Long Division Festival 2021: A Triumphant Return

This September, Wakefield was once again riddled with indie kids and live music fans as Long Division Festival returned for the tenth time (after a covid-induced one-year break).

An award-winning metropolitan festival (of the same ilk as Live at Leeds or Neighbourhood Festival), Long Division celebrates not only grassroots artists, but local independent venues too. Over the course of the day, sixty-seven artists performed across nine different venues in the centre of Wakefield. There is a fantastic sense of community spirit at Long Division, it is immediately apparent upon arrival the local community really comes together to celebrate live music and to celebrate the city of Wakefield. Wakefield, as a city, is often passed by in favour of nearby Leeds or Sheffield but Long Division is doing an excellent job of showcasing just how good of a place ‘Wakey’ really is: with some fantastic independent venues scattered around, coupled with generally cheaper drinks than the aforementioned cities, and great transport links (12 minutes from Leeds by train), what is there not to love?

It must be said that the organisation of this festival was flawless. All the staff were lovely and incredibly helpful, the venues were easy to find, the wristband exchange was quick and simple – the whole festival went off without a hitch! Of course, though, the heart of any good festival is the music itself. There was no shortage of great artists playing at Long Division 2021, but here is a run-down of some definite highlights from the day:

Hands Off Gretel

South Yorkshire-based four-piece Hands Off Gretel injected some adrenaline into everyone’s early afternoon when they played WX (the main stage at Long Division) at 14:15. Formed in Barnsley in 2015, Hands Off Gretel have been releasing fantastically furious punk songs ever since. The astounding stage presence and raw energy of the group was incredible to see and made for a fantastic set. The Barnsley punks were a discovery-of-the-day for many Long Division attendees, so finding out that since 2015 the band have self-released three albums and four EPs no doubt came as an exciting revelation. 

Lead-singer/frontwoman Lauren Tate (also responsible for the writing of songs and artwork for Hands Off Gretel, alongside her own solo projects) took full advantage of the group’s 45-minute allocated set – tearing down patriarchal attitudes, exposing the misogyny of the music industry, all the while putting on a compelling and dynamic performance. The punk energy which characterised their set was beautifully encapsulated by guitarist Sean Bon who rarely remained still at any point during the set, like a punk rock shark. The band are currently touring their latest three-track EP ‘The Angry EP’ (self-released on their own label, Puke Pop Records), and are set to play Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the 24th November.

Hands Off Gretel perform at Long Division 2021 (Credit: Andrew Benge)

Big Joanie

London’s black feminist punk trio Big Joanie have been pumping out brilliant tunes since their inception in 2013. Born out of London’s DIY scene, the group have received widespread acclaim, and have since worked with the likes of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and supported legendary Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill in 2019.

The trio took to the stage at 17:15 at The Establishment (one of three venues at Long Division with free entry) the day after attending the opening of Third Man Records London, the label on which the band released their last 7” a cover of Solange Knowles’ ‘Cranes in the Sky’. The trio played a brilliant set, deserving of a far bigger audience than what had gathered, perhaps the excellence of Big Joanie had yet to hit Wakefield although after the blisteringly good set they performed at Long Division, the crowd would surely double if they were to ever return. The content of their tunes was very versatile, going from songs inspired by the works of Melissa Harris-Perry to songs about men who lack skills in intimacy, but there was a sense of ultimate importance to each and every song.

There is a great deal of hype over Big Joanie throughout the DIY punk world, but after their performance in Wakefield it would be incredibly difficult to argue that any of that hype isn’t fully deserved. 

Big Joanie are set to embark on a headline tour in 2022, as well as supporting IDLES on their upcoming tour of UK and Ireland.

Big Joanie perform at Long Division 2021 (Credit: Andrew Benge)

She Drew the Gun

The day following the release of their much-anticipated latest album Behave Myself, Wirral-based quintet She Drew the Gun played the penultimate set at The Town Hall – a distinctively odd venue chosen for Long Division, but not an overly bad one despite the almost unbearable heat and the lack of a card-machine behind the bar. 

Performing a mixture of material from the newly released album in addition to older material, the group seemed to make a very good impression upon the audience in Wakefield. Although, with the amount of radio play given to the singles taken from the album over the summer, it is not difficult to believe that the majority of the crowd was already quite familiar with most of the songs on the setlist. For many, though, Long Division provided their first opportunity to hear the tracks performed in a live setting, which was obviously quite a draw. 

Frontwoman Louisa Roach is often viewed as the star of the show, within the context of She Drew the Gun, however this performance felt much more like a group effort. It was not Louisa with a backing band, it was a collective of incredibly talented musicians coming together to create and perform good tunes. Their live performances have developed a lot since the band last played Leeds, during Live at Leeds 2019 (although, to be fair, that set was cut short due to sudden illness); their set at Long Division was emotive and exciting. 

She Drew the Gun are currently touring their new album and are set to play Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the 7th October. 

She Drew The Gun perform at Long Division 2021 (Credit: Andrew Benge)

Low Hummer

Hull’s fast-rising indie rockers Low Hummer closed out the Mechanics’ Theatre at Long Division – a pretty great venue which had hosted a range of excellent acts throughout the day, such as lo-fi indie five-piece Bdrmm (also from Hull) and young punks The Lounge Society (not from Hull). 

Fresh off the release of their debut album Modern Tricks for Living, Low Hummer played one of the stand-out set from Long Division, their performance felt like a definite highlight of the day. Energy, anger, good tunes and an exciting performance; their set was genuinely a joy to witness. Much like Big Joanie, their set was deserving of a far bigger audience, though by that point in the evening many attendees had begun to queue for The Lovely Eggs (truth be told, this reporter was planning on leaving Low Hummer’s set early to get a good place for The Lovely Eggs, but it was such a brilliant set that I felt compelled to stay for the duration). 

The six-piece have been rapidly gaining notoriety since their 2019 debut single ‘Don’t You Ever Sleep’. Their songs detail their East Yorkshire lives, consumerism, the banality of everyday life, and the general disappointment that the modern world emits – yet they rarely feel particularly depressing. Especially in a live setting, Low Hummer’s songs seem very charged but full of enjoyment, they often feel like a glorious rebellion through originality and excellent tunes. 

Low Hummer will be supporting Manic Street Preachers at the O2 Academy in Leeds on the 7th October and the group as also taking part in Live at Leeds festival on the 16th October, where they will perform an early afternoon slot at The Wardrobe. 

The Lovely Eggs

Judging by the aforementioned queue alongside the volume of people walking around Wakefield in Lovely Eggs t-shirts, the Lancastrian punk duo’s closing set at The Town Hall was hotly anticipated. Their penultimate UK date for the rest of 2021, it made a perfect ending to such a great day, and such an unbelievably great festival!

Having previously played Long Division multiple times much of the crowd were already fans of the pair so, as opposed to other sets throughout the day, it did not take much time for the audience to get on board with the band.  

Playing songs from their latest album I Am Moron (released during lockdown) as well as a selection of hits from their extensive back catalogue, being in the crowd was likely the most fun anybody had ever had within the confines of Wakefield Town Hall. With lead singer/guitarist Holly Ross demanding “lasses to the front!”, followed by having to deal with a select few (who would be described well using the title of the 3rd track on the Eggs’ 2018 album This Is Eggland) who disagreed with that sentiment, their set was a masterclass of lo-fi psych punk brilliance! The Lovely Eggs are back in Leeds next April, performing at Brudenell Social Club on the 16th. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are The Lovely Eggs) tickets are already sold out for this show.

We can’t wait for Long Division’s return next year, get your tickets here.