I’ve lived here in Santa Monica for 27 years, but there are a lot of things about this great town I don’t know. Although a political animal since grade school, I don’t know much about our local politics. I choose not to get involved, join neighborhood associations or attend City Council meetings long into the night, although I have spent some time on a few specific issues, and I do try to be fairly well informed when I vote.
But I’m hardly a know-nothing recluse and I feel I have a right to my opinions, and the more I observe local politics lately, the more discouraged I am that it parallels the dysfunction and corruption of national politics, about which I am pretty well informed.
To make a large point: it bothers me a lot that special interests seem to have found ways to run around the systems of our city government that were set up to serve the common good, and that most of our elected and appointed officials are consistently acquiescing. All the means of noting citizens’ opinions on how our small city’s future should look, all the neighborhood associations and community meetings, all the letters to the editors and to city office holders seem to be exercises in futility, as Shakespeare spoke of life itself, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” If you weren’t behind the closed door, at the crucial dinner, you missed the actual decision and the rest is window dressing.
It seems pretty clear to me that the overwhelming majority of Santa Monicans very strongly do not want rapid, unbridled development within our small city limits. Development and growth are inevitable; the issue is the scope and rate. It can be managed. But it is not, and those who believe as I do in a more measured approach seem to raise their voices in wasted effort as the development machine steamrolls over governance, public opinion and reason. Where are our opportunity zones?
Standing up for great music
Those of you waiting for my revelation of why the Twilight Concert Series on the pier doesn’t measure up this year may be a little disappointed. Me too. My conclusion jumping skills must be a little rusty.
There were indications to me that the new crew (this is the third year with Rum & Humble handling the booking), while definitely experienced, were not the right kind of savvy professionals we need for the best results. But then I found out that this year they added Spaceland Productions, and their reputation is sterling.
So, two things: If in fact at least some of these guys know what they’re doing, perhaps my disagreement is with the philosophy of the booking. If you want the hippest new performers, the up-and-comers, this lineup has some rising stars. That will draw the younger, more musically aware crowd. Perfect for a dark little club in Silverlake.
But I feel the pier concerts have been, for the most part since 1985, and should be, giving us performers for the ages, and for all ages. Not necessarily ancient revered figures, but people who have proved their exceptional worth over more than a summer of being the hot new things on the festival circuit. Shows folks will talk about years and decades from now, without having to answer, “Who?”
That’s right kids, I saw Richie Havens, and Dr. John, Fishbone, Bo Diddley, Ozomatli, Jimmy Cliff and so many more legends, right here in Santa Monica, on the pier. Eat your hearts out, you missed it, hahahahahahaha! (Well, you can just think that last part.)
So what do we have for 2013? I’ll run down my picks in the next column. Briefly, don’t miss Cliff and the Beat, Ndegeocello will be worthwhile but maybe not everyone’s cup o’tea, and Hanni could be very good. The rest — eh. A mix of some new acts is fine, but this lineup is lacking enough heavies, and the previous two years were much worse.
I recently heard that someone who read my last column about the pier concerts asked why I was so grumpy. If grumpy is not wanting to settle for less than the best in music, I’m that and glad to be. I think my 19-year-old daughter is getting grumpy too. She was tentative to say it, but the other night, in talking about some show she’d been to (she goes to hear live music a lot, and has since before she was born), she paused and finally said, “You know, I think I’m less and less willing to see even good bands. I live in L.A. I can get the best. Why spend your time on good when you can see great?”
Of course there are situations that are fun — you know someone in a band, all your friends are going. But for the most part — yeah. And the concert series representing our fine city? — oh yeah.
Here’s the second thing, and it does indicate there are some bozos on that bus. The artist’s descriptions you can click through from the lineup page are simply appalling. No professionals I know in any area of the music business would let themselves be associated with such embarrassing way-way-over-the-top drivel. And whoever scanned the press releases onto the website (what?!) needs to at least invest in a style book and a basic course in grammar and punctuation.
Read the first sentence of the notes for No Age and tell me you’re not dizzy, nauseous or laughing hysterically. If this was meant to be funny, No Age should be really pissed (unless they wrote it, which is quite possible), and that would also be contradictory to the goal of convincing people to come to a show. So is the length of the pieces — ridiculous. A few discuss the artist’s latest album, but again too long, and skipping what novices should know about the artist.
And this may seem picky, but think about it: for the concert on Aug. 29, “artists to be announced shortly,” we’re told it’s “A Very Special Attraction from New Orleans, LA.” Not New Orleans, Fla.? Besides being stylistically incorrect, I know no one, no one who knows a lick about music who would deem it necessary to add the state name (“LA”) when talking about New Orleans music. Picky. Grumpy. But words do mean something.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org