If film festivals are good at one thing…
It’s providing audiences fresh, evocative points of view from some of the world’s most exciting artists. The South Western International Film Festival exemplifies just that.
This is the third year for the festival, which runs Nov. 2-5 in downtown Sarnia.
During which time, SWIFF will transform Sarnia-Lambton into a place where art is celebrated in all its forms, including music, virtual reality, and, yes, films.
One of SWIFF’s most successful endeavours has been CineGAZE – a multi-night, multi-media music event where local talent and celebrated bands from around the world jam in front of SWIFF audiences.
It’s loud. It’s hazy. And there’s a metric ton of pizza.
Last year, The Sadies kicked things off and rocked the entire block of 148 Front St. North with Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man projected behind them. This time around it’s all about CineGAZE headliner, Shilpa Ray, who performs Nov. 3.
Who is Shilpa Ray?
The Brooklyn-based musician has been active in the scene since 2004, both with her band and on the road with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
She is currently touring her newest album Door Girl.
It’s a raucous ode to the down-and-dirty time she spent working in front of Pianos, a legendary music club in New York City’s Lower East Side.
It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, which is exactly the point. Her first single off Door Girl, “EMT Police and the Fire Department,” describes an ugly scenario through her signature sense of humour, killer vocals and expressive lyrics:
“The rats and the roaches / Crawling out in droves straight out of the sewage pipes,” she sings in her distinctive drawl. She goes on to describe exactly what it is Door Girl is all about: “And I’m charging eight bucks / To go to Hell / It’s straight up the stairs.”
The album is packed with vivid depictions of how depraved New York City nightlife can be, and how conflicting it can be for artists.
On the one hand, her new music is inspired by the town that’s eaten musicians like her alive. On the other, it’s an album that directly confronts this, optimistically ready to make it bow down to her.
“I guess I’m a creature of bad habits,” she says. “New York to me is like that really hot unattainable dude who sometimes makes you feel special while he’s out sleeping with the rest of the city.
“This town will never be mine, which is probably why I’ve been chasing after it for so long.”
What’s to come…
Her playful modesty aside, Ray can relax a little with the release of Door Girl… not that she will, of course. She has more than a dozen European gigs prior to her North American shows, including Sarnia Nov. 3.
It’s hard for artists to break through, and it’s equally hard to predict the ones who will do so. Door Girl is exactly the kind of record that has the potential to make Ray something beyond “the beauty queen at the leper colony,” as her Bandcamp biography sarcastically describes.
“I’m not cool enough to be a cult figure,” she says, describing the time Nick Cave made her a turkey sandwich. “It really blew my mind,” Ray remembers. “It was good! I should have taken that $*#! to a taxidermist.”
Uncool is the new cool.
She deflects how cool she is—exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from people who are way too cool. Luckily, she also has good taste in pizza.
“I like my pizza New York style, foldable, plain cheese,” she says. She hasn’t tried a classic Giresi pizza yet, so the jury’s still out—but we’ll find out at CineGAZE if Sarnia pies hold up.
If you come to the show (and you should), bring earplugs. Her boundless energy and rock ‘n’ roll stage presence are seriously intense.
Want more info on why you should make the trek from London, ON to Sarnia? Check out the SWIFF website right here!
Feature photo via Facebook / @shilpa.ray.9