For our household, it started at the Hideout. Looking for concert stops to make on a road trip a couple years back, we went to a little club in Chicago and bought our tickets for a performer we’d never heard of. Clutching local beers and standing in midst of the tight room, we had one of those music-filled nights that approaches perfection. It was the ideal introduction to Shilpa Ray.
Presiding over her harmonium, Ray and her band moved through a set of pointedly raucous songs, steeped in the roughest blues and the greasiest garage rock. And yet there was also a cabaret clarity and a crafty tunefulness to the material that made it more than a mere sonic bulldozer. Fortified by a march of whiskey pours delivered by the audience like Fantasia brooms, Ray sang with raw-throated fury, as if building might collapse at any moment and meeting it with a rebellious bellow was the only proper way to go down fighting.
Ray’s new single, which is a song that’s been in her live sets for a while, is another of the bruised-knuckle battle cries that ensnared me in the first place. Fierce and unapologetic, “Manic Pixie Dream Cunt” could sound like a put-on from just about anyone else. In Ray’s repertoire, it’s a comfortable part of the through line, the latest chapter in the manifesto memoir about not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks.