America the land of the “free” celebrated its Birthday today. We spend the day taking it easy and going for a walk in the hot summer sun in a park by some riding stables. Butterflies in many different vivid colours hovered around us on the warm breeze. We noticed families having quiet family celebrations, but often the only sound was a strangely out of place cockerel strutting his stuff.
In the evening we head off to a 4th July event at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre which rises like some ancient Roman stadium a short walk from the parking Lot. We notice the complete reliance on the car in California and many people seem to struggle with the short walk to the venue. The majority of people are dressed in patriotic red, white and blue. As we take our seat it occurs to us that we are strangely out of place at a celebration of American independence from the British, and think they should have come up with their own colours for a flag. We are here to see the Orange County Symphony July Spectacular "Elvis Lives"! We are trying to think of an English equivalent for the events that unfold tonight but the best that comes to mind is Last Night of the Proms combined with a Queen Tribute band.
The event starts off in sombre mood with the liberty fanfare and the Star Spangled Banner which the audience murders in an attempted sing along. To be fair to the audience the song with a range of one and a half octaves, is known for being difficult to sing. We wonder if people realise the events they are singing about. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith which was already popular in the United States.
As the flags of the American military leave the stage we hear without irony the announcement of the winner of the "Eat the most hot-dogs contest" before listening to fiddle music.
After the intermission we listen to an Elvis impersonator and somehow the evening has become a little surreal, particularly when he announces he will sing his favorite Elvis song “I did it my Way”. Now correct us if we are wrong but is that not more Frank Sinatra? Eventually the King exits the stage and we watch fireworks accompanied by the music of the Pacific Symphony.
As we walk back to the car we are glad we came but strangely unnerved by what we have seen. Having travelled the world in some ways this culture seems the most alien and frightening.