The harmonium is not an instrument people get excited about. In popular music, only Sharon Van Etten has received any kind of notoriety playing it, and honestly her songs tend to put me to sleep. So imagine my surprise, and great joy, as I watched Shilpa Ray destroy the stage at Burlington Bar by unleashing the awesome power of the pump organ. I have to assume this is the only time a somewhat-punk act has incorporated such a thing, and it works amazingly well.
I’m still new to Shilpa Ray, but this show was a whirlwind of great tunes from start to finish. Imagine Tracyanne Campbell as front woman for The Stooges, and you get an idea of the odd harmony of voice and music I witnessed last night.
The 13 song set was a mix of material off Ray’s EP It’s All Self Fellatio, Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers LP Teenage And Torture, as well as new material from the upcoming album Last Year’s Savage. My favorite moment came when Ray stepped away from the harmonium and sat down at a keyboard for the song “I Is What I Is.” It’s a gorgeous song made even more interesting with an extended outro.
Another great moment came late in the set. Before launching in to “Erotolepsy” Ray looked back at her band (Russ Lemkin on drums and Jon DeLorme on pedal steel/bass) and said “Play as fast as you can.” It reminded me of Dylan, at Royal Albert Hall, being called Judas and then telling his band to “Play fucking loud!” No malicious words were thrown toward Ray, so not the same thing at all. That’s just where my mind went.
The band played what was to be the final song of the set, and after fans demanded more. Shilpa Ray went back behind the keys for “Genie’s Drugs” and sent the crowd home happy with what she referred to as “my Freebird.”
Last Year’s Savage comes out May 19th on Northern Spy Records. I recommend pre-ordering the clear blue vinyl here.
For a few more photos, click here.