Meta and the Cornerstones: March 31 & April 11, 2007

Fri Apr 13 2007

March 31, 2007
Zebulon Cafe Concert
258 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
Meta and the Cornerstones April 11, 2007
Lava Gina World Music Lounge
116 Ave C
New York, NY

One band, two boroughs, two amazing shows, two much to drink...

If I felt I had the knowledge, experience, or authority to say it, I'd tell you that Meta and the Cornerstones are going to be big that you'll be seeing them soon at the likes of Bonnaroo, 10,000 Lakes, Summerfest, and who knows where else. But I'm a reggae novice and more than a newcomer to NYC, where it's evident you could discover amazing new music any night of the week. But secretly I feel this way because I want to see them at 'roo, and sometime back in Milwaukee.

Zebulon is an intimate venue in Brooklyn, with a high class atmosphere that yet maintains the laid back feel of your favorite corner bar. In other words (not mine), it's really chill. Meta Dia went through the sound check in what seemed like a Jim Morrison impression, first singing from the bathroom hallway, then coming out and facing the band through the remainder of the song. He'd repeat this to some degree at Lava Gina, but it's beyond me as to whether it's a case of strange habit or shyness. The latter seems unlikely, though. Once the set began at Zebulon, Meta's presence quickly demanded attention. He must be at least six-foot-five, with a booming, Senegalese-accented voice which invigorates, soothes, and brings a smile to your face.

The crowd seemed hesitant at first to fill the dance floor, perhaps because of the fishbowl effect created by the tables which surround it. This, however, was no deterrent to my new housemate in Jersey, Sara, who brought me to the show. Unable to stand still, she shot out to the front of the floor and caught the beat. But that's not me--new city, new venue, new band, and lacking my concert buddies, I relaxed and waited for the music to grab me and for a healthy buzz. It didn't take long, though, for the floor to fill or for me to get too antsy to sit. The band's tight, mid-tempo reggae rhythms, rock flair, and amazingly positive energy made it effortless for this rhythmically-challenged rock and roller to bounce and sway to the beat. At times I closed my eyes, taking in the sound, but often my eyes turned to guitarist Shahar Mintz, either plugging away at one of the band's sweet reggae riffs or nimbly soloing. Like Meta, he has quite the presence and is hard to miss, with the longest blonde dreads I've ever seen. Though the band's tracks are very impressive, I'd love the opportunity to see Shahar and the rest of the band get into some longer jams.

The crowd was amazing, the show was long, and I was out of my mind. I'm always impressed with my great buddy (and you-phoria's own) Cal, with his ability to capture the intricate details of a show from the songs played to the color of the drummer's shoelaces. Even without a few or 10 drinks in me, I'm too caught up in the moment to commit details to memory...which is why my first review here on you-phoria took the fragments of memory from two shows to write. A week and a half later, we returned to the city to see Meta and the Cornerstones again, this time at Lava Gina in Manhattan.

The venue this time was a hip, self-described "sexy" atmosphere decked in red lighting and fascination with the letter V. Abstract paintings decorate the room, with what seemed like 3D Picassos and Rorschach Tests on acid. Built-in couches, complete with pillows, lined the walls, providing a plush spot to relax and mellow out before the show.

Being a Wednesday night, the band played a much shorter set, but was no less for it. Highlights included "Struggle and Strife" and "Somewhere in Africa." But for me the powerful anthem "Who You Want to Be" stole the night. You can check out the track on the band's MySpace page, but the song took on a new life at both shows. Meta performed the song with the complement of a female vocal, tightly harmonizing and broadcasting the song's message of self-realization with a strength and power that brought me my biggest smile of the night.

I regret that I can't describe or identify more tracks for you; the band's first album is coming yet in the next month. For your sake I may just have to see them again so I can be more thorough. And there are plenty of chances--every Wednesday night at Lava Gina, and numerous other dates posted on MySpace. For those of you not here (I miss you my good buddies), Zebulon advertises a live stream of all shows at the Cafe, and the band currently has three more dates scheduled at the venue (including this Saturday). And they'll find their way to the Midwest, eventually, if the opinion of this new reggae fan is worth anything.

Peace, love, and harmony


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