Matisyahu drew an enormous buzz throughout Louisville when he was set to play Headliners and an in-store performance+meet ‘n greet at ear-X-tacy in the same day. He’s been on the road with Brooklyn experimental posse Dub Trio, who’ve been quietly ruling the underbelly of instrumental reggae music. Although he doesn’t do scat, his performances have been known to include freestyle beatboxing and vocal patterns. Last night at Headliners, he presented the dub in a half dose.
Courtesy of ear-X-tacy, a limited number of 75 wristbands were given to those who purchased the new Matisyahu release, Live at Stubbs II, with which they were granted access to meet the dude himself. Prior to this was a brief set on the ear-X-tacy stage before wrapping up the evening at Headliners later that night.
Matisyahu entered the stage well dressed for a chilly day, but it didn’t coincide with the humid air that lurked inside the venue’s space; he looked more prepared to sleep in a cardboard box. The slow, dub-like tracks of his older stuff translated well with Dub Trio’s experience in the field. But when things started getting heavy and fast, the pace didn’t seem to match with the reggae style of music he snake jigs so well to. Some songs sounded like rock anthems and even though Dub Trio pulled off working improv into preset beats really well, the whole thing felt disconnected. This was carried over mostly from the odd vibes I observed, but it didn’t keep the bass from slithering under the melodies just right. Mid-show he took a beatboxing break, awing the crowd with the elasticity of his vocal sub woofer.
It was only a matter of time before things got extra heavy and Matisyahu headbanged his cap off to reveal a navy blue yamaka underneath. He looked up at the crowd, exposed, and as this moment was met with uproarious approval from the crowd, a smile crept up his face. It was apparent in Matisyahu’s expression that he felt content in his position and joy for the love and support he received back. He then dished out some fresh material; one song titled “Sunshine,” a bright reminder of that day called tomorrow, and a catchy crooner he named “Open the Gates.”
Probably the most interesting part of the show was watching how Dub Trio induced their sound into Matisyahu’s music. If you blocked out the vocals, it sounded like they were having a really good band practice in the background, throwing around samples and beautifully toned post-rock riffs. (Some samples I recognized from their first record Exploring the Dangers of.) As the spotlight remained mostly on our spiritual MC, it made the presence of this disconnection a little more real.
Since we’ve seen so much of him in the past, of course we can expect Matisyahu to return to Louisville on his next run around the U.S. To those who missed this show, One Day…
Photos by Lara Kinne