Long Division, Wakefield, UK, September 25th, 2021 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, May 18th, 2024  

Low Hummer (Photo by Shaun Pugh)

Low Hummer, Gruff Rhys, Brix and the Extricated, Cowgirl, Bunkerpop, Hands Off Gretel

Long Division, Wakefield, UK, September 25th, 2021,

Oct 04, 2021 Photography by Andrew Benge (Hands Off Gretel, Carpet) & Shaun Pugh (Cowgirl) Bookmark and Share

The return of music festivals has felt special. Watching live music and the collective, community spirit of being around like-minded people has been missed

For Wakefield, the return of Long Division matters more than most. The metropolitan event has been vital in raising the reputational bar for the Yorkshire town, championing independence and DIY culture locally and further afield. It breathes life into the town, supports the local youth and brings internationally renowned acts into the fold.

2020, was meant to mark the festival’s 10th anniversary - a blowout party to celebrate a decade of being one of the best small festivals on the scene - but by March that year it was clear it wasn’t going to happen, the owners had to start crowdfunding to get the cash to keep it afloat and work tirelessly to secure a line-up for 2021.

On Saturday 25th September, it all paid off as Long Division returned to Wakefield triumphantly, if not a little surreally! Crowded spaces still feel alien, and a deliberately reduced capacity left the day without the sweaty crush of bodies often associated with such events.

The demise of local venue Warehouse 23, home to the day’s bigger acts in the past, and an early curfew in WX (the old Market Hall) meant that festival closers The Lovely Eggs in the Town Hall were only witnessed by those who had queued well in advance, such was the limited capacity. We also missed She Drew The Gun in the same space for the same reasons.

Regardless, Long Division’s return felt special and felt right, and in the world as it is now, expecting things to be how they were would be entirely naive.

The day began in the expanse of WX with Hands Off Gretel’s snarling feminist grunge, packing a punch with crushing distortion and no-fucks-given attitude. Singer and guitarist Lauren Tate is a natural on-stage (even stopping a song to check if she is out of tune is humanising and endearing) as she drives the band’s unsubtle blasts against conformity, and misogyny, forward. In the same unrelenting way as L7 before them, Hands Off Gretel are uncompromising and unapologetic and they rock. Ending with a violent blast of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ is perfectly apt and a nod to where they come from.

Hands Off Gretel
Hands Off Gretel

Over in the ornate Mechanic’s Theatre, Bristol’s Home Counties join the spate of “post-punk” bands riding the hype right now, with a disco-driven, funky take on the genre. Tight musicianship, and with a knack for a propulsive groove they deliver a Talking Heads-meets-DFA party. They are clearly (and knowingly) winking at their post-punk influences, the vocals switch between the spoken-Fall-like wryness favoured by so many, and the screeching vocals of Squid - each song is like a patchwork of the genre they favour. A great party band, bringing a sense of fun to a sound that is getting a little po-faced.

In my book, Brix Smith Smart of Brix and the Extricated is a legend, having been a key part of the Fall’s most fruitful period. Joined in this band by founding Fall member (and longest serving member other than Mark E Smith) Paul Hanley, this explains the strength of the band. I’d seen their last UK festival slot at Rockaway Beach in January 2020 and this set felt like they had never been away, possibly performing with more bite than before. The music was the same high-level indie rock but the delivery came with more spit and vitriol as if Brix and the band had something to prove, something negative to disperse. The magic of hearing clearly the lyrics to Fall classics like ‘Deadbeat Descendent’ and ‘Totally Wired’ can not be understated.

Carpet, over in Velvet (a truly surreal setting for a gig with a diamond shaped cocktail bar right in the centre of where the crowd stood and decor like a gentlemen’s club designed by David Lynch), bring something much more introspective and considered but no less powerful. The project of Rob Slater (The Spills, Crake) revels in classic songcraft with tunes that tread the line between alt-Americana and lo-fi indie brilliantly, think Bright Eyes or the Manchester Orchestra with a Yorkshire bent. The set sounds perfect and the performance is low-key, the music rather than the “show” being the focus, which is perfect foil to the raucousness of first part of the day. A beautiful set from another one of Slater’s excellent projects.


The next period is a bit of a whirlwind taking in Hull’s wonky pop cult Bunkerpop with their infectious grooves and epic synth-rock standing out as a truly fun live experience and, offsetting this, the lush post-rock atmospherics of Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake, Hazel Wilde’s stunning vocals drag the mournful instrumentals into optimistic and accessible territory, a mean feat for music with such emotional heft. Off the back of 2020’s excellent Spook The Herd it is nice to see the time away hasn’t diminished any of their live power.

Back in Velvet, York’s Cowgirl is drowning their classic indie in a tsunami of distortion and feedback enough to make early Jesus and Mary Chain fans smile. Their self-titled new album from last month is packed with slacker melodies and the pop-nouse of Teenage Fanclub, short, sweet vignettes of the best of indie rock. Today none of the melody is lost but each track is given extra bite as the band thrash through in waves of noise, distorted guitar leading into each track. It’s 30 minutes of melodic noise, rock n roll in the best possible way.


It is at this point that some of the venue issues become apparent, walking over to the Town Hall She Drew The Gun is already packed and a large queue has already formed for the closing set from The Lovely Eggs. The choice is stand in the street on the off-chance of getting in or abandon those sets for something else and an early night.

Instead, the final part of the day is shared between Gruff Rhys (standing in at the very last minute for The Futureheads) delivering the kind of joyous finale only he can and Hull’s finest Low Hummer . With a full band including backing singers and with Sweet Baboo on bass Rhys delivers a career-spanning set, packed with lush tunes and comedic brilliance.

Low Hummer are starting to deliver on their promise and becoming one of the best live bands in the UK (just ask the Manic Street Preachers who have invited them out on tour). Just how effortlessly they flit between styles (one minute they are doing electro-punk, the next rhythmic post punk and then souring indie-rock) never missing a beat, is somehow completely believable. The vocals, whether spoken or sung, sweetly nonchalant or spitting vitriol, fit the song perfectly each time. ‘The Real Thing’ sounds absolutely HUGE. Everyone leaves knowing that Low Hummer is a band that needs to be recognised for what they are - a band that deserves to be massive.

And that leaves things on a high, on a day that felt like a waking dream, where anxieties subsided and the power of live music made the world feel “normal” again. Long Division, as always has a positive impact on Wakefield but this year it was so much more, it felt like a victory of sorts.


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