Category: Italy


bollocksThis is not a political blog but I can’t let the year pass without posting at least one piece about Brexit.

This is a topic that has been discussed and debated to death but still nobody seems clear what the actual consequences will be.

My perspective is as an ex-pat living in Italy who, like many others living abroad, found the result of the vote for the UK to exit the EU both shocking and bewildering.

All of my friends in England voted to remain but one from Northern Ireland close the leave path. This was, for me, an unfathomable decision because she had always struck me as rational woman whose radical left-wing views seemed entirely at odds with self-righteous rightists in the leave camp. What follows is adapted from a reply to a letter she wrote explaining her choice.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I didn’t think I was being so blunt about your decision to vote remain in the referendum. Perhaps my shock/surprise came over stronger than I intended but I didn’t set out to offend and I apologize if this is the way it came over. I certainly didn’t want to suggest you were blindly following leaders. I’ve known you long enough to know, and admire, your free-spirited independence.

I think fear of mass immigration was made into a big issue (playing upon inherent racism) but I recognize that this was not the only factor and was clearly was not what swung the vote in your case.

I agree with you that frustration and powerlessness led to people flexing the limited political muscle they had. This is the nature of most referendums and you now see it happening in general elections too.

People are no longer dependent solely on state propaganda or the mainstream media for information. The distrust towards the so-called experts and out of touch politicians is now at a feverish level and anyone with an internet connection now has a voice. However, even in this climate, lies written on buses and cynical poster campaigns still contribute to influencing public opinion. Continue reading

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The casual appeal of Damien Jurado

DAMIEN JURADO Live at the Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy 2nd November 2018

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Josh Gordon (left) and Damien Jurado at The Bronson.

When it comes to clothes, Damien Jurado doesn’t make a great distinction between street and stage. In a well-worn sweatshirt, ripped jeans and old sneakers, he gives the impression that he’s wandered into the club only vaguely aware that there are paying guests to watch him perform.

And yet, far from being slobby or disrespectful, his casual attire is very much in keeping with the un-showy style of his music. His songs never go out of their way to grab the attention but, rather, they have a relaxing and slightly hypnotic quality.

They are relatively short so, rather than telling complete stories, they take on the quality of brief, introspective reflections. His finest songs like ‘Over Rainbows And Rainer’ and, my favorite, ‘A.M.Am’ manage to combine elements of melancholy and celebration.

The only cover he plays is ‘The Novelist’ by Richard Swift who sadly passed away in July of this year aged 41. Jurado makes a touching tribute to his late friend who he frequently collaborated with.

On stage in Ravenna, before a small, attentive seated audience, he is accompanied by gifted guitarist, Josh Gordon. Remarkably for such quiet, understated music, his songs sound even more intimate in a live setting.

Between each song he spends a minute or two patiently re-tuning his acoustic guitar (“It’s like tuning a harp”). He doesn’t speak much but he tells a lengthy anecdote by way of introduction to ‘Percy Faith’. which he once heard playing over the P.A. while boarding a plane from Seattle to LA. He was the last to take his seat conscious that the other passengers, annoyed by his lateness, were almost certainly oblivious to the fact he was composer of the music they were listening to. Not only that, but the plane’s hostess was unimpressed when he told her.

This story illustrates that Jurado never really expects anyone to be starstruck or even mildly dazzled by his modest fame. He simply writes great tunes which he sings in a soft, soothing voice that subtly draws you into his world.

MERCURY REV live at Teatro Moderna,

Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy 13th September 2018

Mercury_RevThis is one of a limited series of concerts to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mercury Rev’s breakthrough album ‘Deserter’s Songs’.

At the time of release, this band from Buffalo, New York were at the point of imploding due to rapidly depleting sales. The songs were therefore composed with no real expectation that they would reach a wider audience and there was even some doubt that they’d even find a record label to put them out. Continue reading

CAROL directed by Todd Haynes (USA, 2015)

carol_film_posterI borrowed this film from my local lending library in Cesena, Italy. This excellent ‘mediateca’,  somewhat anachronistically, continues to maintain a healthy stock of old and new DVDs.

In a card inside the case of more recent acquisitions you are invited to write what you think of the movie: “Lascia un commento, potresti convincere qulache indeciso” (Leave a comment – it may convince others who are undecided).

For Carol, there is just one review which (translated from Italian) states that it is “the story of an upper class woman who destroys the life of her husband and, not content with this, also ruins the life of a poor young working woman. All this in the name of a presumed sexual liberation. A film of homosexual propaganda”.

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The offending review of ‘Carol’.

This blinkered and spiteful reading of Todd Haynes’ elegant and intelligent movie illustrates that, despite some encouraging advances in LGBT rights, this is no time for complacency. Continue reading

David Byrne live at the Ravenna Festival (Pala De André, 19th July 2018)

band in motion

The band in motion

Expectations for this show were raised when David Byrne announced that this was his most ambitious stage project since the celebrated ‘Stop Making Sense’ Talking Heads tour which has been captured for posterity by Jonathan Demme’s groundbreaking 1984 concert movie.

Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint.

It is a visual and aural treat from start to finish not least because all the conventional trappings of rock gigs are radically reimagined and redefined. The show is based on the core idea of enabling singers and musicians to be mobile on an empty stage. Continue reading

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