Photos courtesy of Greg Notch | notch.org
Some stories seem like you’ve heard them before. But that’s probably not the case with Matisyahu’s. As a teenager on Phish tour, Matthew Miller had an interest in hip-hop and reggae. Later he grew interested in the strict Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism and joined a synagogue where his musical ambition was encouraged. Soon enough Miller had a talented backing band and—under the name Matisyahu—he became an engaging performer of his own mash-up of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae and rock. About a year ago, Matisyahu decided to go beardless, saying, “No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry, folks, all you get is me…. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.” But despite the change in his appearance, Matis’s music remains as good as ever: His fourth LP, Spark Seeker (stream it below), debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart earlier this year, and this weekend Matisyahu (above, doing “Happy Hanukkah” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) closes out his Festival of Light tour with two shows, tomorrow night at Terminal 5, followed by an acoustic set on Sunday at the Capitol Theatre.
Hanukkah approaches, which means it’s time for the return of Matisyahu and his Festival of Light. He hits Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday for a sold-out show. And since it’s the start of the giving season, The House List is in a giving mood, offering up two tickets. Want to Grow a Pair? Then fill out the form below, listing your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Matisyahu, 12/4) and a brief message explaining why you deserve a Hanukkah miracle. Eddie Bruiser, who thinks potato pancakes should be available all year round, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Matisyahu is known for combining his religious devotion with a unique blend of reggae, rock and hip-hop. His third studio album, Light, came out in August. And beginning tomorrow, he’s back in NYC for eight shows as part of his fourth annual Festival of Light: four shows at Webster Hall—with the Glitch Mob on 12/10, with John Brown’s Body and Dynasty on 12/12, with Dub Trio on 12/13 and with Brothers Past on 12/14—and four shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg—with Rana on 12/16, with Kid Koala on 12/17, with Travis McCoy on 12/19 and with Kevin Devine on 12/20. In advance of this epic run, Matis took the time to answer five questions for The House List.
Which band (or bands) that you listened to growing up do you still listen to?
What’s the toughest part of playing New York City?
My cousins giving me shit after the show for not calling them up on stage.
What’s your biggest nonmusical talent?
Rollerblading. When I was about 13, I’d ride backward down the steps in Central Park and hold on to taxis and buses and stuff.
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
Yes, there is no substitute for authenticity.
It’s 4 a.m. and last call has come and gone. What’s your next move?
Go to Rabbi Korn’s house, crack open a bottle of Russian vodka and talk about how God could let the Holocaust happen. Then walk to the mikvah on the Lower East Side and wait for the old Russian guy to let me in. Then I’d sit in the mikvah ’til shacrit (morning prayers), then pray at the closest shul. Then barf. —R. Zizmor