Wednesday, 22 June 2011

My Long Division

I need to be clear from the outset; this is not a ‘review’ of Long Division. We’re not so desperate for good press that we need to forge our own, which is always a relief. Instead it’s more of a continuation of the early ‘How To Do Long Division’ Vlogs. It will look at LD from the perspective of a promoter putting on their first festival – in a rambling kind of way. It will only really work if you know Wakefield and the places im talking about. But hey. As you will see, it may contain little in the way of a critical response to actual bands playing their music on the stage, but it may contain other insights, such as incredibly cool New York Indie Popsters eating Rhubarb Crumble backstage.

Friday 10th June.

I’m out of bed by 7am on the morning of the opening of the first ever Long Division. I can’t sleep. I’ve not slept for most of the week. I also have an awful lot of work to do.

The majority of the day is taken up with completing paperwork and preparing files for Reps at each venue. It’s not very exciting, but it’s the hard graft that needs to be done. I would have got it all done but my co-organiser Chris Morse is having a hellish day collecting and unloading massive bits of staging for the Town Hall and Cathedral. We thought he’d be done by dinnertime; it took him a good 8 hours and I have to go help out with the bits he cant get to. And there was me getting stressed because the printer ran out of ink.

I work solid, with no time for a food stop and have to dash around in the car collecting amps and what not as Morsey is still stuck in South Elmsall. I chance upon a relaxed St Gregory Orange at the Flanshaw rehearsal space, laid back after their final band practice as a four piece. Professional worrier Harry Rhodes (also of Piskie Sits) is concerned about dropping his amps and equipment off in various places. I feel bad I can’t help, but I’m well up against it in getting this equipment to The Hop for Shrag to soundcheck; through rush hour too. I like to have control over pretty much everything, with no detail too small, but the last few days I’ve had to prioritise and focus on the big things. Thankfully, Harry manages to sort himself out.

One Day, After School... By Joel Rowbottom

Slow journey to The Hop, then home and back again finds us behind schedule before we’ve started, but soundman, and all round sound guy Jamie Lockhart is on the ball and the opening night gig goes well. My band, One Day, After School… open things up. I wanted to unveil the official Long Division T-shirts by wearing one upon my person for the show, but Morsey isn’t back from his rounds yet (it’s 8pm!) and they are locked away somewhere. The show was fun and I’m surprised we managed to sound at least partially rehearsed given my recent schedule.

Rob Dee in a Tee by Joel Rowbottom

The rest of the night is less ‘work’, but I do get the T-shirts flying out for a bargain £6. Everyone is merry and the sense of excitement is infectious. A lot of the local bands are here tonight and are talking about their plans for the following day. The Bambinos, Eagulls and Shrag are all great and as a normal Friday night, it’d be a success. But I know everyone is keen to see what tomorrow brings.

Shrag by Joel Rowbottom

I take it easy on the booze as I have a long day ahead of me. My friends and girlfriend don’t have the same idea, however and we don’t leave til gone 1am. Having not eaten all day I’m desperate for something. In one of the low points of the last few years of my life I am forced to buy some KFC as the Subway drive through is closed. On a belly full of grease (with a side of chicken) I half sleep through the fear and anticipation.

Saturday 11th June .

It probably says more about the type of employment I have enjoyed in the last 5 years than anything else, but Saturday was the hardest day of ‘work’ I can remember doing, pretty much ever. It was relentless, tiring, trying, and utterly exhausting – but great fun and incredibly rewarding. Pretty much the opposite of my ‘real’ job in almost every way!

6 hours sleep and I’m out of bed for 08:00 to finish the paperwork that was cut short yesterday; I need to compile 43 envelopes, one for each band containing all manner of essential items. No time for breakfast!

I’m down The Hop for about 09:30 to meet the venue rep Helen and her faithful assistant Marc. She is there waiting and I’m incredibly pleased – I need people who are reliable today and thankfully all our reps were amazing. Tom, the sound guy is down already setting things up. Looks like the weather might hold up. I feel fresh and excited and most importantly; prepared.

I leave Helen to welcome in The Spills who are down nice and early to soundcheck. The next two hours were left for me to wander around each venue and make sure there are no issues. I call in at Mustangs where they are taking off the stage barriers. All good. I head to Henry Boons and meet venue rep Gary. Everything is being set up… No sign of Pengiun for the soundcheck though. But otherwise fine. I leave things in Gary’s experienced and capable hands.

I head to the Town Hall and I am overwhelmed by how awesome it looks. The light rig is up and it looks beautiful. It’s still a mess in there but StagePro uber tech dude Midi is all over it. StagePro supplied pretty much all our tech stuff for the Saturday and Midi’s job was similar to mine in that he wandered around making sure things were as they should be. Again, being able to rely on someone to look after that was immensely important and Midi and his team were amazing, all day long.

My mum has arrived with my cockney friend Gavin. They have been preparing all manner of meals for the bands we are contractually obliged to provide hot meals for. We’ve commandeered use of the Old Court Room in the Town Hall as an official ‘Dining Room’ in order to reduce pressure on individual venues and to show off part of the Town Hall, give the visiting bands a further positive experience of their time in Wakefield. 5 slow cookers and endless tins of buns / cake / rhubarb crumble loaded in and it’s time to leave.

I get word from Graziers Rep Neil that there is no bass amp down there. In the rush the day before we’d not moved it from The Hop. We’re getting close to opening now. I can’t believe it – where did the last 2 hours go? I carry it down but it’s proper heavy. I’m dragging it for about 10 minutes when thankfully Morsey pulls up in the Ossett Brewery van. I notice with great envy that he is eating a bacon butty. He zooms off to deliver the amp and I return to The Hop to set up wristband exchange.

Co-organiser Sarah is there setting up the tables and gathering everything together. It’s really cool to get the badges, programmes, wristbands and T-Shirts all together for the first time. I check in on The Spills and they are checked and ready to go, but are chasing after their beer rider. It’s 11:30am boys! They reckon it’s just for the nerves…

Sarah informs me that on final ticket counts from all our various outlets we have sold 850 out of 1000 tickets. That’s amazing. 2 weeks before we’d been around 500. My instinct had told me we would move around 200 on the day, now it seemed we may sell out. We considered ways to sell more tickets but we didn’t physically have any more wristbands. In the end we thought, if it sells out everyone (bar those who arrive later) will be delighted. Let’s not stress about it – we promoted the purchase of early bird tickets at £10 (I can’t believe how good value that is, I mean TEN POUNDS?!) so we’ve done all we can.

Myself directing a valued customer by Joel Rowbottom

It’s just passed 11:30 when the ticket exchange opens. I’m thrilled to see people are queuing outside and I feel pretty cool unlocking the door and beckoning people forth. Leading up to the festival I had been pushing for ways to make the opening Spills gig more of an event to encourage people down – T-shirt giveaways, free drinks and an opening speech etc. It never came together, like so many little ideas. I was just so worried that people wouldn’t turn up for the early bands, especially when a big part of the festival was pushing these ace local artists.

The Spills by Jon Pinder

With 15 minutes before The Spills hit the stage at midday the room is pretty empty. But a quick dash to the exchange sees people queuing down the stairs. Helen, keen to run a tight ship beckons The Spills to the stage for 12:00 sharp. I’m beckoned to the stage by singer Rob Slater for a few impromptu words (I can’t remember what I said) and then – LONG DIVISION IS GO! – Thrillingly the room fills up quickly until The Spills rap things up to an almost capacity crowd. It’s worked; people have come out early.

I don’t have time to enjoy it though, or even see a full song. We’re a guitar amp down at The Graziers now for Clandestines and the bass amp we sent down is knackered. Morsey has one at Mustangs they can use. Sarah, now in the van, arrives at The Hop, dropping off the riders and collecting a spare bass amp we stashed at The Hop and heads off to pick up the guitar amp. That incredibly heavy bass amp earlier in the day had clearly spent a precedent; I’m now lugging crates of beer and boxes of food up two flights of stairs to The Hop green room. Still, least The Spills have their beer now!

Long Division design dude Adam Hayward arrives at The Hop. Despite working closely together on Long Division and Rhubarb Bomb for months now, we’ve barely seen each other. Sadly, even at our own festival, we do not have time to hang out. It’s good to see Adam buzzing about seeing his ace design work all over town though. Adam heads off to hand out the charity boxes for Mencap that the Co-op has provided whilst I take another phonecall. Seriously, my phone did not stop ringing for the entire day. I’d finally get to stand and watch a band and you could guarantee my phone would ring within 2 minutes.

This time it was Jenn, Town Hall rep saying the drumkit didn’t have a clutch. Such tiny things! But I have to ring round and find one, then find a way of getting it from A to B. The logistics of a multi venue festival like LD are massive and I’m glad we put so much prep in.

The Passing Fancy by Jon Pinder

I head down to The Graziers and catch the last song of The Passing Fancy. Again, I’m thrilled that one of the smaller venues is bustling with people. I almost get a minute to relax but Neil informs me we have yet another problem; Clandestines, on stage in 30 minutes don’t have any smashables for the drumkit. The Passing Fancy only uses a snare and the act after them is a rapper. There are no smashables in the building. Another phonecall, to Joe of The Spills and another run to The Hop and back gets the cymbals there on time. And I actually mean ‘run’. I’m not a runner. I don’t do that kind of thing. It’s 13:00 and my already legs are aching! But on the way up to The Hop I could hear Protectors blaring out of the windows from way across the carpark and it sounded so sweet, like Long Division really was infiltrating the city, brightening it.

Protectors by Jon Pinder

With another menial task complete, I popped down to Henry Boons to catch the last song of Imp. Again, another great crowd. Gary had done a great job in getting the venue prepped and the atmosphere was brilliant for a dinnertime gig.

Clemence Freschard and Stanley Brinks had just arrived on the train and Gary was settling them in upstairs. I go say hello and am surprised to see that the expected buffet isn’t setup. We had arranged to feed all our bands with a mass buffet in the upstairs function room, but it had failed to materialise, as had the bands riders. Mike of Imp was visibly twitching due to lack of free alcohol. What is it with these Wakefield bands?

Much as Morsey had had a hellish time the day before with the staging, now Sarah was having a similar experience delivering all our riders. We swore there and then that next year we would organise this a hell of a lot better. She arrives with the booze, much to the relief of Mike, but has accidentally dropped the buffet at the Town Hall. Oh no! Impromptu rearranging and a mass effort from Jenn and her team at the Town Hall save the day.

Some might say it’s not terribly important, getting a buffet set up. Couple of sausage rolls etc. But I think it is, especially for bands who are playing for a small fee. Its something the public has no idea of, but I want Long Division to be a festival artists enjoy, and even looked forward to playing, because they know they will be looked after. Anyone can book a band and hire a PA; it’s stuff like that makes a difference and stuff like that causes the most stress.

I dash up to the Town Hall to help out. I catch 60 seconds of Just Handshakes (We’re British) and once again I feel so proud to see plenty of people in the venue and a laid back atmosphere. Jenn and the Town Hall team are all over the buffet and I had nothing to worry about. Annoyingly, my phone has run out of charge so I take 5 minutes to sit down and let it charge. Whilst there I get a text from Liam, a rep at Boons to inform me the venue has reached capacity for The Lovely Eggs. Amazing – it’s only 14:30! Then I get a call to inform me Queen’s English have pulled out due to some car trouble on the way from London. For a second I’m stressed out. But then I realise it actually gives us more breathing space for Mustangs with turnarounds, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing (although I would have loved to have seen them play).

I head to Mustangs and catch up with Morsey. Things are running well and Napoleon IIIrd is on stage. It’s the first time I get to watch a band for 5 minutes. I stand up on one of the raised balconies and take it all in. With all the mad dashing around I feel I’m outside the festival looking in. All around are people from various sides of Wakefield; Russell, formerly of The Research is there, former Rhubarb Bomb editors, people I haven’t seen out for years. It feels really positive that these people have felt Long Division good enough to make the effort and come out. And Napoleon sounds awesome in Mustangs too. Who would have thought someone so amazing, talented and interesting would ever play in Mustangs? That alone is a great achievement.

In an attempt to avoid the lack of nourishment encountered yesterday, I head to The Green Room café and Jamie makes me an awesome sandwich to takeout. Jamie has been a great support throughout and I’m glad to hear the café has been nice and busy all day. I’m feeling more relaxed as the day seems to be running itself a little more now. Still, this is 3pm and I don’t end up taking a bite of said sandwich til 5:30pm – I simply carry it in my hand allowing it to get sweatier and sweatier.

Freschard by Joel Rowbottom

I spot some friends and accompany them to Boons for Freschard. The buzz on the streets is great. It seems pretty much every person we pass has a LD wristband on. We’ve taken over the city! And not only that; people see my LD T-Shirt and wave and say hello. Such a great atmosphere. I can’t stick around at Boons and am so gutted to miss Freschard as she was one of the people I was looking forward to seeing the most. But the wristband exchange is down to one man and I need to help out.

Fresh from Chilli preparation, Gavin is now running the wristband exchange. I get there just after 3pm and there are about 20 wristbands left for sale. Wow. There is still a steady flow of people arriving. I give Liam at Boons a ring and thankfully he agrees to help Gavin out; I’m required to open up the Cathedral at 4pm. Through the wall I can hear Elks making an absolute racket. It sounds amazing, so heavy! Again, I want to go watch but with the surges of ticketsholders arriving I can’t leave the desk, or even take a bite of that sandwich.

A couple of members of Los Campesinos! have arrived early and I have a chat with them. They seem pretty excited about the gig. I wonder what they think of playing in a tiny 200 capacity venue, but they are really positive; ‘It’ll be like the old days’ they say and I’m glad they are feeling relaxed and excited to be playing in Wakefield.

It’s about half 3 when we are down to our last ticket. Me and Gav can’t help but laugh when we turn and see two people walk up the stairs. Inevitably, they both want a ticket. I wonder now whether we could have got away with handing out a guest pass to one of em. The entire guest list never turns up for a gig. But we didn’t want to risk it. As ourselves and the two blokes, with Liverpool accents too, so they I reckoned they had travelled some, were reaching stalemate, a member of Los Campesinos! hanging out nearby chirped up and said he could take one of their guest passes. That was awesome, and the guy was thrilled. But that was it – no more tickets. I put a sign up in the door. Yet people still arrived and literally COULD NOT BELIEVE there were no more tickets. What sells out in Wakefield? Nothing! Yet here it was.

Liam arrives to relieve me and I jog on down to Cathedral, the only venue yet to open. Emmy The Great ’s tourbus is waiting for me, along with about 100 British Legion members. We would have very much liked to have run the Cathedral all day but there’s a special service on (their march down Wood Street had also caused some load in problems at The Town Hall too). Not to complain, it IS the British Legion afterall. But getting times and details confirmed was difficult. Similar to the issue at Henry Boons – we could only use it til 17:00 as they had double booked us with a 21st birthday – it was a little infuriating that people couldn’t grasp the scale of what we were trying to achieve. Do you want a pub FULL of people all day, or 50 people and a soggy buffet for a 21st? Thankfully, the BL were pretty much done when we arrived and in a way it added yet something else to see them all in their uniforms and with their medals. Another positive thing going on.

Midi was in there already getting things set up and Adam had arrived to help me shift the staging. That staging is pretty heavy man. Apparently the proper stage guys can carry one on their shoulder. Not us… We slog the 10 bits of staging into place. I speak to Emmy’s tour manager who is a little concerned we wont be ready to open doors in two hours. That is quite a sharp turnaround to set up and entire stage, lighting rig, PA and do a thorough soundcheck. But I trusted Midi’s judgement that it’d be fine.

Eventually, the Cathedral rider arrived and I went off to set up the Green Room for Emmy. That side of things is not something I’ve really dealt with before. I find that whole rider culture very strange indeed. But you have to keep the Tour Manager and, as such, the band as happy as possible and give them whatever they want. No slight against Emmy’s crew in particular who were all lovely, but some of the requests are just weird. I can’t imagine going around making demands like that. But I think overall with LD we managed to keep everyone happy.

About an hour of setting up later, venue rep Paul (aka The Passing Fancy) turns up to take control. Everything is in place now, the bar is being set up and Emmy is getting ready to soundcheck. I park myself on a pew and finally get to eat my sandwich. I hear that they were queuing out of the door at The Hop for Runaround Kids. Sound like it got really busy there a little earlier than expected.

Crowd for Runaround Kids by Jon Pinder

Sat in the almost empty Cathedral, stopping for the first time that day I begin to take in what’s been going on. That it has happened. It IS happening; that thing we had been working on all that time. I’m in the middle of it and across the city people are having an amazing time. Yet I feel outside of it. I don’t mind that. Facilitating the day gives me enjoyment, but I am wishing now that I would get to see at least one band… just one. And I wish I wasn’t so exhausted.

My next job is to head to The Hop and run it for the rest of the night. Ever since we booked Los Campesinos! for the 200 capacity venue I had been rather concerned about how we would cope there, loading the equipment to stage in a rammed venue and getting the band on and off too. So I decided to place myself up there to help out venue rep Rich (who took over from Helen at teatime) with those difficulties.

Emma Pollock by Jon Pinder

I arrive to hear Emma Pollock ’s sweet sweet sound pouring out over the Hop courtyard. The place is absolutely rammed with people enjoying the weather that has held steady throughout. Upstairs I can’t even get inside. Emma Pollock was probably the band I was most excited about seeing and I can’t even get in! I can hear well enough though and I’m really impressed by the sound quality more than anything – so clear. Rich is there, managing things. He was totally on top of things, so we agreed I’d be around for handovers to help speed things up, but I could wander off if need between. I’m glad Rich was there and that I felt comfortable leaving him. I was too tired to be stressed but it meant if any other problems arose I could deal with them.

Adam had joined Gav on the wristband exchange for a bit so I hung with them for a while. Kate Jackson ’s Tour Manager arrived and I had a nice chat with him. He said he was surprised at the venue; he’d expected it to be a bit pokey and scummy but was really pleased! In a roundabout way it was a compliment, and one I heard from a lot of people – the venues (and LD) was much better than they expected and they loved it, which was exactly the reaction what we wanted.

Emma finishes her set and I help unload equipment. I get to speak to her in the green room which was awesome. I’m a massive fan of Chemikal Underground, the record label she co-founded as well as Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Delgados easily rating in my favourite bands ever. I so wish I had had more time to speak to her, but inevitably I didn’t. I had interviewed her on the phone for Rhubarb Bomb a month or so before and we had been talking about the festival. She lives in Glasgow and it’s such an amazing place; I was saying how I sometimes wished I lived up there. She was encouraging me to do so, but also said that it’s a great achievement to make something positive happen in your town, and that LD might be that thing. It was great to see her again, and hear that she was enjoying herself. She said the festival had a real ‘magic’ about it, which was ace. However, been the sad organising type I am, I was as equally happy to know that all my prep for her (hotel room, amp lending, travel directions etc) had come together without a hitch. Though I didn’t get to see her again, she did visit the LD Dining Room where she apparently got to learn about the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ from my mum whilst eating her crumble. Promoting Wakefield until the end!

Kate Jackson by Jon Pinder

With Kate Jackson loaded onto the stage I decided to scarper. 19:00 was the busiest LD time with 5 bands kicking of within 15 minutes. If I hadn’t been working it would have been a hell of a difficult choice. But I decided to head back to the Cathedral to make sure it all came together – but really it was an excuse to see St Gregory Orange. When we secured the Cathedral as a venue they were pretty much the first band I had in mind for it. And for the first time they had expanded to a 4 piece – I really didn’t want to miss this. I think it’s another great thing about LD; the amount of one-offs. What are the chances you will see band X in venue type Z ever again? Perhaps never!

St Gregory Orange by Jayne Woodhead

The front door of the cathedral was ajar allowing me to see St Gregory from about 500 metres away, up Wakefield precinct. The sound was humming across town. So beautiful. There was a healthy crowd. I got to see my girlfriend for only the second time that day. We sat as I managed to watch my first full song of a band the whole day. Bliss…

Then Paul came up to me; I needed to go to the bar right now – someone had been stealing beer. What?! I got to the bar, setup in the tearoom ajoining the old cathedral building. Our security guys were there too. They took the barman back into Cathedral to find the culprits. Turns out the idiots had just grabbed some bottles and ran off… into the cathedral and carried on watching the band. The security sorted them out, but it did annoy me that we were having to turn away genuine music lovers at the wristband exchange, yet these dicks had freedom of the festival. Ah well.

I watched the bar whilst security dealt with them and spotted Stanley Brinks (due on after St Greg) and Clemence Freschard wandering around. I knew what they were up to. I dug out Stanley’s one rider item – a bottle of Jameson’s Whisky and called them over. They were so sweet. They’d meant to meet their friends The Wave Pictures but had got lost and didn’t have a phone. So they were just hanging out. Stanley asked me to get some glasses – 3 glasses. We all supped a straight whiskey each. I’m no whiskey drinker without a mixer, but man, my first drink of the day tasted SO GOOD. For the first time, it was like I could taste what people loved in Whisky – it made sense! He offered another, and I really wanted to, but I passed. I was scared it would knock me out and I had a long way to go yet.

With the thieves dealt with (I have to wonder why, of all the places they could have gone, they came to see St Greg at the Cathedral? They were proper larger lout, football fan nobheads. Maybe St G have an as yet untapped potential market for their noise making mischief?) and a guitar and amp sorted out for Brinksy, I head up to Mustangs to catch Darwin Deez. I see David Tattersall and his fellow Wave Pictures on the way looking confused. They are trying to find somewhere for a snack. They’ve just walked from Boons, which sadly means they have walked all the way across the city centre, and passed most of the food places open this time of night. Welcome to Wakey! They can’t be arsed with a restaurant so I direct them to Clemence and Stanley inside.

Darwin Deez by Joel Rowbottom

Inside Mustangs the atmosphere is bang on. I don’t really know much about Darwin’s music. I know there is a lot of hype, which always used to turn me off bands instantly. I still hate The Strokes to this day, and I think that is due to the double whammy of endless NME hype when they arrived and the fact they were moved to the main stage at my first Leeds Fest, meaning Run DMC got their set cut in half (the Strokes set was shit too.) But nowadays I really don’t pay any attention, so I was massively taken aback when I walked in to witness them busting out some synced up dance moves. It was a strange thing to witness; I’d (co) booked this?! But I thought it was great. Everyone around me was really into it. It was FUN, a spectacle. It made me smile uncontrollably and for the first time over the day I really felt that this was something truly unique to Wakefield. Not a man doing silly dances (which most certainly isn’t) but THIS KIND OF THING. Something new and different and quirky. I really buzzed off it.

I would have loved to have stayed but my phone went off again. I can’t remember what it was, but I had to leave. More than any other band that played I wish I could have seen more than 5 minutes of Darwin.

I did my now forgotten next errand and then dashed to The Hop. I picked up some Rhubarb Bomb LD issues that Emmy wanted. The interview in there was part of Pledge campaign and she said she would also hand them out at her upcoming gigs. So I went down with a box full and caught two minutes of Stanley Brinks. So quiet but so perfect in the cathedral.

Los Campesinos! audience by Joel Rowbottom

Back once more to The Hop I help Kate Jackson unload. We held the doors to allow Los Campesinos! to load onto stage. Our policy of not letting anyone on for 15 minutes when the previous band finish is working, meaning our turnarounds are quick. Rich nips off for a Sandwich as people slowly file in for LC! It was crushed in there, but people don’t seem to mind. I’m itching for Rich to get back so I can make a leap to The Town Hall. I’ve not seen a band there all day and would love to catch the end of I Like Trains. Photographer and LD friend Joel turns up to get a shot of the crowd from the stage and battles his way through and then before I know it the band have started. Sounds pretty damn good in there.

Los Campesinos! by Jon Pinder

Rich returns and I’m ready to shoot off but I bump into Kate Jackson’s Tour Manager again. They’ve not had their hot meal yet and don’t know where to go. Perfect! I’m off the Town Hall and so are they. However we have to wait outside The Jam Inn whilst they finish their pints. Joel emerges from within. He looks as wasted as I feel. He tells me after taking the stage photos he had to crowd surf to get off the stage – this is with a proper expensive camera and equipment bag! What a day.

Kate and her band are supped up and we walk through town. I’d never met Kate before and wasn’t sure what to expect – would she be a bit diva-ish? Far, far from it. She was so bubbly and enthusiastic and really cool; Long Division was only her 3rd gig as ‘Kate Jackson Band’ and she had been thrilled by the reception. She was saying how she would love to get something similar to LD going in her town and was impressed with it all. Once more, I just buzzed that someone was enjoying Wakefield and felt quite pleased with myself – admittedly in part because I was WALKING THROUGH WAKEFIELD WITH KATE JACKSON. Town was still teaming with LD punters. The bouncers on Reflex and Flares seemed a little confused – who are all these people and why aren’t they coming in my shit bar? We were winning.

I Like Trains by Joel Rowbottom

We enter the Town Hall and ascend the regal staircase just as the crowd are dipersing. Bugger, I’d missed ILT. I led Kate and her crew through to the Old Court Room. Darwin and his band were at one table, one of them going back for seconds on the Rhubarb Crumble. I’d not seen my mum all day so gave her a hug, then so did Kate. Good vibes all over Wakefield. The feedback on the hot food had been ace – a member of LC! said it was the best chilli they’d ever had (I don’t know if that is just ‘on tour’ but it’s still good). It was another part of the jigsaw in making LD something special.

Somehow my good friend David Cooper had managed to get himself into the backstage area and was chomping on a flapjack, wobbling with intoxication ever so slightly. Alongside not getting to see any bands, not getting to hang with my friends was the other downside to LD, but it meant the world to see them having a good time. And they weren’t out necessarily just to support what I was doing; they were genuinely enjoying it regardless.

I spend the next 45 minutes or so tidying up the Town Hall, which is pretty boring. The reps have done an ace job here, and they get to knock off the remaining chilli and some ciders ILT left behind. They’ve definitely earned it.

Emmy The Great by Joel Rowbottom

I head back to the Cathedral and catch the end of Emmy’s set. There is a strong appreciative crowd and she does a nice line in banter between songs. She bigs up Rhubarb Bomb which is the first I’ve heard of someone doing that, which is good to hear. She’s big into the culture and when she asks if people know it’s a fanzine festival, despite some cheers, I reckon most people don’t.

I have my first beer of the day and I finally have to admit it; I’m spent. Wasted. Burnt out. It might not sound much from this write up, but I barely stopped moving all day. Even when I could have, in theory, have chilled, something stopped me. I HAD to be doing something. I think towards the end, I knew if I stopped I might not start again. This is what was happening now.

People flocked out and I got to say hello to a lot of people for the first time. If anyone saw me and I didn’t say much, please don’t think I was being rude. I speak to Emmy briefly, but I have no idea what about. It takes about 45 minutes to clear the stage away and tidy up the green room and bar area. I’m loading out when I get another phonecall – just when I thought it had died off. It’s Andy, rep at Mustangs. ‘We need you to get up here right now. The bouncers have kicked off, people are getting thrown out and we need someone with authority’.

So I ran up. I proper ran. It’s not far, but it knackered me out. I arrived on Westgate to see, alongside its general horrors of police vans, flying bottles and terrible, awful member of the public, a swarm of people outside Mustangs talking to police officers. I speak to one but they don’t really know what’s happening. I go inside and try to find Morsey but cant. The Wedding Present aren’t on stage…It’s chaotic in there. Actually, it’s not really. Most people are calm. But it’s that din of a nightclub with no music on; of 800 people discussing what just happened. But what DID just happen?

At the far side of the club I end up sticking my head out of a backstage door to see a member of the public kicking of with a bouncer – just verbally mind. He seems totally sober and is shouting ‘you are well out of order here, you’ve gone too far’. The bouncers drag him away. This doesn’t seem good.

I find Morsey back at the door and he tells me what has happened. He’d seen the bouncers getting a bit too hands on with people that were simple jumping around. They’d started kicking individuals out and Morsey had tried to tell them to calm it. But it got out of hand and the bouncers laid in big time, dragging swathes of people out. Naturally some of the crowd tried to defend their friends / co gig goers and it got messy. As we stood there we heard word that the security was being evacuated from the premises. Morsey went off to find Sarah and I wandered to the bouncers gathering by the door. One is telling his head of security that someone spit on him. None of this sounds good at all.

With security out of the building, we speak to David Gedge of The Wedding Present, who had to leave the stage whilst this was happening, and he is happy to return. Sarah bravely speaks to the baying crowd and the band return.

The Wedding Present by Joel Rowbottom

I’ve since heard a lot of reports as to what happened. All of them point the finger squarely at the security staff. As Andy has said, a gig like that will police itself. The band were on a raised stage. The crowd, though energetic were not out of control in the slightest. There had been nothing to suggest that the security would have a problem dealing with them. It’s easy to say now that the security were used to dealing with your typical Wakefield weekend crowd and not an Indie gig but really – which one is tougher?

The security team really let Long Division down. The amazing, involving atmosphere of the entire day was broken right there, with the dark, horrible side of Wakefield nightlife rearing its unwelcome and ugly head at the worst possible time. There’s some massive irony there, that we decided to use Mustangs, a club so close to the thing we were trying to offer an alternative to, and it ended up causing such an issue. Some things are out of your control at the end of the day; no amount of planning can stop something like this happening. It’s definitely a lesson learned and aside from the few people who got kicked out / assaulted it didn’t cause a mass effect. It just annoys me endlessly now that almost every single review of the festival has mentioned it in some way and that Long Division has become associated with the very thing it was trying to fight against – brainless, empty, pointless Booze Britain nights ‘up town’. For the people who were there; they will remember that day as an amazing one. But for those that weren’t, who just hear or read about it…

With The Wedding Present back on stage I decide to call it a night. I head over to The Hop to meet my friends for Middleman. But I can’t face the noise (though the noise sounds awesome) and instead a couple of us head up the now empty green room. I’ve been in town, working for 14 hours and I just want to sit on a sofa and have a beer. Everyone is being so kind with their compliments and it’s cool to see people partying. I feel bad I don’t have the energy to express how thrilled I am. But I am thrilled, so happy and despite Mustangs; relieved. I wish I could go find some of the bands and go party with them; Elks, Emma Pollock, Wave Pictures, Freschard, Stanley Brinks are all staying at The Graziers and I’d love to go say hello. But we have a few steady ones. Before I go, Morsey, Sarah and I sit on the floor in the now empty upstairs of The Hop. They are as exhausted as me. We try to get out of our ‘work’ frames of mind and relax. We can’t help but talk about next year. It’s a nice moment to get 5 minutes with the two people who had made this happen with me. I grab a pizza and make it to bed about 2am.
Sunday 12th June .

Sunday was always intended to be my day of relaxation. I’d earnt the shed load of beers I was going to get through. That morning I nipped into town to pay Clemence her fee. She was sat in Henry Boons with Stanley. I’d thought they had been on tour, but turns out they just came for the festival, all the way from Berlin. What legends. They’d loved it too. Stanley offered to get me a drink but I had to get back. Maybe I could have stayed looking back now – I still had my ‘must keep moving’ head on. I wish I had, they both seem like such amazing, brilliant but down to earth people.

There were drumkit issues for the Philophobia night at The Hop so I had to go help Rob Dee collect some bits and pieces. Sunday was, of course the fringe festival and I’d cunningly removed any actual responsibility from my hands. After getting everything together we sat in The Hop and watched the charming Jeremiah. I wanted to call in to all the venues so we wandered down to the Bull & Fairhouse where Diamond Studios and Red Riding Quartet had put a few bands together. I got to see Red Riding Quartet themselves, featuring my good friend Andy on vocals. It was a good atmosphere down there, but we shot off for a curry as our visiting friend Rich had a train to catch soon. We ate at Bollywood Lounge, but I don’t really have any memory of the meal. I didn’t the next day, I couldn’t remember what I’d eaten. I was well out of it I think. Including a mad and undocumented Thursday, I had barely slept or eaten in 3 days.

We made it to The Snooty Fox where I gave a massive thank you to Helen and Marc who had run The Hop and were now curating their Punk and Ska night. I called in to see Matt Abbott at Fernandes who was running an acoustic night. The fringe didn’t come together as much as I’d hoped this year, but we rightly had to put our effort into making sure the Saturday worked. I massively appreciate the efforts of all the fringe curators and it is something we will work to develop next year, whilst remembering those people who had faith in us in 2011 (that goes for the whole festival).

Back at The Hop for closing band Above Us The Waves it was good to hear people’s stoires of the weekend. I’d not gone on the mad bender I had expected due to fatigue. But I was looking forward to a day off and a chance to take the whole mad thing in…

Monday 13th June.

…which would have been great, except I wasn’t finished yet. Now, to talk about the Monday here is not really of much interest to anyone. But it’s worth documenting as a record of the amount of work that goes into putting on a festival. I’m not after a medal but whilst people were back at work or nursing hangovers, me and Morsey were STILL at it…

Along with hard grafter Gavin, we got to the Town Hall for about 9am. We had all that staging to load out. Down a flight of stairs, and into a van. Man, it was hard, hard work. Took us a good hour or so of lifting. Waving farewell to Gav, homeward bound to that London, we drove down to South Elmsall to drop it off. Morsey was driving the big Ossett Brewery van and it was quite fun being a van drivers mate, eating a sandwich and a bag of crisps and listening to the radio. It was time for us to buzz and we talked loads about what we wanted to happen next year; secret gigs, different venues, more merchandise, promotion ideas.

By dinnertime we were back at the Cathedral to pick up the staging there. We were both fed up by then but got through it by getting excited about the future and talking about the great feedback we’d had. I know for Morsey especially, Long Division was the culmination of an awful lot of years of hard work promoting gigs in the city and something he had always wanted to do. The excitement got us through lifting those horrible heavy bits of staging.

It was about half 4 by the time we got done. We shook hands and I got myself home for some tea. And it was all done, all those months of thinking, schemeing, problem solving, imagining, worrying, spreadsheeting, bargaining, lifting, cursing, emailing, plotting and not sleeping were gone… until next year…

There are too many people to thank. I hope I have thanked them all in person at some point. Long Division was hard, but it never felt like ‘work’, despite what I’ve said above. Almost everything went to plan and it’s only now, looking back, that I see what a massively ambitious thing it was to attempt. I think the sense of pride we have managed to instill in Wakefield has been one of the most important things and I hope that many new and exciting things will stem from it, be they new bands, record labels, club night, blogs, magazines or just ideas. That’s how this kind of culture grows and how you avoid it becoming stagnant. Thank you to everyone and we shall see you at Long Division 2012 x

Dean Freeman

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