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Shilpa Ray shows, an MP3 (from her new album) & LPR pics

photos by Zach Stern

DOWNLOAD: Shilpa Ray & her Happy Hookers – Filthy & Free (MP3)

Shilpa Ray

Shilpa Ray‘s voice is the MGM lion with the world’s biggest thorn in its paw.

She calls her new group “Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers” (Ray’s the only woman); if there’s anything positive about the moniker, it’s that it might inspire casual curiosity. Hey, made me look. But it’s self-defeating, makes the effort sound like nothing more than a lame lark, a bad Wednesday night bar band. Other roadblocks to easy adoption: They do not have a website, but do have a myspace page. She’s finally started selling her new eight-song CD at shows (there’s currently no other way to purchase it), yet only plays one or two numbers from that recording in the band’s live sets (We got “Filthy and Free” at Santos; the “Eyes” cover at [Mercury Lounge in January] and a goosed version of “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” at (I think) both [Merc and Santos Party House in December]; Ray might reserve quieter numbers for her occasional solo gigs). “My parents raised me to be incredibly humble and stupidly modest,” she says. “I still hate them for that.” [Heartonastick]

I would estimate she played at least four songs off that album at Southpaw on Saturday night, February 14th, 2009 (Valentine’s Day AND Shilpa’s birthday). I’ve been listening to the album on repeat since I got a copy a few weeks ago. Grab one MP3 from it above. Heartonastick has another.

Southpaw was packed, mostly I think, with fans of the Harlem Shakes who were headlining. It was late. I don’t know exactly what time Shilpa went on, but I’d estimate midnight. That could have been a disaster – an opening band starting at midnight… a sold out venue full of people growing uneasy as they wait for the main act. But as far as I could tell, most in attendance – myself included – were more than happy to let Shilpa and band stay on stage for as long she wanted to. It’s hard not to be captivated by her raging energy mixed with her Deborah Harry (Blondie) meets Janis Joplin singing style.

Spending at least half the time simultaneously attached to a microphone and an accordion-like instrument a harmonium that sits on a table in front of her, you can tell Shilpa is happy to be on stage. Though sometimes controversial (“I hope everyone [here on Valentine’s Day and my birthday] goes home and gets herpes tonight… just kidding”), it’s hard not to smile at all the words coming out of her mouth – whether in song or during stage banter. My favorite moments are when she leaves the multitasking necessary to operate the accordion harmonium behind (she has to pump it, hit the keys and sing all at the same time), and lets her voice and dancing be her only instruments.

Excited to be playing in front of such a large, appreciative crowd, Shilpa ended her opening set with a one-song encore that she self-deprecatingly pointed out was probably too bold of a move, but but she did it anyway. I was definitely happy for it.

Shilpa, who by the way you probably know best as the ex-frontwoman of Beat The Devil, is playing next in NYC TONIGHT (2/16) at Music Hall of Williamsburg. She is first of three on the Duke Spirit bill that Mobius Band are also playing. She also has shows coming up at the Sidewalk Cafe, Mercury Lounge, and at SXSW (stay tuned for exact details).

She played (Le) Poisson Rouge about a week before Southpaw. We were at that one taking pictures. More of them, the setlist, a video, and all upcoming dates, below…

The Coward Cracked the Dawn @ The Brooklyn Tea Party

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Shilpa Ray – 2009 Tour Dates
Feb 16 – The Music Hall Of Williamsburg w/ The Duke Spirit and Mobius Band Brooklyn, New York
Feb 25 – Solo Set: Fortified Entertainment Presents: Winter Anti-Folk Festival@ The Sidewalk Cafe New York, New York
Mar 21 – SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 28 – Mercury Lounge@ w/ Efterklang New York, New York

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