East Nashville as Williamsburg of The South has always been a concerning ascription, but every once and awhile, it’s somewhat on point. Granted, East Nashville is East Nashville, though spiritually, it does feature some slight pastiche to Williamsburg. The most positive connotation of the popular city-to-city correlation was on full display at Shilpa Ray’s most recent Nashville stop.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s hipster haven has long been the mainstay of post-millennial counter-culture (at least from an outsider’s perspective) and has ultimately been superseded by the microcosms of Bed-Stuy, Astoria, and Greenpoint, but nevertheless, all of the new royals of hipster-dom must still pay homage to Williamsburg, and it’s homage is paid in spades (just look at rent prices).
And so, with Nashville’s past decade of A-list-secondary-market-riding-on-the-back-of Americana-and-country-as-well-as-reasonable-rent-prices-ascension resembling that of Brooklyn’s garage rock version, specifically in East Nashville, Shilpa Ray’s stop at The Cobra on Gallatin made for an oddly “hometown” feel. Imagine any Infinity Cat show pre-2013, but increase the crowd’s collective age (and energy) by 10+ years (i.e.- no moshing during Shilpa Ray’s set). That was the vibe.
More or less, Ray and her band are an ace in the hole, as Shilpa’s unassuming stage set up of a squeezebox accordion and Nord keyboard would lead less informed attendees to presume the set would be ballad heavy. But that would be far from the case (as you probably would have guessed). Ray’s songs are barbed and fully formed, both in sound and sentiment. Songs like “EMT Police and the Fire Department” sound like a traveling caravan making way down from New York City to preach the wariness of New York living. Something to know and to aspire to.
There is no wavering on what Shilpa Ray’s stances are on any myriad of issues, or how she feels with regard to certain realities. Look no further than her “Fuck You President Trump” shirt for confirmation. With that in mind, the countercultural elements of Shilpa Ray’s New Jersey upbringing and New York residency, combined with her unwavering sensibilities, exist in their most fulfilled and transitive modes in a place like the East Side of Nashville, at The Cobra, on a Tuesday night, with Cale Tyson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and many more watching admirably in the crowd.
All in all, the set was one of the best at The Cobra this year, and you’d certainly be in for a treat seeing Shilpa Ray at any venue on her tour, but there’s something about seeing her over on the East Side that feels more right than most other places.