It’s a familiar sight: thousands of college students snaked around the Smith Center waiting to get inside. On Sunday night, however, it wasn’t for an athletic event, but rather a night filled with the lyrical and musical spectacle that is Matisyahu and his blazing band.
“I thought it was a really great crowd,” said Matisyahu, 27, born Matthew Paul Miller, after the show in an interview with The Hatchet. Commenting on his signature beat-boxing, he said that it’s mostly all improvised based on the crowd’s reaction to the music. He performed Sunday night to a nearly sold-out Smith Center, which holds 5,000 people.
“Sometimes it just really connects when the crowd is that great,” he said. “For a lot of the segments, whenever we end up going to the dub section – which is the reggae part after the song, when it kind of breaks down – we always just improvise in that section and beat-box.”
Matisyahu, who has crafted a unique blend of reggae and orthodox Jewish spirituality, could only speak to The Hatchet for a few minutes because he was attending an after-show prayer session with his traveling rabbi.
No two shows Matisyahu plays are exactly the same, a favorite aspect of fans who have seen him play multiple times. “You can’t help but get into his music,” said Marc Pessolano, a junior at Loyola College in Baltimore who came to D.C. for the show. “He’s right there with you – it’s like you’re connecting with him on a whole other level. It seems like he gets better and better every time I see him.”
Just before the encore, the band – made of up guitarist Aaron Dugan, drummer Jonah David, and bassist Josh Werner – broke into a solo section, showcasing each musician on his respective instrument.
“I was trying to play the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during my solo, but I don’t know if anyone could tell,” David, the drummer, said.
DJ Mike Relm of San Francisco opened for the Jewish reggae superstar, spinning together a mix of audio and visual classics from Rage Against the Machine, the Peanuts theme song, Jimmie Hendrix, John Lennon and others. Relm used a special type of turntable that makes video on the screen move back and forth in time to his scratching. The crowd screamed in delight when Relm mixed in a scene from the popular movie “Office Space” (“She’s gonna’ be seein’ my Oh face!”), as well as when he scratched over a video clip of Edward Norton punching Brad Pitt in the face in a scene from “Fight Club.”
The concert was the final installment in a weekend packed with live music at GW, with rapper Talib Kweli headlining Spring Fling the day before on the very same stage.