Matisyahu Pops Up at OpenHouse Gallery on Mulberry

Posted on: December 20th, 2011 at 10:19 am by

It was the tweet heard round the world; the microblogging equivalent of Dylan going electric.  “At the break of day I look for you at sunrise/When the tide comes in I lose my disguise.” But the lyrical reference to his song “Thunder” was accompanied by a pair of shockingly beardless self portraits. Matthew “Matisyahu” Miller had shaved off his trademark beard and sidecurls and proclaimed “No more Chassidic reggae superstar.”

This image has been archived or removed.

Critics everywhere speculated and buzzed. Is Matisyahu losing it? Many who revered him as he set examples for religious people everywhere felt shocked and betrayed. Set to begin his trademark “Festival of Lights” annual Chanukah tour to celebrate the Jewish holiday, a religiously-confused star just seemed a bit out of place.

This image has been archived or removed.

A few hours before he kicked off the New York leg of said tour in Williamsburg, Matisyahu made an appearance in a Rolling Stone-sponsored event at the Park Here pop-up at 201 Mulberry (aka OpenHouse Gallery). The semi-surprise event quickly drew tons of attention and the space filled blazingly fast. The crowd buzzed with wonder: how will he pull this off a mere three hours before the main event?

This image has been archived or removed.

Suddenly, the buzz stopped dead silent, as if witnessing something surreal. Doling out silent high fives,  Matisyahu’s arrival hushed the gathered crowd. He took a seat next to two of his band members who instantly laid down a classic dub beat. Freestyling and beatboxing intermittently, Matisyahu mixed in some of his trademark lyrics from older songs. He brought the shaving scandal full circle by playing a mellowed out version of “Thunder,” oft-tweeted lyrics and all. We should mention that before starting, he drew timid reactions, mostly due to the overwhelming curiosity and shock. But as he weaved from song to song, the applause grew louder as fans felt at home again. For many, it was a heartwarming performance, and a privilege to reconnect with the artist, who many consider something of a brother, in such an intimate setting.  Being packed into a close, warm, grassy space certainly helped bring out auras of peaceful reunion.

This image has been archived or removed.

Throughout the night, Matis’ demeanor was a parallel to that of the Chanukah protagonist Maccabees themselves: resilient and calm in the face of immense turmoil. For those expecting something different from Mr. Miller, they got the same old Matisyahu they’ve known and loved for years, without the follicles. Though he looks different on the outside, setting off confusion and occasional disgust within his fanbase, inside he is battling to maintain the persona he has always kept. Slightly enigmatic as always, the band halted their set after about 40 minutes and apologized, to confused applause, for needing to conserve energy for the bigger performance later. After hugging anyone who approached him, the artist formerly portrayed as “Hassidic reggae superstar” vanished into the night, as enigmatic a character as the equally Jewish Bob Dylan before him.

Writeup and photos by Benjamin Tocker

Recent Stories

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hillman Houses Vandalized with Antisemitic Graffiti

Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Here on the Lower East Side, though, it was apparently occasion for some antisemitism. Someone scrawled an antisemitic message – “fuck Jews” paired with botched swastika – inside the Hillman Houses at 500 Grand Street. The […]

Watch the First Teaser for Upcoming Beastie Boys Doc on Apple+

Yesterday, Apple unveiled the first trailer for its highly anticipated Beastie Boys documentary. It’s a teaser in the truest sense, squeaking by at about thirty seconds. Beastie Boys Story is billed as a “live documentary experience” as told by surviving members Mike D. and Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz. It’s based on the bestselling Beastie Boys Book […]

Mount Sinai Opening Group Clinic on Delancey Street

There hasn’t been a steady tenant at 104 Delancey Street since the Chase Bank closed and consolidated with the branch across the street in 2012. Instead, eight years of pop-up players persisted, from Gagosian (2012) and Hanksy (2014) to Spirit Halloween (2015), All Leather, and Chabad LES. Now, landlord Samy Mahfar is switching it up completely. […]

Onlookers Rush to Lift SUV from Atop Pedestrian on Delancey Street [VIDEO]

Did you happen to see this clip from yesterday evening? An SUV driver purportedly hit a pedestrian on the doorstep of Essex Crossing, in the intersection of Delancey and Norfolk Street. Seeing the accident unfold, several pedestrians rush to the vehicle in order to literally lift it from atop the victim. Apparently her ankle was […]

On the ‘Ground’ with the New Madison Street Soccer Pitch

In the month-and-change since we broke the news, the large-scale indoor soccer field on Madison Street is making quick progress. Transforming a long-vacant commercial warehouse on the edge of Chinatown. Last week, The Ground, which was founded last year around the corner on Monroe, made the expansion official by whitewashing 130 Madison and imparting branded […]