Matisyahu/Crystal Method | 12.21 | NYC

Words & Images by: Jesse Borrell

Matisyahu/The Crystal Method :: 12.21.08 :: Webster Hall :: New York, NY

Matisyahu :: 12.21 :: NYC
Attending the third annual "Festival of Light," a camera-ready, self-described spiritualist and hundreds of his closest strangers braved a Northeastern snowstorm on the first night of Hanukkah. Hosting the heavy hitting beats of The Crystal Method and the ever-pious rock of Matisyahu, NYC's Webster Hall welcomed in all those searching for extensions of their personal freedom.

The Crystal Method, consisting of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, has been innovators of their respective craft since the early '90s. The duo arrived onstage and introduced the opening synth-subtleties of "High Roller," one of the more heavy hitting tracks off the 1997's multi-platinum Vegas. With Jordan at the helm, Kirkland raised his arms towards the crowd while mouthing the ominous lyrics, "This transmission is coming to you. You got it." While there were many who did indeed catch the vibe, the masses seemed unaware of the historic gravity surrounding the deep beats. Those dancing had to carve their personal space as the room became increasingly dense.

Webster Hall was definitely an intimate setting to watch the Method, artists familiar with filling the largest of venues over the years, and although an avid fan ever since Vegas, this was my first time seeing them live. Unfortunately, onstage antics didn't give the viewer an in-depth look at how the music was being crafted. An errant twist of a controller knob and the typical one-eared headphone adjustment under a dim blue light left me wanting more from the performance as "Comin' Back" probed deeper within older material.

The Crystal Method with Matisyahu :: 12.21 :: NYC
The twosome switched control back and forth as a heated "Bound Too Long" and "Busy Child" mash-up intertwined towards a siren-laden transition into another classic. "Keep Hope Alive" is one of Crystal Method's most famous tracks and I was surprised once again how many people in the audience were unfamiliar with the almost iconic rhythms and Jesse Jackson sampled choruses. As expected, the crowd became most animated when our host, Matisyahu, came out to add an exotic vocal build to the set's last offering.

Matisyahu, a.k.a. Mathew Miller, and band walked onstage with something to prove throughout the intense, energetic melee of "Escape." Drummer Scoota Warner began the track's intro in a breakbeat fashion, expanding the simplistic reggae sounds of "Escape" towards the electronica side of music's spectrum. The musicians commanded our attention, jumping around in pure rock form while being immersed within thick beams of white light. Matisyahu, ever the prophet, stood above the crowd with one foot on his vocal monitor singing about life's breakout moments, embodying his message through full body emancipation.

The crowd immediately acknowledged the opening notes for "Jerusalem," and sang along with our host under an enormous spinning disco dreidel. Verses were traded back and forth throughout, and the audience seemed to be purely living through the words. Eventually, the masses were sent into passion as descriptions of peace throughout the Holy Land entwined with another effortless, spiral-like solo by guitarist Aaron Dugan. Fast forward to "Struggla," a new track off Matisyahu's upcoming Light LP, and one got a thick mix of dancehall riddims with sampled female choruses that gave a possible glimpse of the progression of Matisyahu's sound.

Matisyahu :: 12.21 :: NYC
One of the highlights of the night occurred when Matisyahu invited a friend up to have a beat box jam over the plucks of what looked to be a large sitar. Wondrous sound imagery emerged within this give and take, a poetic dance between the fast claps of a machine gun and the slow, Zen-like croaks of a didgeridoo deflecting all harm. By the end of the heated onomatopoetic discussion, Matis offered water to the crowd by throwing his full bottle into the front pit. "It's not holy water. I'm not a rabbi. I'm just a rapper, man, right?" The crowd pushed and shoved. "Well, that's the last of that. Chill. Chill. Chill. Chill."

The ferocious hip-hop styled lyrical delivery of another newer track, "Smash Lies" off 2008's Shattered EP, challenged listeners to reexamine the constant barrage of one's daily grind. Continuous, tight electronic beats battled against dirty guitar licks, repeating and progressing without losing steam over Matis' rhythmically packed tones. Dugan's intensity surpassed almost his own fingers as the production took us towards another high, only hints of silhouettes through blinding light giving the audience a clue to who was creating all of this frantic noise.

As things settled down, Matis switched gears towards a subtle chant and extended towards the crowd for help in lighting the first candle on the Menorah. These mellower moments recalled a JamBase interview where the man gave insight about the importance of serenity to balance out the peaks. As the spiritualist exited back into the night, beings of all shapes and sizes raced about the streets of New York, caught up in their own personal acts of release.

Check out our exclusive video interview with Matisyahu on JamBaseTV.

Continue reading for pics of Matisyahu's 12/23 Festival of Light celebration with U-Melt...

Images by: Robert Chapman

Matisyahu/U-Melt :: 12.23.08 :: Webster Hall :: New York, NY


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DubSaw Thu 1/8/2009 11:59AM
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ughhh jambase is killing me !!!!!! post that 5 night bisco review !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! please !

schofizzl Thu 1/8/2009 11:59AM
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disco dreidel... nice... whoah, spellcheck doesn't recognize dreidel as a word...

RambleOnShelbyRose starstar Thu 1/8/2009 12:53PM
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this dude ruined magellan for me.

dsawthestone Thu 1/8/2009 01:06PM
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geeze motisyahu is aweful. i cant believe he wasnt the one opening up for the crystal method

Promontory Rider star Thu 1/8/2009 01:09PM
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Promontory Rider

When will this guy go away!

louie1827 Thu 1/8/2009 01:57PM
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^^yeah crystal method = frickin sick

matisyahu = mediocre

cbean59630 Thu 1/8/2009 02:37PM
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Matisyahu is alright, some of his shows can actually be pretty fun and often serve as a completely different experience than most other shows. But the real question is, When is Jambase gonna post that 5 night bisco review? Or at least the 28th...

iwantstogetfunkedup Thu 1/8/2009 02:40PM
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Cmon...a disco dreidel?! Really?! No Thanks.

if rhymes were valiums... Thu 1/8/2009 02:40PM
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if rhymes were valiums...

there will be no 5 night bisco review... NYE only i hear

(featuring a guest appearance from a mr. matthew miller, sorry rambleonshelbyrose!)

D-Line Thu 1/8/2009 03:27PM
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this guy ruined NYE, to the MAX i mean till you cant ruin anything any WORSE..worst bisco show ive ever seen.

dharmabm Thu 1/8/2009 04:09PM
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oi matisyahoo yiddish for talentless honkey pseudo-rap gibberish....why is the music industry (including jambase) shoving this crap down our throat....

Flat5 starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/8/2009 05:09PM
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the disco dreidel is awesome! lighten up guy!

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/8/2009 06:37PM
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Bunch a losers....this guy is kickass

rainydaywomen420 Thu 1/8/2009 09:36PM
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u melt and matts a yahoo under one roof, sounds gross.

happydestiny Thu 1/8/2009 10:30PM
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ahhhhh bunch of jambase haters... have you seen him or just read jbase user reviews and have become a hater? I am not a big fan or any sort of fan of matisyahoo in general but having seen him and the band several times i must say this guy is a good performer. in general when i actually have too much fun to critique the quality of other shows i have seen by a performer versus the one i'm seein' i have a much more fulfilling experiance... enjoy the music people

happydestiny Thu 1/8/2009 10:41PM
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iwannagetfunkedup---- would you complain if a southern band had some sort of christian tribute in their props? or a band playin nye in egypt had a muslim tribute in its act? NYC has a big jewish pop. so complaining about an artist incorporating faith into their act in an environment where the audience appreciates the message isn't a new or tastefully offensive idea. get a life dude.... oh buy the way i'm a non jew who lives thousands of mile fron NYC so this isn't really a personal response, just one generarted from frustration. your on santas bad list huh?

if rhymes were valiums... Fri 1/9/2009 04:55AM
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if rhymes were valiums...

yeah, i don't get why people hate on matisyahu. nor do i understand the reason behind the flame wars that go on these boards. i guess in all fairness, critical commentary has the same merit as positive commentary. only as long as there is some sort of reason based within the ensuing explanations...

spread peace and love people

if rhymes were valiums... Fri 1/9/2009 04:56AM
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if rhymes were valiums...

man. bear. pig. funny ass handle...

iwantstogetfunkedup Sat 1/10/2009 06:05PM
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Manbearpig- YES, I will complain if any band is bringing religion into their live act! We all know he's Jewish and NY has a big Jewish population, great. Noone wants it shoved down their throats.

elaufer Sun 1/11/2009 02:45PM
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So, you never listen to Bob Marley? He had plenty of religion in his act. What about Stevie Wonder? he's not afraid to preach it. And Creed, they got the Jesus thing down proper!! And besides, it won't get "shoved down your throat" if you don't have your moth open.