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Louder Than Words, the UK’s biggest music writing festival

After traffic nearly puts our appearance on Friday to the sword the Omnibus Press envoys arrived at Louder Than Word’s home (both spiritual and physical) the Principal Hotel on Manchester’s Oxford Street in time to spruce ourselves up and bask in the glory of Brix Smith Start’s brave, honest and uplifting discussion with Mick Middles. Brix has had quite the life and any time spent around her is time well spent. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the hotel for the opening party, to greet friends old and new and get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s cavalcade of music writing and discussion.
After a much needed breakfast and some mildly hungover head nodding at faces from last night’s festivities we headed off to see Michael Spencer Jones discuss his new book, documenting his work with Oasis, Supersonic. Michael’s guide to his early career and the hard work he has put into building a career shooting both iconic album covers (Oasis, Suede, The Verve, Ash, Super Furry Animals and many more) and portraits was genuinely humbling while containing more hilarious anecdotes than was entirely fair to the next event. Unless, of course, the next event happened to include an ex-Bowie drummer…
Woody Woodmansey took the stage, clearly having the time of his life. The Spiders From Mars drummer took us through his early life, including his band with Mick Ronson that toured the north of England, Mick’s recommending him to David Bowie and his time recording and touring with Ziggy, all rounded off by some expert level swearing. Perhaps more than anyone at the festival (and as Louder is easily the friendliest literary fest I’ve ever attended this is high praise) Woody struck me as someone you could have happily spent the rest of the day in the pub with and never have run out of things to talk about. A true rock ‘n’ roll gent and a wonderful raconteur.
This was followed by Kristin Hersh, easily the most intense event I saw at Louder, simply by dint of her honesty when discussing how she writes her songs and the complexities of her friendship with Vic Chesnutt. The room was on tenterhooks and I was whisked away to my 4AD youth, listening to Hips & Makers and University on repeat and my time with her new album, Wyatt At The Coyote Palace, which stands alongside her best work. Kristin favoured us with a few songs at the end of the discussion and sounded amazing. If you can catch her on her Wyatt At The Coyote Palace tour you would be well advised to do so.
After a brief trip outside of the hotel for lunch it was time to look into the Politics of Dance, Louder’s annual club culture panel. Taking the mic was Simon Morrison (ex-columnist for DJ Magazine), Matthew Collin (author of Altered State), Martin James (author of States of Bass) and DJ Paulette. Amidst the various questions about the political nature of dance culture, with both a capital and a lowercase p, were tales of oppositionality, queer culture, Manchester’s rave past and the challenges facing clubland today. Moving stuff, with one punter visibly fighting back tears.
After this it was time to jump on the rock train for the launch of Thunder’s first book, Thunder: Giving The Game Away. Part gig, part Q&A with the compere and co-writer of the book Joel McIver, part stand-up comedy, Thunder showed why their fans care as deeply as they do about this massive band. The book is out now and is a virtual how to on weathering the storms of popular opinion and success through friendship and a common belief in the transformative power of rock. Especially after a couple of pints. The band played an acoustic greatest hits set, and even graced us with a couple of songs from their new album before signing and chatting with their fans for an hour then heading into the night. After all the excitement we were in need of a rest and so retired to the Principal’s bar to discuss the day’s news and make our plans for Sunday…
By Matthew O’Donoghue

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