Micah P Hinson
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Do we still crave authenticity from our prophets, our storytellers, our troubadours, our balladeers? Is that all we’ve ever really wanted from the lone male or female that stands on a stage to offer up their soul (or some version of it, at least), the assurance that the performance is an extension of, and explicitly informed by, the life?
Daniel Day-Lewis once said that he hated reading interviews with fellow actors because being presented with mundane realities like what sort of socks they wear breaks the illusions that they’ve created on screen. Do we all see our musical actors in the same way, forever wanting to preserve the illusions created on record and stage, desperate for the personality to connect snugly and jigsaw-like to the performance? If we do, Micah P. Hinson can disappoint no one. Speaking to the Austin Chronicle this year about the release of latest album, Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit, he said "This record seems to be mostly songs that I've written lately…that's a conscious thing, writing new songs that talk about where I am now".
He walks onto the Union Chapel stage and the exact spot, as he will soon tell us, that he asked his wife to marry him (more about that later). I’ll admit to a slight pang of disappointment when it becomes clear that Hinson will have the entire stage to himself for the night. With so many beautiful arrangements on his records, I had hoped for and expected a performance augmented by even the simplest of string accompaniments. But these thoughts are drowned out as quickly as the second song. Hinson fills the cavernous chapel with his voice and commands the stage with his movements. I once described his voice as a ‘funereal quiver’, but tonight, able to see the face contorted and the mouth pulled over to one side, at times it’s more like the howl at a murder scene before it settles down into a cracked and creaking, rocking-chair tranquillity. His movements are stuttering and unbalanced, skipping around like something between a giddy drunk and a wind-up toy, and with his guitar held high to his chest, clutched close and tight as if it will guarantee his safety if kept as near as possible, he is a captivating sight. Which is a feat when taking in the grand backdrop. In one of the frequent asides that litter the set (Hinson spoils the audience by ensuring the spaces between songs are just as interesting and entertaining as the songs themselves) he makes reference to the creepiness of the surrounding aesthetic, and with almost every song comes an introduction rooting the following stories in a real-life context. There is the crazy granddad, the childhood friend that blew his face off, the many mistakes and miscalculations of a stupid young man (including the guzzling of a bleach cocktail), the time spent in a mental institution with a breakfast stealing inmate, the destructive drug-coated relationship with a woman he despised before a redemptive relationship with a woman he adores, the marriage proposal seen by his father in an online video and the mock weariness that YouTube will be the death of us all, the documentary watched on the world's only ever genuine snuff movie, the continuous and incurable back pain, the regret that we’ve lost something important possessed by previous generations and the constant presence of something or someone watching over and guiding Hinson away from oblivion.
In one of those quaint little coincidences that life likes to throw up every now and then, I start reading a piece by Greil Marcus on Van Morrison in Saturday’s Guardian just as I’ve finished the bulk of this piece. Of course, Marcus takes as his theme the tension and dynamic between musical creation and real-life biography. He states,
‘I don’t believe that a person’s life necessarily has anything to do with what he or she creates… a person's work is not reducible to his or her neurosis, and a person’s neuroses are not the determinant of a persons work. In that act, the work can take over; it can produce its own momentum, its own imperatives… it can create its own necessity, its own insistence that, in the act, the world conform to the demands the work is making on it. [It is] the fear some people have for the imagination, for their resistance to being moved by something that is invented: made up. It’s the desire to reduce anything that affects them to the biography of whoever it might have been who made the work’.
Which is all perfectly well and true, But…
Micah P. Hinson stands in the very spot that he once proposed to his wife, and she sits in the front row directly in front of him. They share brief glances and whispers and smiles throughout, sometimes with the spark of a tick-hipped Elvis wooing a female spectator, sometimes with the tenderness of a child being watched encouragingly by a proud parent. Towards the close of the set, he dedicates ‘I Keep Having These Dreams’ to her.
I keep having these dreams, that you were all I needed/ you could say that I need another day/but I don’t think I need anything but you.
- In Photos: Andrew Bird @ The Roundhouse, London
- Micah P Hinson at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Lambeth, Sun 14 Nov
- This Week's Singles: 21/06/10
- Micah P Hinson - and the Pioneer Saboteurs
- Micah P Hinson at Union Chapel, Islington, Wed 02 Jun
- Micah P Hinson - All Dressed Up and Smelling of Strangers
- Bestival 2008: The DiS Review
- Giveaway: Full Time Hobby digital compilation