Come to Long Division and see Wakefield’s special DIY ethic at work, says festival organiser Dean Freeman

As the festival season dawns upon us once more, what better time to take a look around at what the UK has to offer?

Long Division is a music and DIY arts festival spawned by the Rhubarb Bomb fanzine based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Now in its third year, it’s gathering more and more momentum with growing popularity and Arts Council funding. The Fall and breakout talent Ghostpoet will be headlining a day of music on Saturday 8th June, with Yorkshire writer Simon Armitage (and his band, The Scaremongers) leading an arts-fuelled Sunday for the Long Division Fringe.

Dean Freeman, the mind behind the festival, discusses the highlights of this year’s event and what exactly makes Wakefield so special.

Long Division runs from 7th – 9th June, tickets are available for £20. Fringe events are free or priced individually.

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New Desert Blues @ Lennon’s, Southampton (27/04/2013)

New Desert BluesPhoto: William Fuller

I don’t understand music fans that turn up just for a gig’s headliner. You never know what support-act riches you’re going to stumble upon, and Saturday’s line-up was a goldmine.

Farnham four-piece The Venus Lyx kicked off proceedings. Churning out some standard, yet pleasing, guitar-heavy tracks to start with, it was when the vocals started to get bluesy that their set got interesting. By getting raw and rocking some fun guitar licks, the guys took it up by several notches before their time was up.

Ever heard of London outfit LSA? No? Me neither before Saturday. Causing a stir as the unnanounced second support act, the revelation that it was their live debut was clearly met with surprise. As far as first gigs go, this was a blinder. The band were tight and held a truly engaging rapport with the crowd. If there were any jitters on stage, they weren’t visible throughout the impressive set. Seemingly flawless both instrumentally and vocally, this new discovery was the highlight of the entire evening. Unfortunately I can’t find them online, but definitely keep an ear out for these guys as I sense great things to come.

Venue regulars New Desert Blues never fail to disappoint. Looking dapper, as ever, and brimming with unassuming confidence, the guys’ soothing americana vibes went down a treat. Their growing popularity across the Southern music scene was evident as revelling punters sang and chanted along, especially to firm favourite ‘Daniel’. If their recent show supporting folk-pop darlings Slow Club and live session for BBC Introducing is anything to go by, the future’s bright for New Desert Blues, and Saturday’s gig was just another step on their road to success.

Highlights from Bestival 2012

Oh dear, readers. It would seem I’ve been neglecting you for the past couple of weeks. That’s what happens when you leave the creation of an elaborate bird costume to the last minute! Excuses aside, this weekend’s wildlife themed Bestival was a scorching success, and not just because of the glorious sunshine.

Situated deep in the Isle of Wight countryside, Bestival has been running since 2004 as an offshoot of DJ and record producer Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best record label and club night. Always a colourful and exotic affair, it has a different fancy dress theme each year to allow festival goers to get their creative juices flowing and dress as outlandish as they please. This year wildlife was the motif, which lead the way for a stampede of spots, stripes, feathers and even shells.

However, it’s not all about the attire, of course, and Bestival 2012 boasted a very impressive and eclectic line-up. So who came top of the festival food chain this weekend? Here’s a list of highlights for you lovely people.

Adam Ant & The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse

As a girl brought up listening to Adam Ant‘s back catalogue, I was excited yet apprehensive about the dandy highwayman’s set on Friday. From the chat around the campsites it was clear that I was not alone. Would he be performing his hits? Would he be kitted up in military clothing like his glory days? And would he be able to hold his own on the main stage, potentially performing to thousands of onlookers? I’m very happy to say he did not disappoint. Every bit the showman, he commanded the audience’s attention with minimal effort, dancing around the stage, dressed up to the nines. Great vocals and obvious spirit has left me keen to hear his upcoming new studio album, the first to be released in 17 years.

Stevie Wonder

After a spellbinding performance at Glastonbury 2010, the living musical legend that is Stevie Wonder graced the UK festival scene once again, headlining the last night of Bestival. The astonishing two hour set was packed with recognisable hits and encapsulated the joyous atmosphere of the entire weekend. Alongside timeless classics such as ‘Superstition’, ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘For Once In My Life’, the Motown star covered tracks by Michael Jackson, John Lennon and The Beatles. Full of life, full of soul — Stevie Wonder was a majestic climax to the festival.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Orlando Higginbottom aka TEED is a young lad from Oxford who, after dabbling in the classical music realm, is becoming an increasingly prominent figure on the UK electronic scene. His debut album Trouble garnered positive reviews across the board upon its release in June and it’s no surprise that this great collection of tracks translates well to a live setting. Every beat was perfectly timed, as were the backing dancers who were appropiately dressed as animals. Being restricted to his decks didn’t stop TEED putting on a phenomenally fun festival show.

Michael Kiwanuka

After winning the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll back in January, Michael Kiwanuka lived up to the reputation that preceded him by delivering the ideal soundtrack to the last day of Bestival. The British soul singer was consistantly on-key and his laidback rhythms went down as smooth as a chilled fruit cocktail in the sunshine. A quick glance around the Big Top tent revealed that the crowd were having a constant head-nodding session with transfixed smiles. It was a real treat to hear a Jimi Hendrix cover inbetween a collections of songs taken from his Mercury Prize nominated album, Home Again.

First Aid Kit

Swedish duo First Aid Kit are clearly influenced by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. It’s so clear in fact that, upon watching their set on Friday, it was almost like being transported back in time to the heyday of contempory folk music. They showcased truly beautiful, seemingly classic songs with soaring vocals and a hint of youthful inncence. Whilst one sister stood boldy and stoicly behind a microphone and guitar, the other danced, relatively childlike, behind a keyboard. Their album The Lion’s Roar, produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, is one of this year’s best releases, go and give it a listen.

Honorable mentions go to Justice, Two Door Cinema Club and Alabama Shakes who were also fantastic this weekend. A nod also goes to comedian Eric Lampaert who, whilst dressed as a lizard, made a baby called Albert do stand up.

Top five music tips for: Beacons Festival

Beacons Festival takes place in Skipton amidst the stunning Yorkshire Dales this weekend (17th – 19th August) and is one the most exciting events of the season. In former years it was known as The Moor Music Festival but 2011 saw the festival rebrand itself with a new site and a new name.  The buzz surrounding Beacons has been palpable, with tickets completely selling out.

With what I would argue is the best festival line-up the UK has to offer this summer, it was incredibly hard to pick out just five tips for you. Nevertheless, here they are:

1. King Krule

King Krule is a teenage British songsmith that you need to keep your eye out for. Having put his time in at the famous Brit school, Archy Marshall, who previously worked under the moniker Zoo Kid, is touring the festival circuit with his gutsy, stripped-back version of rock and roll. Channelling a rockabilly vibe and a sense of torment normally reserved for those with a few more birthdays under their belt, King Krule is set to take the UK music scene by storm and has already been championed by the likes of Billy Bragg. Watch his set this weekend, it may well be something you reflect upon smugly in years to come.

2. Imp

One of the most renowned bands on the West Yorkshire scene for the past couple of years. Imp is a singular example of the great acts to come from the vibrant city of Wakefield that are currently boasted by the local Philophobia Music label. They describe their sound as scuzzy riff-pop and their live sets draw you in and leave you begging for more. Let them be your new favourite band.

3. Japandroids

Seeing Japandroids live is like witnessing  a demonstration in organised chaos. The Canadian duo know how to rock without losing control of their set. Every strum is a work of angry art, every bead of sweat well-earned. Celebration Rock, their second album, received critical accaim upon its release in June of this year. All tracks were recorded live as the band wanted to seriously consider their audience, which just goes to show the amount of work and attention they put into each performance.

4. Toots and The Maytals

I’m not entirely sure this tip needs an explanation. If you really are in the dark, allow me to enlighten you.  Jamaican legends The Maytals have been around for decades acting as one of the most seminal acts to arise within the ska and reggae genre. Fronted by Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, their back catalogue is full to the brim with passionate tracks such as ‘Pressure Drop’ and ’54-46 Was My Number’. For those unfamiliar with the band, they featured fairly heavily on the This Is England film and series soundtracks. The fact is you have to see Toots and The Maytals this weekend, you just have to.

5. Best Friends

Hailing from Sheffield, Best Friends are South Yorkshire’s hot new thing. It’s garage rock with a hint of surf and that is always an enjoyable mix, in this case it’s addictive too. So whether you want to lie back and soak up the countryside atmosphere or you want to down a few bottles of lager and dance like your life depends on it, Best Friends are the perfect soundtrack to the weekend.