The first thing I asked Shilpa Ray on Thursday night, when I saw her outside Zanzabar, was whether she found the hot chicken she’d been looking for on the Southern leg of her tour. In Nashville, she said. Being from Brooklyn, she must have found this Southern standby exotic, and she seemed surprised when I’d mentioned that it could be found in numerous places around Louisville.
I’d come to the show equipped with my Pentax K1000 and a roll of Kodak 3200 speed black and white film, so naturally I asked to get a shot of her outside the venue. It seemed to me rather amazing to find her simply standing on the street, scrolling through her phone — in my mind, I equated her with the stature of Patti Smith — and to be working her own table in the bar, selling albums and T-shirts.
I was sitting at the bar when I heard the band start with “New York Minute Prayer,” the opening of her newest album, Door Girl. She followed up with “Morning Terrors Nights of Dread,” whose pop inflections easily fix themselves into memory. She worked her way through the album, howling out “EMT Police and the Fire Department,” swinging through the 60’s pop of “Shilpa Ray’s Got a Heart Full of Dirt” and the hip-hop flex of “Revelations of a Stamp Monkey.”
Her 2015 album, Last Year’s Savage got the full treatment, as well, her Indian harmonium as much a star as herself: “Pop Song for Euthanasia,” “Shilpa Ray on Broadway,” “Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp,” “Nocturnal Emissions,” and “Oh My Northern Soul.” She also played a new song, “Is It My Body,” from a two-song EP, Nihilism.