Wild women: Taylor Momsen and Shilpa Ray

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

What makes a rock star? Taylor Momsen thinks she knows.

Momsen, 17, got her big break playing Jenny Humphrey on "Gossip Girl," and she was once in the running for the role of Hannah Montana. But she insists she's not playing a part in her rock band The Pretty Reckless, who'll serenade The Basement on Friday.

Yup, the striptease street walk into the bowels of hell in the "Make Me Wanna Die" video is straight from Momsen's heart. Writhing atop luxurious banquet tables in the "Miss Nothing" clip? That's so Taylor!

The underage seductress routine might not be a put-on - what teenager isn't intrigued by glamour, sex and rebellion? - but it nonetheless represents an ideal. Momsen is doing what she thinks rock stars are supposed to do.

That's not to say Momsen is talentless. Though Interscope's pros apply gloss, Momsen writes The Pretty Reckless' songs, ably hop-scotching the radio-ready rock landscape.

Debut album "Light Me Up" finds her indulging in Karen O garage raunch, enrolling in the Alanis Morissette/Michelle Branch school of angst-rock and even presenting a more palatable take on orchestral Evanescence pomp.

And though she's living Hollywood's version of rock stardom, Momsen's interviews give the sense she aspires to be like the woman who'll be playing upstairs at A&R Music Bar on Friday.

Shilpa Ray, formerly of Brooklyn garage punks Beat the Devil, fronts her own band of Happy Hookers. Raised to play traditional Indian music on the harmonium, she now deploys the instrument in angry, startlingly physical blasts of filthy rock 'n' roll. You can't look away from her, partly because she's so transfixing and partly because you're afraid she might storm off stage and stab your throat with a machete.

Knife or no knife, Ray's life is a far cry from Momsen's silver spoon. She's slaved away at retail jobs, toured rock's dankest dives and endured damage to mind, body and soul. So when she belts out tales of violent lust and controlled substances and hopeless emptiness, it comes off as more than adolescent bluster.

On the new "Teenage and Torture," Ray tackles such topics in infectious, raunchy blasts befitting the beat-up dives she usually performs in. A&R is scrubbed-up in comparison, but it'll surely seem seedier with Ray and her band in the house.

She could show Momsen a thing or two about rock Friday - if she doesn't lay waste to the starlet instead.

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

A&R Music Bar

7 p.m. Friday, March 11

391 Neil Ave., Arena District

promowestlive.com

The Pretty Reckless

The Basement

7 p.m. Friday, March 11

391 Neil Ave., Arena District

promowestlive.com