Reggae Artist Matisyahu Joined by Cydeways and Son Shalom at the Belly Up as Part of JFEST
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, June 24, 2023
Matisyahu hit San Diego in a two-night swing through Solana Beach’s Belly Up beginning Tuesday, June 20 as part of The Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival JFEST. The New York-based, Grammy-nominated artist pairs reggae, rock, and beatboxing with spiritual themes, which appear frequently across his seven studio albums. He is also the artist behind Billboard Hot 100-charting single “King Without a Crown.”
For this tour, Matisyahu appeared alongside Cydeways, an alternative band based out of Santa Barbara featuring Dustin Parks (guitar), Casey Kernohan (drums), Daniel Kearney (Bass), and Kevin Harvey (guitar). Cydeways started the concert with a tight set including their tunes “Sun Goes Down” from their 2017 album “But It Ain’t House Music” and 2020 release “Are You Down.”
The band was tight and well balanced, bringing high energy to the small stage. After about an hour long set playing their own repertoire, the band retired backstage, only to re-emerge with Matisyahu to accompany the remainder of the show.
As a headliner, Matisyahu carried himself and performed with a confidence that made his experience evident. He was charismatic, creative (his tour manager mentioned that each set evolves organically over the course of the evening rather revolving around a predetermined list), and extremely talented, and the sold out audience reflected this dynamic as well as his popularity.
As the reggae star performed tunes like “Sunshine,” “Searchin,” “One Day,” and “King Without a Crown,” among others, the Belly Up house light engineer anticipated the changes and leveraged specials effectively. The audience executed callbacks with passion, contributing to the alternating upbeat and ethereal vibes on tap.
The flexibility of the instrumentalists was also on display the entire evening, with various solo breaks that featured each player, interspersed with repeated motifs that were meditative in measure. A heavy bass line had the walls thrumming, which added to the atmosphere of the intimate venue.
A highlight of the evening was watching Matisyahu celebrate his son Shalom’s original tune, “Wasted Time,” which was performed mid-set. The 16-year-old has been singing his song on the tour in recent weeks, joining his older brother, 18-year-old Laivy, in the family business. The pride on Matisyahu’s face was evident as he stood off to one side dancing and soaking in his son’s magnetism and skill in engaging the audience. It was a magical moment.
Matisyahu is well known for his spirituality, returning to Judaism following a departure in his teens. This faith is a defining characteristic of his career and, as such, created an opportunity for a collaboration with JFEST, the month-long Jewish arts festival in which the concert was nested. JFEST, in its 30th anniversary, continues with a variety of theatre and music arts performances through July 16th with tickets available online.
Festival Managing Director Matthew E. Graber noted in the program: “It saddens me that antisemitism is on the rise, as is hate against many marginalized peoples. I can think of no better way to combat that than through art. Through art we find that we all are attuned to music, we all see ourselves in the person on stage, and we all see that we share a common experience of strife, suffering, and love.”
Near the end of his set, Matisyahu addressed that camaraderie and common experience with the audience directly, saying: “We’ve created a really nice family here, so thank you.”
Matisyahu’s remaining summer and fall tour dates run through October 19th with tickets available online.