Welcome to the Roccupation
Grammy-nominated folk singer and activist to perform in Ventura County this week
By Essie Lustig 04/19/2012
Michelle Shocked is ready to “Roccupy” Ventura, Thursday, April 19, at Zoey’s Café with her unique and iconic blend of folk punk rock swing anthems. “I’m a veteran of the touring business; I’ve been doing this for 25 years almost nonstop,” she said. “With it comes a wealth of experience, so I can work on what I’m doing in a valid and healthy way.” However, despite her years of touring, this will mark Ms. Shocked’s first appearance in Ventura.
Roccupy, while a portmanteau of “rock” and “occupy,” is not simply a cutesy play on words. Reflecting what seems like a cultural standoff between personal and political issues. Shocked will be using her time onstage to entertain and educate. The cover of her 1988 album, Short Sharp Shocked, famously features the singer’s arrest at the 1984 Democratic Convention where she protested the corporate backing of political parties. In fact, she has always veered away from corporate control, going so far as to retain the rights to all of her albums in a dramatic shift from Mercury Records to her own label, Mighty Sound.
Shocked strongly supports the Occupy movement and does not feel deflated by recent evictions of encampments countrywide. “I believe we will see the vitality and efficacy of a people’s movement that draws from a variety of political identities,” she said. “We’ll hopefully be learning and growing along the way.” She expects to meet a number of Occupy Ventura supporters and assures that the movement was not “eviscerated by the Death Star.”
Although tackling political giants is one facet of Michelle Shocked’s career, she is not afraid to simply have a good time — East Texas-style. Her current act begins with a round of “folkeoke,” which is, indeed, a sing a long session for the band and audience members who may not know every word of her 13-album catalog, but wouldn’t mind belting out a mean round of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” She has a lot of love for her audience, whom she has watched grow with her over the past two and half decades. “Those who’ve stuck with me for all those years, they bring their kids now. It’s great.”
For those not familiar with Michelle Shocked’s sound, she has an incredible ability to transcend musical genres while embracing the richness of her roots in East Texas, home of Willie Nelson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Victoria Williams, among others. She continues this tradition while describing herself as both “the most sophisticated hillbilly you’ll ever meet” and “your average anarchist skateboard punk rock born-again Christian.” In fact, she sings in her church’s choir quite regularly. Shocked exudes versatility. In 2005, she released Threesome, a trio of albums that included Spanglish-tinged Tex-Mex and beautifully rearranged Disney songs such as “I Got No Strings.”
Indeed, Michelle Shocked (Miss Shell Shocked) has no strings due to her constant evolution, re-invention and the assertion that she will never need to play hardball with corporate America. Puns aside, she sued her old record label, citing the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and won. She recorded with MDC. She occupied L.A. Hers is a career marked by admirable activism, immense talent and perhaps a touch of punk rock luck.
From a car on her way to Phoenix, Shocked cheerfully anticipates kicking off her tour and reaching both Ventura and Ojai (April 23) along the way. “I just want people to come with an open mind, have fun and leave better informed.” About how “folkeoke” tests with her new audience, she laughs, “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
Michelle Shocked will appear on Thursday, April 19, at Zoey’s Café, 185 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. Tickets are $25 advance/ $30 at the door. She will also appear on Monday, April 23, 7 p.m. at the Ojai Valley Women’s Club, 441 E. Ojai Ave. Tickets are $12-$28 www. ojaiconcertseries.com.