Shocked Treatment

Neo-folkie rabble-rouser Michelle Shocked took the Man to court -- and won. What's next?

Her experimentation with dub, toasting and remixes demonstrates a willingness to improvise, to play with materials and, in so doing, to allow the unexpected to emerge. Shocked likens her music to the experience of play: "All kinds of social events take place on a playground. You can take those memories as you move into adulthood and value playfulness as a means to approach life. The spirit of playfulness is at the heart of being an artist. Even a serious artist, someone who is determined that their world can transform the world somehow, whether it's through social change or through that transcendent beauty, the spirit of playfulness has to underlie your sense of wonder in the thing itself."

Shocked fits this description of the "serious artist," most recently playing alongside Molly Ivins, Granny D., Michael Moore and Jesse Jackson Jr. on Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour, a midway fair/Chautauqua hybrid dedicated to building a new community filled with "hope and real change." Although Shocked's politics are never far from her productions (Mighty Sound's catalog closes with a 10-point "Contract With the Planet"), she confesses that the marriage between music and message can be difficult. "Putting politics in your music is a delicate balancing act," she says. "One side or the other gets out of balance, and you're no longer a musician or an artist, you're a demagogue or spokesman or shill or flack. And using politics to market your artistic career is as cynical as anything else I've seen. You're a promoter, a market manipulator, a demographic demagogue. You've just got to be true to yourself, and it just so happens that I take an active and curious interest in the world around me."

It's time the world returned her active and curious interest, and we're fortunate to have the opportunity to do so Sunday night, when Shocked plays with her band the Perverse All-Stars.

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