I went to hear Michelle Shocked a couple of nights ago. I’m a fan of her Short Sharp Shocked album and even though I hadn’t heard anything she’s released since then (which isn’t much) I happily paid $20 for a chance to hear her play in the historic Buckhorn Opera House in Pinos Altos, NM (population 300).
Strangest concert I’ve ever attended. Hands down.
Michelle is 50 (ish), very tall and thin with a slightly manic attitude and tendency to ramble. She admitted at the beginning that she talks a lot and that she enjoys a certain unprepared/extemporaneous vibe to her concerts, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality. In the 2.5 hours of the concert she played fewer than 10 songs and she talked for the rest of it, which is a rough ratio for a concert.
Moreover, she’s enchanted when other people sing her songs; so, whenever she did sing, she insisted that the crowd sing with her. That’s 2.5 hours of listening to your neighbor warble through “Memories of East Texas” and “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” while Michelle strums three guitar chords (she says that’s all you need), smiles maniacally and says “This is awesome! I love this!”
But the crowning moment of weird was her 20 minute lecture on foreclosures.
To repeat: Michelle Shocked took a 20 minute break from leading summer camp sing-a-long versions of her most popular songs to lecture us on bank foreclosure policies and how they may or may not be fraudulent.
She tried to link the whole thing to the Occupy movement by putting signs over her speakers (fraudclosure!) that immediately fell down and had to be taped up with gaff tape. Then she unfurled a pop-up tent that filled the pocket-sized stage so she had to stand in front of the stage, which meant no one could see her except the front row. And then she lectured.
I don’t mean that she gave an impassioned speech on subject matter about which she feels so strongly that she can’t help talking or writing songs to proselytize. I mean that she pulled up notes on her iphone and gave the kind of speech you might hear in a college history class held in a giant lecture hall where the professor never looks up from his notes and is so far away that you can’t see him so you zone out and draw pictures of hearts all over your notes until he stops talking.
She started with a rambling history of America’s home mortgage policy since the Depression and progressed to a question and answer section to clarify what we’ve heard in the news about foreclosures.
She used the words meta story.
I was so fascinated by the twilight zone nature of the event that I sat through the whole thing, as did almost everyone else. I hate to miss things so I stick around through the boring parts in case the situation takes a weird left turn and becomes story-worthy. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was.
She finished the set by exclaiming that this second night of her tour was much more polished than the first night (!!), she tried to fold up the tent (no luck) and sang 3 songs. Then she requested donations so she could hire homeless people to make her more fraudclosure! signs and she called it a night.
Overall? Super awkward.
Worth the money? Definitely. I’ll pay money for Weird any day of the week.
Possible chance I’ll ever go to another of her concerts? Nil. Zip. Zero. Once is plenty.