Rhubarb Bomb contributor Matt Rhodie heads from Barnsley to Wakefield to experience Long Division...
Under familiar steel grey skies the Merrie City played host to a fantastic cultural phenomenon; I know that arriving at Kirkgate Station is never the best way to start a visit to Wakefield, but plenty of people saw past the unkind “what a dump” attitude and had a brilliant day out watching a wide range of bands across a brilliant selection of venues all within a five minute walk of each other in the city centre.
The week before had seen Pontefract’s Crooked Ways play host to many of the acts on display today, in a more conventional set up, so I thought it would be interesting to see how they compared…
So, the scores on the doors: let’s start with the line-up.
75 bands is an unbelievable number, but it isn’t just quantity, there was quality across the day with lots of local acts showcasing their talents, some new, some more established. In terms of headline acts, well once again we were kind of spoilt for choice; I chose The Vaselines at Mustangs and was blown away, while other people were buzzing about Herman Dune and Art Brut were early evening winners for others. The point here is choice; usually a one-day festival will focus attention towards the main stage later in the evening, whereas the range of venues meant there was no single focal point. A definite winner.
Value for money: another no-brainer, it cost £15! Fifteen pounds. However you say it, it sounds like a bargain.
What about the novelty factor? Rather than tents in a field, Long Division relies on prime real estate to house their bands; the event centred around The Hop, which housed two stages as did the Town Hall, then there was Henry Boon’s and Velvet with the Theatre Royal and The Orangery adding more history and splendour than you could shake a stick at and, last but not least, Mustangs. This venue had problems late on last year, The Wedding Present’s set was interrupted by over-zealous security staff, but this time The Vaselines were able to crown the day’s events there on a jubilee flag bedecked stage looked after by a security team that was way more slick than last year’s.
The nicest thing for me was being able to have a drink and a bit of barbecue at one venue, then stroll round to see something else and have a chat and a drink at that one, without having to queue for ages or being right at the back, because the number of stages allowed what could have been crowds in one or two venues to move around in smaller bunches to see who they wanted. Brilliant.
So, my day panned out a bit like this: a later than expected train meant straight to The Hop for the wristband exchange, then upstairs to catch Moody Gowns who put on quite a show for half past one, their energetic and engaging frontman Nathan Moseley offering tomato plants to his rapidly expanding audience!
Henry Boon’s was next on my list, to take in O’Messy Life; I had been whistling Escape Velocity, their single from last summer, all week and hadn’t seen the announcement that they had pulled out because of David’s thumb injury- get well soon. No disaster though, because I got to see Mark Wynn in their place. Wynn is an affable poet/singer/songwriter who would be the first to point out how naff that sentence is. His songs and delivery grabbed the audience and as he told tale after heart-breaking tale of woe and disappointment he made me wonder just how somebody so young gets so pissed off so soon! Great stuff. We left clutching his CD and poetry book, having bought him a congratulatory drink!
Next, it was a steady stroll to the Town Hall, where we caught the end of Fur Blend’s impressive set, followed by Soulmates Never Die in the Old Courtroom. Lovely songs in lovely surroundings.
By now it was time for food, so we hung out in The Hop’s courtyard and listened to what became a blur of acts including, but not limited to The Do’s, who were excellent. There was a great early evening buzz around the place as we left Stalking Horse’s enthusiastic but poorly attended show in the Theatre Royal to catch Skint & Demoralised in what was effectively a wind tunnel at the side of Velvet, via The Orangery where Crushed Beaks were busy doing their thing. By now, there were little clusters of festival goers passing each other, chatting, smiling and swapping stories. After The Vaselines, we returned to The Hop and drank the night away, which was packed with happy wristband wearers. Well done Long Division, see you next year.