The pertinence of DIY festivals like Long Division in a flourishing British music scene is incomparable as they provide a pedestal for the music of tomorrow whilst providing for the crowds with talented musicians at different points in their careers. Wakefield’s music scene has always been there and available to those who were willing to find it, but with the addition of Long Division over the past 7 years the talent of the city has been readily accessible whilst drawing extra talent from afar who seldom visited Wakefield. This well-established festival scene has kick started the careers of musicians and people across other sectors of the media alike to enable the listeners to find a remission from life on a sunny weekend in June.
To kick of my festival experience were the super-talented multi-instrumentalists: Engine; their music resembles an eclectic mix of musical styles, an amalgamation of 70s Psychedelia, Alt-rock and Synth-wave; although this sounds crazy the talent shown from the lads proved an undeniable sense that what they were producing was definitely what they wanted. It was clear they were trying something new and were thoroughly enjoying it, which was lovely to witness.
Engine finished their set with a new tune, ‘On the Yankee Station’ this song expressed the beauty of their merger of modern technology and the traditional forms of music, with a pianist, guitarist and bassist. Yet, the layering and looping on the synth and general experimental synthesiser use filled the gap of a drummer for the 3 piece. As an opening set, Engine couldn’t have expressed the exceptional quality to come throughout the day in any better way.
The beauty of DIY festivals like Long Division is that not only does it benefit artists but the city in general, some of the venues that opened their doors for local talent were beautiful, principally Wakefield Cathedral. Cattle & Cane were the first on my list to grace this stunning setting. Cattle & Cane are a largely melancholic band linking Joe Hammill’s beautiful acoustic guitar with Helen Hammill’s powerful vocals to shift even the hardest of hearts, what better venue suits this style than a cavernous Catholic Cathedral?
Cattle & Cane present their twist on the perfect mixture of pop-folk in their sophomore record “Home: which further compounds the talent of their song writing. The beauty and resonant optimism presented through songs like ‘Skies’ has seen the 5-piece receive airtime from some of the industries finest: principally Elton John.
After being recommended a few acts earlier in the day, Mi Mye was one that came up a lot! The local Wakefield collective are a sight to behold, playing the outside venue in the sun must’ve been a pleasure, but I was still largely confused as to how the local group had Scottish accents…
Mi Mye focus on telling stories through their songs, layered up with well-tailored brass, string and piano to back them. The multi-instrumentalists have recently released a new song, ‘Ok So’ which depicts the idea of chasing your dream, like an astronaut after the moon. Wakefield was brought alive by the inclusion of the outside stage, it filled the city with beautiful music all for free, no matter where you were going: to see a specific band, or popping to the shops for a pint, as you wandered by the outside stage every person was intrigued by what was happening or about to happen.
After some rather melancholic bands, I was ready for some upbeat energy from some youngsters; who better than ‘The Hyde’? I wandered into The Beer Exchange one of the many local venues who had opened their doors to the Northern English artistic talent. The Hyde are a Leeds three-piece who are brimming with confidence; it was awesome to see their progression as a group, as they were playing their set-in Wakefield only a year after their first headline set!
Since 2016 the 3-piece have released 4 singles and it is evident there are big things to come so keep an eye out! It was awesome to see such a recent band mobilising a crowd that knew little of them to thoroughly enjoy their set; they did this by incorporating plenty of covers, principally ‘Brazil’ by Declan McKenna. The song further accentuated the boys’ talent and was rather fitting with the World Cup around the corner…
Continuing the theme of youngsters at the beginning of their careers was the hard-hitting rocker, Loz Campbell; after beginning her career at 15 Loz has released 2 EP’s and an album by the tender age of 18. Receiving air from some of the countries most recognised media outlets for up-and-coming music like BBC Introducing, the 18 year old is certainly one to watch!
Once again it is evident that Long Division fills a vacant slot in a busy British music scene which many aspiring and talented musicians require to gain some lime-light. When statistics are floating around the media like the fact that 10% of musicians attain fame, and a further 5% of these earn money; it is a refreshing event when the focal point is local arts, not financial gain.
Next on my list was probably my most highly anticipated artist of the day: Marnie. Helen Marnie whilst working alongside the highly acclaimed pop-shoegaze collective Ladytron has led her own solo career down the ways of more shoegaze and electronica in the form of her sophomore record ‘Crystal World’.
Marnie’s perfectly mellifluous voice provides a pleasant listening experience, especially when partnered with her traditional piano background from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. However, the pleasant nature of Marnie’s voice merely paints over the jagged political lyricism that she explores. Yet, putting all this aside, Marnie is a musical genius and drew the largest crowd of the day to the Wakefield’s magnificent cathedral.
After so long on my feet I was ready for a bit of a jive, so I headed for the club-like atmosphere of Warehouse 23, here I found Galaxians supported by the almighty Alicia Wallace. Immediately after entering it was apparent what was about to happen, as everyone received a finger light. Then as the lights dimmed, the finger lights seemed more powerful than before and thus ensued a general dance-ability across the audience. With the beat laid by Galaxians’ typical ¾ jazz beat it was easy for the audience to get into the set.
Stating that last time CUD were in Wakefield there was a riot, I was quite scared for what was to come; but the alt-rockers weren’t quite as militant as before it seemed. CUD began in the late 80s when they discovered a drum kit deserted in a skip and have been going ever since. The DIY beginnings of the quartet has led them to not only learn how to create stunning music, but how to rouse and entertain any audience worldwide. Therefore, CUD got everyone in Warehouse 23 up on their feet and in the mood for the rest of the evening. The underground scene of Wakefield’s punk rockers suddenly appeared and rekindled exactly what CUD represented. Fantastic set.
I was getting immensely excited for Billy Bragg at this point, and whilst waiting I caught the end of King Creosote’s set, who I had little understanding or knowledge of. It turns out King Creosote is a world-acclaimed musician, playing with the likes of Magnetophone and Adem. He has now signed with Domino records and has amassed a dozen albums to his name.
King Creosote draws upon the acoustic forms of music which suits his melancholic Scottish voice, sharing many similarities to that of Marnie. Yet, his band, ‘The Burns Unit’ backed him to fill the Wakefield Cathedral with positive vibes and musical talent ready for the gruff Essex-man Billy Bragg.
Finally as it reached 9:30 everyone had crammed into Wakefield Cathedral for the headline act himself: Billy Bragg.
Billy Bragg in a festival setting is outstanding as he managed to span his whole musical discography, instead of focussing in on new album’s that get advertised on tours. So this allowed Billy to set up a set list to fit modern and still pertinent political situations that are still applicable now. This is a wonderful skill to possess, however I find it quite sad that songs like ‘Sexuality’ from 30 years ago are still equally as pertinent now, and shows the backwards nature of modern society. Billy further compounded this with his reworking of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changing [Back]” which showed that the circumstances in which Bob Dylan was writing about the liberal developments in society are disappearing once again as we revert back to a wholly capitalist state.
Billy Bragg practically coined his own genre, punk-folk, that has continued for the past 40 years. I feel his musical contributions should be commended as he has managed to combine socialist ideas to partner music which over the past decades has represented huge parts of unheard society. Clearly this viewpoint is clearly not just mine as he has been awarded ‘The Outstanding Contribution to British Music 2018’.
Yet, politics aside, the nature of Long-Division avoids this entirely focussing on good music and the wonders it can do for all people spanning all across society. Good music was shown all throughout the day, but to top it all off, Billy Bragg’s partner in crime C.J Hillman was probably the best we were all going to see; he won the ‘AMA UK Instrumentalist of the Year 2017’ principally for his awesome playing of the Pedal Steel Guitar.
In all, Long Division greatly impressed me on Saturday, with the variation and integration between setting and art. The festival and it’s values couldn’t have been expressed as well anywhere but Wakefield.