Monday, December 15, 2008

Live: Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

I was pretty excited to finally see Shilpa Ray with her new band (namely Shipla Ray and Her Happy Hookers) this weekend at Santos Party House. But I was also dubious. Would this really do much to mend the broken heart I got from the break-up of her previous ensemble, Beat the Devil?

In short, yes. The music was a bit different from her last project, as one would expect. There was less of a bluesy feel, and instead there was a hint of something jazzy. Jazzy??? Yeah, it sounds odd to say, but the instrumentals had that sort of gloss to them. Of course, the overriding post-punk influences remain predominant, and in a very twisted way, you could call the music "neo-soul" too. But classification is kind of pointless when it comes to artists like Shilpa.

The set itself started out with a series of songs that were enjoyable but not memorable in any way. I was a mite disappointed, but about a third of the way through the set, the band kicked it up a notch and started playing one badass number after another. The individual songs aren't at the level of Beat the Devil's yet, but it's a young band, and judging from this show, they'll get there (and beyond) very soon.

The "Happy Hookers" are an incredibly tight band, though it's no surprise Shilpa would surround herself with great musicians. One song started off with about a 16-bar drum solo. Now, please understand, I hate drum solos. Which makes this an extremely rare exception - it was an interesting and compelling start to the song, thanks to drummer Josh Fleischmann's ability to gauge and hold the audience's attention. The rest of the band was on an equal level both in professionalism and in talent, and they all put on an engaging and passionate show that was exciting to see.

Of course, the real highlight was Shilpa herself, one of the best frontpersons I've ever seen. Her singing is excellent, though not beautiful - she wails, growls, yells and moans so much that I had a sympathetic sore throat by the end of the show. She plays a hand-powered harmonium (like a huge horizontal accordion) and when she's not throwing her back into that, she's bouncing around the stage and generally freaking out. She even graced the audience with one all-out dance routine, Shilpa-style - which is to say, she jumped up and down while flailing her arms at random. As a front-person, she's witty, entertaining, and above all, energetic. What more could you want?

If you missed this show, shame on you, but just try to make her next one. She does a solo performance at Public Assembly in Williamsburg on December 23 and the whole band will play the New Year's Eve party at Monkeytown this year, so mark your calendars!


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