UCF Arena, Orlando • 2.6.98
Imagine. Music that just makes you feel good. And not just that, but music that makes you feel that it’s actually okay to be happy. From that vantage point, even listening to happy music is cool, and tonight Cornershop is that music. Singer/writer Tjinder Singh may be commiserating with us in Hindi, but he’s doing it joyfully, and it’s fun. And creative as he blends East Indian styles and instruments with dance-hop and trance-pop.
The stage was backed with two large screens left and right with a larger one centered. They all displayed lots of psychedelic kaleidoscopic sanskrit/symbol-inspired visuals. Tjinder sang and played electric or acoustic rhythm guitars in front of the drummer and with two gentlemen seated on pedestals to his right. One of them switched between playing tamboura and various percussion, gently rocking back and forth in the lotus position like a guiding rudder for the band. The other alternated between electric guitar, sitar, and a few items difficult to identify, although one sounded like that thing Jimmy Page used in his solo to “Whole Lotta Love,” or the trippy Moog bits in “Frankenstein.” He may have been the one who controlled the cool loops which bedded some of the songs, since the only other player on stage was the extra percussionist to Tjinder’s left, surrounded by a wide variety of congas, bongos, and other rhythmic toys which he kept perfectly busy. But don’t let the delicate instrumentation fool you, this band built a drone train that grabbed the house, rocked it and rolled it.
The songs ranged from short, catchy pop tunes (both in English and Hindi) to pieces that start just a droned-in groove before escalating into a mountain sized mantrafest, and just end up glowing majestically. Not to mention some experimental instrumentals thrown in also.
The pop songs are smart and mysteriously simple in their deliverance, if lyrically vague yet personal. The latter-mentioned mantra mountains, especially the final and most prolonged one, start up with a beat that keeps you hooked while the momentum builds and the drone does its work — to energize and relax you simultaneously.
The band’s presence and demeanor was refreshing in its lack of pretense, pose, and other predictable, contrived posturing. Their humble and confident honest approach to the music spoke louder than grandeur and hype. Their comfort and steadiness was reassuring and left them open to interpretation on many levels, and led me to believe that they were open to that interaction with the audience (an option not usually available at a stereotype concert event).
Whatever their spell, I hope my karma includes seeing Cornershop many times.