Long Division Festival: Wakefield

It was a glorious sunny day in Wakefield as Long Division Festival got underway. One of the opening gigs was Glass Caves, downstairs at The Hop. The beer garden was crammed full of people basking in the sun whilst enjoying the combination of Indie vocals and heavy blues guitar. The light vocals and uplifting guitar riffs provided a fitting soundtrack to the crowd sunbathing with their first drink of the day.

Next up was The Exhibition, an underrated Barnsley based band with a huge amount of promise. The band has temporarily been on hiatus as they recruited a new drummer, but now they have one they have stepped straight back into the rich vein of form they were in previously. With an established reputation for anthemic, atmospheric and gripping indie they used this set, upstairs at The Hop, to showcase some new material (one of which they had written the previous night) and some recent favourites. A hush fell across the courtyard as Pete’s haunting vocals began before Andrew’s lively wandering bass joined in as they opened with ‘And Here I Begin’. It was a captivating set laden with trademark flurries from Joel’s guitar, tense building breakdowns leading into engaging anthemic choruses and frantic intricate bass.

It was then off to Warehouse 23 to see yet another Barnsley band Aztec Doll. The purveyors of moody, psychedelic, grunge attracted a fair crowd in from the glorious weather outside. I was instantly impressed by singer and guitarist Roxanne Mitchell’s vocals, there were qualities within them which were reminiscent of Stevie Nicks combined with moments of Joan Jett and PJ Harvey. This was a truly interesting and exciting performance they benefit from the extra dimension added by the band member who sits at the side of the stage with a Mac. Bassist Lee Garforth certainly enjoyed his time on the stage and bounced around as if he was on springs.

I then headed to The Theatre for a highly anticipated Post War Glamour Girls set. The audience took their seats as local poet Skint And Demoralized opened up with two poems. The first one was ‘Kung Fu International’ by John Cooper Clarke, in honour of Post War Glamour Girls taking their name from a John Cooper Clarke poem, and the second was his own material ridiculing the BNP.

After the poetry Post War Glamour Girls appeared and started with ‘Sestra’. The acoustics in this historic, fully seated venue complimented the band perfectly. There is always something about their gigs which evokes euphoria and an admiration of their incomparable style and gifted creativity, but in this room the experience was enhanced beyond that. The harmonies between James and Alice were so clear and piercing that they pinned you into your seat, as the hairs raised on the back of your neck. During ‘Jazz Funerals’ the raw emotion in lead singer James Smith’s voice made you feel that the seats were restrictive as the band really got into their flow. An engaging, joyous and truly memorable set finished with a literal bang as James flung his guitar into his amp.

I then went to watch Ghostpoet at Warehouse 23 to see if all the hype surrounding them was justified or not as they drew the biggest crowd of the day so far. After only a couple of songs it was clear that the artistic talent on show was something special, the mix of influences combined with the smooth rhythmic flow of his vocals were an intriguing and invigorating experience.  Each track felt like this was exactly what Kele from Bloc Party was trying to achieve with his solo album, but he didn’t nail the crossover between the different genres as well as Ghostpoet has. The most impressive element was his vocal talent, although the lyrics are slightly too repetitive at times his rhythmic chanting of them and the natural ease of his voice drive the songs and give the overall effect of an extra instrument. The gig gradually built towards a big electro finish and this set was the start of the crowds becoming lively.

Ghostpoet was followed by That Fucking Tank, a very different outfit but even more enjoyable. At times is seemed incomprehensible that this intricate, thoroughly impressive and incredibly loud noise was being created by just one guitarist and a drummer, but almost inexplicably it was. Each song was full of interesting twists and turns, pauses, changes of pace and direction which left the crowd never quite knowing if a song had run its course of not. The level of musicianship they displayed was a joy to behold, the well crafted nature of the pieces combined with the level of skill displayed in playing them brings a smile to the face, and for a large section of the crowd it brought uncontrollable energy. You can tell how good they are by the fact that people rarely even notice the lack of vocals never mind miss them. That Fucking Tank are like the idiot savant of music, it’s deeply clever and artistic but at the same time it’s loud and adolescent.

Warehouse 23 was then filled to capacity with people itching to see headliners The Fall. The band began with a long bubbling bass intro before Mark E. Smith made his entrance on stage instantly breaking into his erratic mumbling style. As he arrived the atmosphere was instantly enhanced and the crowd almost became frenzied each time he blasted out a chorus in his own relaxed yet angst ridden style. His on-stage persona switched between his inaudible, surreal and abstract ramblings to the demeanor of a grumpy old man showing that the affected ill feeling towards the audience was still there from the bands early days. The music the rest of the band created was driving and timeless and Smith’s charisma and eccentric personality only adds to this to create a spectacle that it is impossible to take your eyes off.