This is without a doubt the closest I’ll ever come to attending shol. Welcome back friends as The 40th installment of the Jay Porks Never Ending Concert series takes us back to the venue we began 2010 with- the ‘Brooklyn Bowl’- a bowling alley/restaurant/ 600 person capacity concert venue. It’s a pretty cool place to see a show-even after dodging all the hipsters flooding the streets of Williamsburg to get there. Tonight we’re in for a treat as ‘Matisyahu’ headlines the first of five consecutive shows in Brooklyn billed “The Festival of Lights”. He does these shows every year in celebration of the Jewish holiday Chanukah.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jewish reggae singer/rapper/beat box extraordinaire. And there is nothing half assed about his religious practices as he sports Tzitzis hanging from his pockets, the two curls of hair on each side of his head swinging with a full beard-and sings reggae as authentic as you’d hear blasting through stereos in Jamaica, while weaving in lines of Hebrew prayer and Yiddish phrases that probably go unnoticed to the naked ear. It’s a scene man.
I rolled in about 10 minutes to 8PM; the opening act Dub Trio is suppose to come on at 9pm. With prime real estate in sight right in front of the stage unoccupied- I leaned myself up against it, just left of center and prepped myself for the nights proceedings.
And finally a concert where I’m not the resident Jew in attendance as I’m spotting yamacas everywhere. And the disco ball hanging from the ceiling is in the shape of a dradel. Chanukah is technically 2 days away-but right now I’m already in the holiday’s full swing. Times like these make me wish I never dropped out of Hebrew School..
Dub Trio came on stage a couple minutes after 9PM. The guitar and bass player’s both had these sort of synthesizer type things set up in front of them, the bass player actually had an Apple laptop sitting there and what appeared to be a pedal/effects board of some sort elevated to hands reach. This is the only time I’ll ever probably say that the opening act was substantially louder than the headline; as these guys were as hard rock/experimental metal as much as they were ‘dub’. The drummer was epic though, as he seemed to be the only one keeping with the dub flavor-he was a beast. And Dub Trio wasn’t a tough act to watch either. Shifting from dub/ska sounds to the heaviest of riffing in a noise filled 40 minute set. I don’t even know how many songs they played-it could have all been one song for all I know. They don’t have a vocalist so it was strictly business up there. When they went off, there was a dude right by me down in front and he was shouting out to the guitar player something about the slide bar he was using-and the guitar player was a total prick to the dude; wouldn’t even shake the dudes hand. I hate to tell you dude, but you’re in Dub Trio not Led Zeppelin-you don’t have the right to big time one of your six fans in the room. It’s not even like they were busy packing up they’re gear because Dub Trio is the backing band for Matisyahu. Wouldn’t hurt to look over and say “Thanks man” and stick a hand out.
We had a 20 minute break or so before Matisyahu came on. I turned to check the room to see if a quick cigarette run was doable-room was completely packed and it was a situation where I was not going to loose my spot(not only for sight lines but resting my coat and back pack on stage), so I turned back towards stage and a few minutes later the his Holiness had hit the stage. It’s party time.
“Darkness into light” was first song they got into. The backing band is the aforementioned Dub Trio-claiming their same places from before. They’re not as heavy now as they flow through a few songs but they got progressively heavier as the night went on-some of these Matisyahu reggae jams turned into hard rock songs when performed live. Matisyahu had on a white Yankees hat, a scarf that said “Liverpool” and Adidas high tops with the three lines on each sneakers side colored Red, Yellow and Green-keeping with our Rastafarian theme of the evening. I looked over at the set list on stage and counted twelve songs. I turned to a dude next to me and was like “12 songs setlist?” and he replied with “Watch dude they jam out-it’s going to be a late night”. Looking at this list, they had to have played more because I heard(and think I got video of) them doing a song called “Jerusalem” which is not listed. I’m getting lost in these songs-it starts to get trippy when Dub Trio just lays feed back down as Matisyahu chants as if he’s facing the whaling wall. At other times during jam outs he was jumping around on stage, possibly doing the C-Walk as he began to headbang during long instrumental jams. Halfway through his hat had flew off and he continued to bang his head metal style with those two curls swinging back and forth as he danced around violently(almost kicking me in the face at least twice) . Looking up at him you could tell he’s one of those guys that takes his sets very seriously as he rarely spoke between songs opting to either stare into the crowd with a slight head nod going or some chant that would start soft and intensify into the beginning of the next song. I could swear there were times in the set where he was “Freestyle rapping”, and I got to record a few of his beat boxing sessions. That stuff was epic, as he did it acapella in edition to jumping into jams on the tail end of songs keeping rhythm with the bass and drums keeping it so funky. Such a fun night as I reach for my phone to check the time it was 11:45PM and we’re not exactly saying goodnight yet as we were still getting into songs like “Youth” and “I will be Light” before playing “One Day”-a song most of the crowd was shouting for all night. That’s when Matisyahu goes over to the guitar player and starts waving his hand around his head signaling for “King Without A Crown”, which they jammed out to for about six and half minutes before saying goodnight to loud roars from the crowd and people like me hounding the roadies for one of the copies of the set list that were taped to the stage(one of which I was able to obtain).
Sweet night I must say. Totally didn’t expect Matisyahu to rock out a two hour set list on a Monday night. Hell, there was a lot of stuff tonight I wasn’t expecting to witness. It was really fun and we can definitely conclude that this night was a 15 dollars well spent. I would suggest to anyone in the Brooklyn area this week to try and find your way into one of these “festival of light” gigs, as it promises to be an eventful evening to say the least.