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[whitespace] Shocking Revival!

By Mike Connor

OK, SO MAYBE Michelle Shocked's born-again revelation and gospel explorations are common knowledge by now, but ultimately what it comes down to is ... seeing is believing. As I was sufficiently prepared for an evening of activist-minded gospel, Michelle Shocked and the Perverse All-Stars then of course kicked off the show with what else but an African-flavored jam ("In the year 2010/The Pope, the Pope is African"), which was nice because it inspired the World Famous Butt Dance, wherein the entire band stood cheek to cheek, shaking their various groove things at the seated Rio audience. It was as if to say, "See how much fun you could have if you'd just get up and dance?" Ohhhhh, and dance they did, but who wouldn't when faced with a whole show "designed to uplift and inspire ... first of all your ass!" Boogie-woogie blues, gospel, reggae ... even a punk rock version of "Anchorage" ... you name it, they played it. Well, OK, there was no Scandanavian black metal, but they really were all over the map. Michelle was all big squinty-eyed smiles and cackling laughter, seemingly in high spirits the whole night through.

Which may be where Jesus comes in. She eased us slowly into the deeper waters, starting out with an anecdote about an observation of the people of St. James Parrish in Louisiana, who inspired her when they rallied against a polyvinyl-chloride company through their church and their faith. But even when she brought it all home with "That's So Amazing" and a version of "Amazing Grace," she did her best to keep her speeches nondenominational: "In my pursuit of injustice and hatred, I lost my vision of beauty. [Now] I can look right into the face of hatred and see the beauty. I can see the light shining, and that's my faith, y'all. That's my faith." Amen, sista.

Speed highlights: W.F. Butt Dance, punk rock "Anchorage," bluesy duel between tinwhistle and trumpet, Michelle's fiddling debut, hubby's accordion solo and Michelle's niece Rachel singing a verse in "Joy," because, damn, that girl can sing. Added bonus: I got to be Roadie for a Night, and I believe I've got what it takes to make it to the top, baby, because I was good. Damn good.

Duck! Pond! Jam!

Kuumbwa did indeed turn 27 this weekend, with much fanfare and musical accompaniment at the San Lorenzo Park Duck Pond stage. Solcircle got funky with a capital "P" for a hillside of Santa Cruzans and a pond full of funk-loving ducks, which never in fact quacked in accompaniment, but probably would have if they'd been properly attached to sinister electrodes. Anyhow, here I thought Solcircle was all steel drums and tropical vibes, and then they just went and freaked the funk out on me! Well, and yeah, they jammed some jazzy, feel-good, neopsychedelia for a while too, but their funkier tunes were the real sandwich stoppers (it's not easy for a picnicking audience to munch a sandwich and simultaneously let the funk take control of their groove-loving souls, but we tried). Oh well. Live, learn and let loose the booty when ya can, is what I always say. But I also always say things like, "Seriously, it's not funny anymore--please untie me now," which says something about something. Just make sure you listen to Solcircle's most overworked band member, Mr. Gary Regina, because not only does he play a ripping guitar solo on a tricked-out techno flute (a.k.a. windsynth), but he plays multiple saxophones at once, which seemed to me a bit like successfully sleeping with two people at the same time--it seems like a good idea only for those equipped with extra mouths and hands. And yet there he was, blowing away on dual saxophones like a real Mormon prodigy, and I felt a flood of admiration with a slightly bitter aftertaste fill my chest. Because damn, why can't I do that?

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From the September 4-11, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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