“He took a bluey and he called Totale” – “The North Will Rise Again” by The Fall
The mythical rise of the north of England that Mark Edward Smith both predicted and craved was mostly directed at the centralisation of the music industry in “the roman shell” that is London. Any self-respecting music aficionado would have already been aware that even though the cogs and the wheels of the record companies were turning in the capital, the sparks of ingenuity and significant cultural movements were all taking place in the north of the country. The city of Wakefield in West Yorkshire has never been renowned for spawning a plethora of successful artists apart from The Cribs but that hasn’t stopped the Long Division Festival increasing in popularity over the last five years, with the 2015 version on Saturday, June 13th being the most diverse so far. The festival itself is centred on the twin venues of The Unity Hall and The Hop, both with twin stages but with a number of equally interesting clubs within easy access.
Cry Baby Cry from the home city opened proceedings on The Unity Hall main stage, offering a Royal Blood-like take on blues rock with the twin vocal attack from Jonny Firth and an almost a Janice Joplin-esque delivery from Rosie Dooney filling out the already expansive three piece. Next up was Big Love on the upstairs Hop stage; their sound was also reminiscent of the blues but with a more psychedelic tinge, more akin to the recently rejuvenated Swervedriver, with again female vocals, but this time more of a Shirley Manson from Garbage snarl. One of the more intimate venues was Players, where Stop Drop Robot provided an energetic urban rock style almost with a Rage Against the Machine vibe, with the new single “Maps” being the standout track. Returning back to The Unity Hall for a what was a double highlight of the day, with firstly Menace Beach who provided a genre-defying set that contained hints of Hookworms and Dinosaur Jr., which in itself created an infectious yet disturbing intensity. Fat White Family followed soon after, and alongside their ‘brothers in grime,’ The Sleaford Mods, one of the most exciting and hardworking acts on the live circuit. With a new album imminent they still managed to breathe a rancid breath into old favourites such as “Autoneutron”and the singalong “I Am Mark E. Smith”. No festival worth its salt should fail to finish without a greatest hits set from the headlining act and this was provided by the punk pop of Ash, who also managed a nod to the hometown favourites The Cribs with the opening riff of “Oh Yeah” being segued into the Wakefield’s trio’s track “Men’s Needs”.
The format of this type of indoor multiple venue festival required an audience to have a certain nous and will to explore the smaller venues, which allowed lesser known bands to have their 30 minutes of fame, and the northern city certainly rose to the occasion with a gusto and enthusiasm that almost certainly guaranteed that it should be here for a good few years to come.
-words: Darren Hodgkinson
-photos: Luke Hannaford, John Jowett, and Jess Rowbottom for Long Division Festival