Long Division 2022: Wakefield’s metropolitan music festival returns!
After the triumphant return of Wakefield’s Long Division Festival in 2021, following a pandemic-related break, the excitement that was built up around this year’s incarnation of the festival was undeniable. Having covered Long Division for The Gryphon last year, I was eager to revisit it. Despite what was, in my eyes, a much weaker line-up for Long Division 2022 in comparison to last year, I found myself bombing down the M62 giddy with excitement at the thought of the day ahead.
I arrived at the Art House – this year’s venue for the wristband exchange – early doors, not wanting to miss a moment of this fantastic celebration of Northern grassroots live music. After picking up my wristband from a member of the Long Division team (who were all excellent throughout the day) I was soon on my way into the centre of town to witness some excellent live music!
One of my favourite things about Long Division, and metropolitan festivals in general, is the fantastic opportunity it poses to discover new bands. With this in mind, I made the tough decision to skip out on Low Hummer, a band who I absolutely adore, in favour of up-and-coming Leeds band Fuzz Lightyear, who played an early set at The Vortex – an old-school rock venue reminiscent of the venue from that one episode of The Inbetweeners. After a fairly standard start to the set left me wondering whether to ditch The Vortex and head to Venue 23 for Low Hummer, I found myself enjoying the three-piece more and more as their performance progressed, the bassist in particular had great energy and even better basslines. Fuzz Lightyear and their unique brand of grunge and noise rock seem to be on the up-and-up within the Leeds scene, with a recent single release on Come Play With Me as well as an upcoming gig at the Adelphi in Hull. The trio certainly aren’t one to be missed!
My day in Wakefield only seemed to be getting better, after the delight of Fuzz Lightyear I headed to the Mechanics’ Theatre – for my money, the best venue at Long Division – to see Deep Tan. Previous to the festival, I had heard talk of Deep Tan, but I had never listened to their music. After the festival, I have hardly stopped listening to them. The stylish, moody tones of lead singer Wafah Dufour are perfectly complimented by the rhythm of Melia Beaudoin’s drums and the effortlessly cool Celeste Guinness on bass. The tracks ‘deepfake’ and ‘rudy ya ya ya’ stood out as definite highlights within their set, though it should be noted that the whole set was excellent from start to finish. Although, with ties to the ever-growing scene surround Dan Carey and the Speedy Wunderground label, you should not need me to tell you how great Deep Tan are as a group, I urge you to go and see this band!
Following Deep Tan was never going to be an easy task, and although I made an effort to be as objective as possible whilst seeing the next act on my watchlist, Ava in the Dark, the band sounded absolutely terrible. This was, however, the fault of the sound mixing at the venue (The Counting House) which was laughably bad. During their opening song, only the drums could be heard – no vocals, no guitar, just drums. Unfortunately, it didn’t get much better (unless you count isolated drums with the occasional sound of guitar feedback as better). After 15 or so minutes I left, because I was hungry and also sick of hearing unaccompanied drums. I have since listened to Ava in the Dark online and, although their indie pop tunes are perhaps not my usual taste, the lead singer has an undeniably fantastic voice – it is a crying shame that the audience was unable to hear it at The Counting House.
Returning to the Counting House after a brief food break, it appeared the sound problems still persisted as the next group, Household Dogs, were setting up. The group did not appear to be too happy about the competence of the sound man, but they persisted nonetheless with what was a brilliant set. Having previously reviewed ‘Dead Cool’, the recent release by Household Dogs on Come Play With Me, I was eager to see whether the coolness of their post-punk sound translated from the records onto the stage – thankfully, it does! Although their set did not totally blow me away (though this may have been a result of the poor quality of the venue), they still put on a memorable show and I would not at all be surprised if Household Dogs were to become the next big name in the post-punk revival scene, which is becoming increasingly saturated.
Opening the Town Hall stage at Long Division – the site of The Lovely Eggs’ immense headline set at Long Division 2021 – was Venus Grrrls. Having heard a lot of buzz over this riot grrrl-influenced rock band over the past year or so, Venus Grrrls stood out on the lineup as one of the highlights for me. As seems to be a reoccurring theme within this article, I was not disappointed, their fierce stage presence is reinforced by great tunes – ‘Hate Me’ and ‘Goth Girl’ in particular – and infectious energy. Venus Grrrls are a brilliantly cool group but, unlike some, they have the substance to back it up. Their performance was one of the best I saw throughout the day in Wakefield, and it was especially good to see so many parents with kids in the crowd. Long Division is certainly a family friendly festival and I think that fact was much more abundantly clear this year in comparison to 2021. Either way, I have great confidence in the next generation of music lovers if their early gigs include seeing the likes of Venus Grrrls!
Quickly following Venus Grrrls on my watchlist through the day were South London trio Honeyglaze. I had previously seen the group at Brudenell Social Club supporting Wet Leg, and also at the Honeyglaze in-store gig at Jumbo Records in Leeds. Truth be told, though, I am quite conflicted when it comes to Honeyglaze. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the recorded material. It fills the need for downtempo indie music excellently, and I have found myself listening to them more and more. On the other hand, Long Division provided me with my third opportunity to see the band and every time I have seen them I have not been massively impressed. They perform the songs well enough and the stage persona that bassist Tim Curtis has is pretty funny, but ultimately I think they are quite uninteresting to watch. The songs sound just like the studio versions, which is fine, but it would be nice for there to be more performance involved – otherwise, you might as well stay at home and listen to the band on Spotify. Live music provides an invaluable space to experience music in a different, you would hope better, context and, at the moment, I just do not think Honeyglaze are exploiting that context to its full potential.
After a quick trip back to the Mechanics’ Theatre for Honeyglaze, it was time once again to make the gruelling 60 yard walk back to the lovely, carpeted, cash-only Wakefield Town Hall. All metropolitan festivals seem to play on the fact that all the venues are within walking distance from each other, but anybody who has had to make the journey from The Wardrobe to Brudenell Social Club during Live at Leeds knows this to be somewhat hyperbolic. When it comes to Long Division, though, every venue is within a 10-minute radius by foot – no need for buses, expensive Ubers, or tired feet. I remained at the Town Hall for the rest of the day, soaking up as much of the friendly atmosphere surrounding Long Division before making the, admittedly short, journey home. LYR were up first, a band I was very excited for after realising that it is fronted by none other than poet laureate, University of Leeds Professor and, most importantly, Northerner Simon Armitage. Having been a fan of his poetry for a number of years, I was slightly embarrassed about my lack of awareness in terms of his band but having now heard them I can safely say that their music will remain on heavy rotation for me for some time. As you would expect from a band fronted by Armitage, they were lyrically incredible and musically beautiful. The lighting, and the intimate nature of the Town Hall stage, really added to the pulchritudinous performance. Musically, the band are quite mellow and atmospheric, totally different to everything else I had seen and heard throughout the day. Although it might be assumed that a group fronted by a poet laureate might be somewhat pretentious, Armitage seemed very down to earth and the audience interaction created a harmonious environment within the Town Hall.
Suitably chilled out by LYR, I ventured up to the balcony of the Town Hall for the final performance of the day, which came in the form of W.H. Lung. The Mancunian group, who take their name from a Chinese supermarket, have been on my radar since their split release with Working Men’s Club on Golden Lion Sounds in 2021. The flawless and unnaturally energetic dance moves of singer Joe Evans took effect on the crowd very quickly and soon the whole town hall was under the spell of W.H. Lung’s psychedelic, synth-driven dance music. As I watched it unfold from above, on the surprisingly comfortable balcony of Wakefield Town Hall, one thought dominated my thinking: I cannot wait for the next Long Division!