Sunday, December 17, 2006

Matisyahu - Festival of Lights show

Matisyahu played a great show at Hammerstein Ballroom last night.

Here's a brief outline and pictures, an attempt at capturing a little bit of what went on.



8: 30 - Meeting up with the fam, waiting outside. Crowd is arriving.

9:15 - We go in, find ourselves in the center, halfway between the front and the back. We're in a lively bunch. My brother starts singing "Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel..." with some young boys, jumping around excitedly. Channukah is in the air.

9:22 - Everyone sees all the excitement in the crowd, the jumping with the tall bearded guy. Before we know it, people are flashing pictures and going nuts. Everyone thinks Matisyahu is in the crowd. But nope, it's my brother (Now dubbed "Matis Jr." - even Matisyahu's mother thinks they look alike).

9:32 - Matis takes the stage, in "full Chassidic garb." He opens with "Lord, raise me up" to a charged crowd.

9: 56 - Matis notices Saadya in the crowd, and points to him, smiling (Matis loves his homeboys). Now everyone is doubly confused. That bearded guy is still in the crowd? Apparently, he was just a look-alike. So much for all the screaming and pictures.

10:07 - "We want Moshiach NOW, and it's time it starts revealing..." Thousands of New York yidden go nuts.

10:24 - It's in between songs. The bachurim and boys are singing, "We want Moshiach now!" and it's catching on...."We don't wanna waaaait!"

10: 39 - Matisyahu is beat boxing, and slips in the tune to "Rebbe Shlita, Ein Kamocha B'olam" - the bachrurim pick up on it, and start singing.

10:54 - Matisyahu jumps over the balcony, into the mezzanine. People are going nuts, the music is drilling, and Matisyahu is jumping over speakers, hanging in the air - showing that there are no hurdles for a Jew, nothing can get in his way. Another bit of Channukah symbolism. He claps from the audience, and we all clap with him.

11: 01 - Matis asks for everyone to light up the world. Lighters and cellphones make the room a bit brighter.

11: 07 - Matis is on the side of the stage jumping. He stops and lifts his hand, with one finger up, pointing to one G-d above. The crowd follows. G-d is on the mind of thousands - very powerful.

11:15 - Matisyahu stands by the Menorah singing "Indestructable" : "Release me from their schemes....Shield me on the path thats dark and slippery... I stand with integrity....won't you utterly remove the cloud hangin' over me, wave you wave that decree in the shade of your wings, shelter me from the wicked who have pundered me, from my mortal enemies won't ya shield me..." The Channukah message is alive.

11:22 - Matis wishes the crowd a Happy Channukah. The show is over. The crowd of thousands, from every walk of life (including a couple that looked straight out of Mea Shearim), get ready to brace the cold outside.

11:30 - I'm in the line to get my jacket back. Two girls behind me are discussing Matisyahu's background. One girl says to the other, "Yea, he's either Chabad or like those Nanach guys. But, totally Chabad. Chabad is all about dancing around and being happy. Did you see how he was jumping around in the crowd and stuff? Yea, that's Chabad."

11:50 - I hear a girl say to her friend, "I touched Matisyahu when he was passing me by! I totally forgot that he's Shomer Negiiah! He doesn't touch any other woman but his wife, isn't that sweeeeeeet?"

11:55 - To a small group waiting to meet Matis, my brother explains how this past weeks Sicha relates to Matis's lyrics, "Keep my feet on the ground, and my head in the clouds." Later, I hear a girl repeating it to her friends saying, "isn't that coooool?"

12:15 - Outside, feeling pumped. Ready to leave. Discussing the show, a great Channukah kick-off.

12:30 - On the Subway back to Crown Heights. Someone asks my brother, "are you Matisyahu?" One more person in New York is let down that night.

1:43 - After long subway waits, I'm home now. Tired, but pumped. Many thoughts about Channukah, the Rebbe, Matisyahu, music, we all have our own mission...

Feeling inspired.

Channukah has been beautiful so far.

May the light and joy continue to reign.

- M


Dovid said...

Wow. Sounds like you had a real blast. Happy Chanukah!

Jeff said...

Great review...glad I got Saadya's name--he made the show a blast from out in the crowd.
(I'm the guy whose blue Columbia hat he wanted. I'd've made the trade, if he was serious, if his head were as big as mine...)

Mimi said...

Dovid: Twas a blast indeed. Have you been to a Matis show? Or, do you go to Matis shows?

Jeff: Hey! Cool to have someone who was at the show...How'd you find my blog? Looking up show reviews? I think I might have a picture of you with my bro, if you're the right guy...e-mail me for it -

Jeff said...

Hey Mimi,

Yeah, someone on the JDubRecords message board linked to your post. I was very interested to read a Chassidic take on the show--I picked up on a lot of what you did, but not nearly all of it. I'll email you for the pic.

Dovid said...

I went to one, and I was the only person there! SO me and Matisyahu just danced... He was wearing his hat and jacket, and I was in a big chicken costume... Don't ask...

Anonymous said...

u inspired me to go
i'm gonna try tomorow night just showing up and getting tickets
happy chanuka
as always i loved ur take on the situation

Anonymous said...

dovid that is very intresting.

Mimi said...

Dovid, something tells me that doesn't exactly qualify as a Matisyahu concert.

(Hmm, you in a chicken costume...secret hobby? I'm sure it looks great.)

Anonymous said...

actually twas not as inspiring as you make it sound. Firstly, thank G-d you came at 9ish..I was there since 630 and had to liten to the penny on a train song. and i was all the way in the front and people were throwing up and it stunk of pot and everyone was smoking and crownheighters were clubbing in the midst of the crowd.. girls ontop of guys.. sandwiched all between..i never felt so prust in my life.

Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mimi said...


Um, it "TWAS" inspiring to me. I was "making it sound" the way I personally experienced it.

I'm sorry it wasn't for you.

Indeed, the nature of the floor crowd makes it harder to tap in.

But, not impossible.

With Matisyahu's fame comes a new kind of crowd. I'm suggesting to people (or, "Crown Heightsers") to go for the seats.

Dovid said...

It was before he was famous. He came to play at the Princeton University Purim party, which was right in the middle of finals, so yes, most of the time, I was the only one in the room. I hear that the next year, when he wasn't there, some 200 kids came to the "party that had Matisyahu last year..."

It was one sad Purim....

Anonymous said...


thanks mim's for posting this.
went to the sund show and never seen matis
on fire like so. rochelle also said that the
motzei shabbat performance was unreal,
i would have loved to have heard soul rebel
again. yeah there was smoke, sticky floor,
this and that, but the ligth from this man's
neshama, the energy projected simply uproots
all the negativity...
ur gil bujare/batya

Anonymous said...

northlandstories from jdub forum posted
ur linky. in return im posting his pics
enjoy :)


Anonymous said...

to hear the sat show, also from northland


Jeff said...

Before I got to the show, and when I saw dozens and dozens of my high school students on the way over, I was little worried about the interactions--these are kids, after all, who pretty much hated reading The Chosen when I assigned it (though they also hated The Odyssey, so...). I guess they were as respectful as they could be--especially since they, for the most part, had never encountered Chassidim before. I had to explain on Monday, when I saw some of the kids in school, why Matis wouldn't touch any girls, etc.

Sorry if anyone was out of line, but that's the world. As Matis gets more popular (which is, I imagine, a good thing for you folks, since he's spreading a pretty powerful message in a very attractive way) there are going to be plenty of people drawn to the shows who aren't necessarily looking for a spiritual experience, but a good time at a concert.

How will you deal with that?

As a Conservative Jew who is quite comfortable with his level of observance, although with a strong curiosity about Chassidic culture and beliefs, my purpose in going to the Matis show was somewhere between the two. I picked up on a lot of the religious content of the songs, but I don't necessarily agree with it all. At the end of the night, it was a transcendently great rock show that made me think a bit. I don't think I could ask for anything more.

Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mimi said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

It's all part of a larger conversation, that's the truth.

It's true what you say about Matisyahu's concerts now that he's famous. It's to be expected, for sure.

The amazing thing is to see all the many that are tapping into a more meaningful experience, much more of a common thing at a Matisyahu show than others, for sure..

You ask, "how will you deal with that?"

If you mean, the Chassidic community, I don't think it's for us to "deal with". Everyone has to make a personal decision when it comes to attending one of his concerts, just like all other decisions. People definitely shoudn't expect that, just because the man on stage is "religious/Chassidic", it's an appropriate scene. At the same time, I know that there are many of us who can go and be inspired and extract the meaning. It's unfortunate that people see the smoke, the crazy teens, and that's ALL they see (and, again, much of this has to do with seating, etc).


Since you define yourself as conservative, I'm interested to hear how you explained yor students why Matisyahu doesn't touch women.

Dov said...

So what if people are drawn to a Matis show for a good time? Fact is he's cultivating a positive experience, one with a message, and some spirituality to boot. At least it's being made available, where it often lacks elsewhere -- most are affected consciously, and many will be affected subconsciously. I, too, felt that so many people were unaware of the deeper message, but at least if they were looking for something, they'd find something good.

We need to understand that we're working to fill a cosmic void and it's a work in progress. We're all in it together and the only way to lift others up is to set a positive example ourselves. It seems to me, and I'm pretty discerning, that Matis is doing just that, keeping it real, and demonstrating Good for all that are seeking. Even if it takes 20 years for some dude to reach into his subconscious and realize there was something different about that concert.

And there ain't nothing wrong w/ a good time. Hey, a Good time is even better. said...

We were there at the show. I have 3 videos. Email to see them. (notice the one "n")
We were in the lower Mezzanine when he ran by us. Do you have any more pictures of that. We were to the right of the people pictured in the pic on your site...
I'd love to see a picture of our

Anonymous said...

i just saw this blog and as a lubavitcher u and people like u who can go to a concert from matis....please ask urself .WOULD THE REBBA AGREE THAT I GO TO SUCH A CONCERT WHERE THERE IS DRUGS MIXING ETC.ETC. what has happened to our lubavitcher kids .hashem we need the reabba back bec soon there wont be to who to come back