Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Andy's Long Division

Long Time Rhubarb Bomb contributor and Long Division Fringe Festival Curator Andrew Whittaker tells the tale of his Long Division experiance...

I guess it really hit me what Long Division could achieve when my brother and I handed out several hundred flyers at Belle & Sebastian’s Leeds gig exactly one week prior to the start of the festival. Rather than simply ignoring my attempts to thrust a yellow postcard into their hands, the majority of folk seemed genuinely interested, with several exclaiming “The Wedding Present!” By the time I’d got back to my car and drove past the Academy’s doors they weren’t all lining the pavement either.


Friday night at Long Division kicked off rather appropriately with One Day, After School… playing upstairs at The Hop. Easily the tightest performance I can recall from this current line-up, had I not brought my trusty earplugs the powerful bass drum could easily have robbed me of my hearing at the weekend’s outset.

The Bambinos followed with an engaging set. Their cause certainly helped by a charismatic front-man whose frequent hand gestures recall prime Jarvis Cocker.

Maybe it was the always excellent Blackberry Cascade (4.8%) courtesy of Saltaire Brewery taking effect, but the punkier leanings of Leeds’ Eagulls simply did not connect with me. It didn’t help that The Hop’s upstairs windows allowed the last of the sun’s rays to lift my mood higher. A band more suited to darker, danker surroundings I feel

Shrag on the other hand perfectly suited to getting the party-mood I was in ahead of the rest of the weekend. In places they put in me in mind of one-time Wakefield four-piece The Picnic Solution, thankfully they appear to have more staying power than said quartet. And despite a lengthy journey up from Brighton they seemed genuinely pleased to be in Wakefield and to be associated with Long Division.


Somehow the fuzzy feeling in my head on Saturday morning never manifested itself as a full-blown hangover. This meant that I was back in The Hop in time for Protectors lunchtime set. Despite the relatively early timeslot, a pre-gig chat with bassist Matthew Parkes and drummer Tim Bradley revealed that the trio were more than happy with the turn-out.

Their set was an early highlight of the day, with the infectious “Honeymoon” and “Catwalk” getting my head nodding in approval. Whilst banter revolving around such subjects as “Which Lynx scent most resembles body odour?” (Africa seemed to be a popular contender) showcased the band’s sense of humour.

A short walk across the road to Mustangs to catch Napoleon IIIrd and consume half of the worst pint of lager shandy I’ve ever tasted (It was still a little too early for full-blown alcohol.) was in contrast to the preceding set something of a disappointment. A faulty projector and some slightly unforgiving acoustics were not conducive to vintage Napoleon and the mooted backing band he’s assembled equates to a live drummer. To be honest this is no bad thing as it meant there was little to distract from watching Napoleon manipulate his various instruments and samplers (One of which appeared to resemble the ‘Gold-Run’ from Blockbusters) and for avid Napoleon watchers Mustangs offered some excellent vantage points.

Following that my day went further downhill, although only in the geographical sense, as I ventured down Market Street to The Graziers (Or The Craziers as I like to dub it post midnight) to take in acoustic performances by Pylon and The Brown Hound James Band.

When I associate musical performances with The Graziers the first thing that comes to mind is karaoke or ‘Cowaoke’ as the posters advertising the post Long Division entertainment proclaimed. The reality was therefore a pleasant surprise. The vibe, aided by the extremely reasonably priced barbeque in the beer garden (Very tasty Hot Dog £1), was akin to the Love Of The Game all-dayers that used to take place at the much missed Jockey.

Pylon’s set saw Chris Charlton making his second appearance of the day. Coming so soon after Protectors he could have been forgiven for being knackered, if he was it never showed. However, despite the two Chris’ (Charlton was joined by bassist Chris Bonner) best efforts, a group, who I shall refer to as the ‘Graziers Girls’, were vying for the crowds ears at the same time as the onstage duo. Sadly, the Graziers Girls, with their admittedly impressive lung power (No microphones required!), frequently drowned out acoustic versions of songs such as “Says Al” with their discussions on the merits of Skittle flavoured vodka and shouts of ‘Tom!’

Ah Tom. Boris Becker / Jensen Button lookalike ‘Tom’ was something of a star, taking up not only the tambourine shaped gauntlet thrown down by Chris Charlton during Pylon’s set, but popping up again to provide some excellent vocals during The Brown Hound James Band’s brief set. I seem to recall Matthew Broadbent performing five songs under his Brown Hound guise. The set length, coupled with a degree of nonchalance creeping into his performance left me wondering how much of this gig was on autopilot. There was certainly something missing to mark this out as a classic performance.

Thankfully my first trip of the day to the Town Hall recharged my batteries and blood alcohol levels. I’d steered clear of the beer for the early part of the day, but with several friends meeting us at the Town Hall who obviously had a thirst for a few beverages it was time to hit the bar. Despite only catching the end of Fonda 500 ’s set I’d say it was the catalyst for the day’s proceedings to kick into top gear.

Mi Mye were certainly up there with the best of the line-up. Front man Jamie Lockhart, a.k.a. the “Scottish Bruce Springsteen” has such an infectious stage presence that he didn’t really need to trash the turquoise electric accordion at the end of their set, but fair play to him nonetheless for bringing a sense of rock ‘n’ roll to the interior of the Town Hall.

There now followed a debate amongst my group of friends as to whether to stay at the Town Hall and watch The Birthday Kiss featuring former Research drummer Sarah, brave Mustangs which was bound to be heaving for the much hyped Darwin Deez or return to The Hop to catch The Kate Jackson band.

All but one of us opted for The Kate Jackson Band (My cousin rated The Birthday Kiss by the way.) and we were greeted by the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen upstairs at The Hop. Still at least I was able to get in without any problem through the door at the back of the room, following Jackson’s performance the queue for Los Campesinos! rapidly snaked into the courtyard.

Back to Jackson though, she’s not the first former Long Blonde to set foot on The Hop’s stage, bassist Reenie Hollis’ Bon Bon Club graced the stage late in 2009 with their set of covers. To be honest said band came across as a bit of harmless fun, Jackson on the other hand seems deadly serious. Having bided her time she has come back with a sound which is a million miles away from The Long Blondes’ “Couples”. I found myself comparing one song to Chris Issacs “Wicked Game” crossed with The Cult’s “Rain” and another to No Doubt. I’m sure those descriptions may put some fans of Jackson’s previous band right off, but there’s no denying her powerful voice suits the material perfectly. Jackson has seemingly toughened up, which suggests she is in this for the long haul and I for one look forward to hearing her first solo effort.

Having being impressed by the atmosphere at the Town Hall earlier we decide to board the return ‘beer train’ there (It’s safe to say the alcohol was starting to take affect) for I Like Trains. The decision was largely based on the fact that my brother had bumped into a girl earlier in the day that had travelled over from France to take in their performance. We reasoned that such dedication was all the recommendation needed to check them out and they didn’t disappoint.

I Like Trains come across like a latter-day Anathema fronted by The Editor’s Tom Smith and their performance had a majesty which seemed tailor made for the Town Hall’s confines. The crowd were certainly getting into it, in the case of one Wakefield councillor perhaps a little too much as he proceeded to spill his pint over my brother’s girlfriend!

With the Town Hall now winding down I grasped the chance to take in some of Emmy The Great at arguably the jewel in Long Division’s venue crown, Wakefield Cathedral. In the past I was in the audience for the recording of Radio Leeds’ Christmas Carol service here, but this was the first time I have seen a musical performance in the Cathedral free of religious connotations. The acoustics were superb and when she was playing Emmy proved she was an appropriate choice to perform in such a venue. Between songs her banter was somewhat curious, I assume ‘the mall’ she mentioned was The Ridings and I’m sure she swore at least once, but The Rhubarb Bomb got a shout out so I’m not complaining.

Having taken in all the venues with the exception of Henry Boons (Which had closed its’ doors at 17:15) I felt a quick glance in Mustangs to see the start of The Wedding Present ’s set was the logical next step. The dance-floor was heaving and all the prime viewing spots were already taken by the time the band hit the stage and a show of hands complete with wristbands for a photo opportunity confirmed the inaugural Long Division’s success. With this being the case I left Mustangs to take in a few songs by local lad and fellow fringe curator Matt Abbott’s Skint & Demoralised.

As I walked down Bank Street with my girlfriend discussing the days events I don’t mind admitting I got a bit of a lump in my throat and somewhat teary eyed. My day was nearly over, but what a day it had been, everything I had seen and heard made me proud to be a resident of The Merrie City of Wakefield. I think the only thing that could have improved the day would have been hearing Abbott sing “I love this city”, but with work beckoning at 5am I didn’t get to find out if he aired said song.


Sunday may well be a day of rest for sensible folk, but I’d already done 8 hours of my ‘day job’ prior to heading to The Bull & Fairhouse where I was putting on five bands as part of Long Division’s Sunday Fringe.

In all honesty I’d little idea what a curator was supposed to do and Joe from Diamond Studios had already got the P.A. sorted by the time I arrived, so I busied myself with writing out beer tokens for four of the bands. This ate up enough time for me to then be in a position to dash up to The Hop to see if I could blag anything from Dean to help make the event a success. Fortunately he had one of the back-drops spare from the day before and once secured over the Fairhouse’s window it was the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’.

Soon enough I was stepping onstage, in the capacity of curator, to introduce Frozen Flame. A young band from Leeds who have yet to sit their GCSEs let alone spend beer tokens (I furnished them all with a Long Division t-shirt instead), their level of talent left the audience extremely impressed. With a sound that hinted at Faith No More and Incubus they eased the crowd into what would at times be quite a heavy evening.

On paper Biolab 666 were the heaviest band on the bill, with drummer Sharif ‘Diz’ Dyson having performed with a vast array of death and black metal bands down the years. They are very much his baby and he was proud of the fact that his current outfit may raise an eyebrow in local circles. Granted there is a fair share of blast beats and growls, but they are very much a groove orientated machine, albeit one who were clearly too extreme for some in attendance who left during their performance.

I was heartened to see a few familiar faces when I took to the stage with Red Riding Quartet but still wondered if we would also prove a little too heavy for some individuals. I needn’t have worried. By the third song, “Kelly”, the audience had already chanted “Wakefield, Wakefield, Wakefield…” (I thought that only happened at Cribs gigs!) after I engaged in a bit of banter with a gentleman wearing a Castleford Tigers shirt and enthusiastically sang along to sections of said song. It’s only taken me fifteen years but it seems I’ve finally written a decent vocal hook!

I was conscious of the fact that I had devised a running order for the evening and it would have been a tad hypocritical if it had all gone to pot thanks to us. However, some vocal encouragement from Goggle Eyed Psycho, who were playing after us, led to Long Division getting two exclusives: a brand new Red Riding Quartet song and our first full-length nine song set.

Goggle Eyed Psycho had not only graciously allowed us to extend our set but they had also agreed to perform an acoustic set especially for Long Division and it was a privilege to hear these stripped down versions of their material. Front man Dyl McPrice even donned a rather fetching blonde wig in honour of this being a ‘Fringe’ gig.

Headliners Clown also went that extra mile for the evening, in the case of drummer Gareth Heeley some 170 miles by train from Edinburgh to make it back to Wakefield. The band has been in existence since the mid-nineties, albeit with a different line-up, and their experience shows as they deliver the goods with consummate ease.

It may have been a case of beginners luck, but the buzz I got from being involved with Long Division, even on a relatively small scale, means I’m already looking forward to the prospect of 2012.

All Photography Jon Pinder, except Napoleon IIIrd by Jayne Woodhead

1 comment:

  1. Just for the record, we didn't play "I Love This City". It'll never be played by S&D - was part of a separate project :) Cheers for popping along though! Was an amazing weekend.