Wednesday, 19 December 2012

It's the end of the year in Santa Monica too...but not as you know it

Last year's Nativity display in Santa Monica

News coming from the USA these days focus on the massacre of Newtown and the customary debate that follows whenever atrocious events like the Connecticut shootings shock the nation and the rest of the world. Intense and futile debate revolves around the Second Amendment that enshrines the right to bear arms; I say futile because each time this debate takes place nothing really happens. A powerful lobby and an unshakable belief in the right to access arms amongst many US citizens tie politicians' hands. We'll see if the latest tragedy influences a future reform in the law though I for one very much doubt it.
But I wanted to write about something totally different here, which hasn't been covered as much; this is a federal court ruling that bans the display of the annual Christmas display depicting scenes from the Nativity.
This has been hailed as a victory that upholds the values of the Founding Fathers, which include the separation of state and religion. In the words of one of the campaigners for this ban to be allowed to stand, Damon Vix, this ruling 'rights a wrong'.
Unsurprisingly, the other camp, the Churches that for the last six decades organised the display, expressed their outrage at this decision in what they dubbed the People's Republic of Santa Monica. Another Constitution amendment, in this case the First, is also mentioned in the latest episode confronting freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
As someone who dislikes religious displays in public spaces, this court decision can only be praised and applauded, in the hope that more councils follow suit.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Micah P Hinson and the art of (almost) ruining a concert

Listen to me, folks

If  his last month's concert at Compostela's Capitol is anything to go by, Micah P Hinson has an unquestionable ability to frustrate and anger some people in his concerts, particularly those who struggle with his Texan accent.
With a tour scheduled to promote his newly-published album with the Junior Arts Collective (distributed by music magazine Rock De Lux), this was my first occasion to catch him live so I didn't really know what to expect.
That he is a sort of genius is something most people who appreciate music won't dispute yet I bet many people felt a bit uneasy whenever the little man interspersed his mostly brilliant renditions of a vast and rich repertoire with endless pauses in which he spoke about anything that came to his mind; from some interesting and funny anecdotes to the downright boring and irrelevant.
I always appreciate it when musicians address the audience and give valuable insights about a range of stuff; eloquence and witticism will usually enhance a performance, and that was the case with Micah's musings for the first 40 minutes or so, until it came to a point when the tempo of the concert was gone, no matter how powerful or moving his next song was. I wasn't the only one to feel this way, by the look of it, as some people even dared vent their frustration in an attempt to 'invite' Micah to play more and talk less; he didn't seem to care much and, quite contemptuously, found even time to eat a few pears on stage in between songs.
Yet all this is (partially) forgotten when I think back over the live versions of gems such as Beneath the Rose or The Happening that Micah left us.
What could have been a brilliant gig became a quite special one though  not for the reasons I was hoping for.
Despite all the above, I'd go see him again any time for his talent largely overrides his histrionics.

Micah's new album