Last week, I was fortunate enough to win tickets to Matisyahu and The Dirty Heads at my favorite venue in the VA/MD/DC area, Ram’s Head Live. Not having a chance to see Matis before, I was significantly pumped for a Monday and more so, for this show.
I must admit, I have been a fan of Matisyahu from day one, but did not know off the bat any of the songs from The Dirty Heads, but that didn’t deter me from having fun and enjoying some new music. New music was the saving grace of this show. If I you think not knowing any Dirty Heads songs is bad, I felt as though I was living under a rock when I heard the name Moon Taxi. I know, I know, I live under a rock sometimes.
The guys from Moon Taxi hail (no pun intended) from the city of Nashville, Tennessee. Utterly oblivious to the current indy-college rock scene, I was overjoyed to hear such passion coming from their set. From what I learned that night thanks to the girl standing next to me, Moon Taxi has been mentored by Matisyahu himself. He is responsible for kick-starting the band since he always brings them on the road when he tours. Moon Taxi currently has two albums out, both of which have stellar tracks on them.
If I had to describe the band’s sound, I would best summarize it by saying that they are the Tennessee hybrid child of a clash of musical generations. Kings Of Leon meets Dirk Lance Incubus era (for the funk) intersecting in a time warp of Rush synth sounds that would make Geddy Lee proud and Ray Manzarek from The Doors do a double take. Yes, they are that good. My highlight from their set were the songs “Mercury” and “Cabaret”, both from their new album.
As an opening band, they did a fantastic job of getting the crowd warmed up and ready for the acts next to come. These guys have a huge chance of hitting it big if they keep touring and building their stage show. It is so refreshing to see up and coming bands that have the potential to become a solid group. These guys have soul, passion and gusto to carry through and engage a club like Ram’s Head. I look forward to hearing more music from them.
Next to take the stage were the Dirty Heads. It was my impression that the majority of those in attendance were there to see them rather than Matisyahu. Regardless, the band got the crowd started and dancing in unison to that unmistakable reggae side step. From their set, my favorite performance was “Notice”, for reasons better left unmentioned. Let’s just say it was a fun time.
The Dirty Heads felt like a watered down version of 311 with a saving dash of Soul Majestic. The saving grace in this band were the percussionist and the drummer. These guys kept the vibes going. However, I must admit that its kind of cool to see a dub version of Tom Morrello by way of the bass player’s wardrobe style. So as their set wrapped up and they paid tribute to the late Bestie Boys mc, MCA on the track “Believe”.
As the fog grew thicker, the anticipation built. Matisyahu’s performance began to the sounds of electronic distortion and electronic voice enhanced wails. Matisyahu took the stage dressed in a white hoodie, sunglasses and an awkwardness that spanned the entire room. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting to understand one word of what he was singing. Whether it was the fact that the audio sounded distorted on the second floor or the fact that the sound board was acting up, I was severely disappointed in what was unfolding before my eyes and ears.
I wish I could tell you that I was happy to see him live and finally hear his songs in a live environment, but unfortunately for me to say that, would be a lie. His beatboxing skills are on point and cannot be disputed, denied or critiqued because they are amazing. I just kept hoping that it was all a hoax and the audio would beef up and I would be able to understand which song exactly he was singing.
The new tracks from his upcoming release Spark Seaker, venture into the world of reggae dubstep. A contradiction in terms and sounds. I am all for innovation, expansion and creativity, but this combination just doesn’t work for me. Part of the reason why I first became a Matisyahu fan is because he was true to his sound, his lyrics are strong and his presence was one that commanded attention. This Matisyahu that I saw before me appeared as though he was just another performer that was there to pay the rent. No passion, no connection no interaction with the audience was felt.
It saddens me to write the above and following lines regarding his performance. As soon as the guest trumpeter arrived on stage, my ears begged me to give them a break and head on out. The combination of disappointment, feeling underwhelmed and muffled audio made me give in and go home without even wanting to wait it out in the hopes of my favorite songs being performed. As I walked to the elevator I heard the last few bars to “King Without A Crown” and what surprised me the most was not the fact that I wasn’t upset over missing the song, what surprised me the most were the mass amounts of people thinking the same as I was and heading out on to their homes way before the show was half way done.
Apparently Matisyahu stage dove into the crowd in the last song of the night and also sang my favorite, “One Day” (which got me the tickets in the first place). I so desired to enjoy the show and be happy to say “I saw Matisyahu live”, but this night was not for me. I do however, thank Matis for bringing along such an amazing band like Moon Taxi. These guys stole the show in my book and have now earned a new fan craving another visit to the Virginia and Baltimore area. All in all, I could summarize this night as the day that The King Lost His Crown To The Moon.