all the tracks you'd want from the perfect classic Joy Division and New Order set. The first part takes in six classics from the post-punk trailblazers ground-breaking work opening with "New Dawn Fades" and ending with "Shadowplay". They sound great in a live setting and for anyone, including myself, who never saw Joy Division in their short life span, it feels special. Who doesn't want to see "Transmission" or "She Lost Control" played live?

 

The same goes six song second half of New Order bangers, although "Blue Monday" does have something lacking, "True Faith" sounds great. The ending of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" clearly connects with the packed crowd in Warehouse 23.

 

It proves the huge power of nostalgia but in the cold light of day, it can't be avoided that this feels like a tribute act and a grasping onto former glories. Both Hooky and the audience clearly wish that parts of the past had never disappeared and fear creating something new. While New Order continue to push themselves into new directions, there seems something perverse about this dwelling on the past.

 

But when I enjoy myself this much does it matter? Really?

 

At that ends another near perfect Long Division festival, an event showing how small, independent festivals can (and should) be done. Less bands were seen because of the stacking up of incredible artists, and new acts may have fallen by the scheduling wayside but there are worse problems to have. 

 

Long Division does Wakefield proud and it is now a must-visit festival destination each year.

 

www.longdivisionfestival.co.uk

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