Lee Scratch Perry/ Meta @ Highline Ballroom, 2.16.09

They say you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. If this be true, then what can be said of Lee “Scratch” Perry‘s red high-top waffle stompers bedecked with Rastafarian appliqués, shells, beading, and other DIY designs? Perhaps these shoes tell the eclectic evolution of a self-made man who began as a record salesman in the late 1950s then became a producer/performer notable enough to score a spot on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All-Time.”

At the Highline Ballroom, Lee Scratch’s command of the stage belied his smallish frame. Always an entertainer, even his attire performed a task as his chapeau served as both an incense-holder and light-refractor (thanks to the bevy of shiny, hand-sewn decorations). For the most part, his between-song banter was incomprehensible. Other times Lee Scratch became wildly entertaining as he yelled about love, life, and his upcoming 73rd birthday. It was incredible to see one of the main founders of dub reggae still going strong and holding his own among a band of young sprites on sax, drums, bass, and the MacBook Pro. More importantly, the jams were just as good as they once were at The Black Ark; Perry’s studio of which he is slated to have burned to the ground to rid of a Jamaican hex. With his music still pulsating through the airwaves, he did right to burn it down. No hex here.

This show was largely refreshing due to its reggae nature, an underrepresented and under-celebrated genre in New York. What’s good to know is that reggae thrives in NY in the folds of Brooklyn with bands like Meta & the Cornerstones who opened for Lee Scratch. The 7-piece band spoke of life as realized by frontman Meta Dia, a born-and-bred Senegalese humble soul.

Crooning for “peace, love, and harmony,” Lee Scratch and Meta represent the past, present, and future of reggae. Good times are ahead.

Nicole Velasco

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