Wolverhampton Literature Festival review: Steve Lamacq hits the right note at Slade Rooms
For a music fan lucky enough to spend a lot of time writing about the subject, hearing someone like Steve Lamacq talk is a big deal.
Having spent time at musical juggernauts NME, BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6 Music, the guy knows a thing or two about the rise and fall of genres, long drives to far away shows and the characters who have spearheaded the scenes over the years.
From a wide-eyed boy discovering live music for the first time through major presenting duties on the BBC's flagship radio station to seeing his favourite bands headline Glastonbury, Lamacq has a vast back catalogue of knowledge to regale us with at Wolverhampton's Slade Rooms on the closing night of the city's literature festival.
The Essex lad figures he must have attended around 5,500 gigs in his life, and worked at 93 festivals for the Beeb over his career. It's a Premier League-winning record in music journalism.
He started us at the very beginning - as a 12-year-old boy attending a show by The Lurkers in Chelmsford. The first gig is one every kid remembers well, but even more so for Steve who was spat on by the bassist of the support act.
From there we followed Steve as he was woken up by police officers asleep in his car while reporting on a Mega City Four tour as they thought he was 'a vagrant' who had gained entry to the vehicle. He recalls the time he interviewed Nirvana in a Shepherd's Bush B&B as Dave Grohl washed the band's underpants in the bath. And then there was the time he met Coldplay's Chris Martin's mum backstage in Port Talbot who told him he was 'too thin' and 'didn't eat enough'.
But even more rewarding than the anecdotes was the insights into the fabric of music and why fans become so obsessive over it. He looked at why scenes rise and fall before opening doors to the next movement. Particularly in focus was Blur v Oasis and Britpop as a whole, and how disappointed he evidently was when it all fell apart and he was stuck listening to Limp Bizkit's nu metal revolution.
The downsides were discussed too, such as how much it hurt when he was told his Radio 1 slot was being axed as they wanted to 'reconnect with their audience'. Yet it was this that led him to work with 6 Music and be part of the fight against former BBC Director-General Mark Thompson who tried to shut the station down for good.
It was a calm yet funny way to end the 2019 Wolverhampton Literature Festival looking at a form of written word still read widely by music fans everywhere and helping to shape audible popular culture (although, of course I'd say that).