No set list, no problem for Matisyahu at Crystal Bay Casino |

No set list, no problem for Matisyahu at Crystal Bay Casino

Matisyahu and his band gave a soulful performance from the CBC last Saturday night.
Courtesy of James Tennery |

Grammy-nominated reggae artist, Matisyahu, sang from his soul for North Lake Tahoe and did not disappoint the crowd who gathered at Crystal Bay Casino for the concert on July 8.

With show time set for 9 p.m. the crowd was funneling in, creating a line that snaked through the casino floor.

“I’m so excited to be here,” said audience member Tracee Rolfson of Reno. “This was my birthday gift and it was a surprise. I really like Matisyahu’s positive message in his songs, and the beat. You can dance to his music and it makes you feel good,” she said.

The 21-and-older crowd was filled with people of all walks of life, all united by the same appreciation of his music, which the artist himself said wasn’t identifiable through a standard genre.

“It’s hard to put into words and it certainly doesn’t fit into any genre. It’s really about deconstruction for me,” said Matisyahu in a pre-show interview.

“Most of the time people come up with a product, something they’ve created or produced; it can be a song or a band or a sound. For me, the point of creating music is the deconstruction of what you already know in order to allow for something unique to happen.”

His style of losing expectations and allowing the band’s authenticity to shine through was exactly what North Lake Tahoe needed on Saturday night, July 8, as they danced and sang along, many swaying with eyes closed feeling the music, and others who were documenting every moment for social media.

Matisyahu said before his show that his style of performance is a risky endeavor.

“We all know there are certain things we can do to make people think they’re seeing a good show and a lot of people can do that,” he said.

“But to have a truly authentic experience and not just ‘wow-ing’ people, your authentic moment of interaction requires patience; it requires letting go of everything that you know, all those tricks you have, and you have to sacrifice those things for the truth and that process is a rocky road. It might not always be what people are expecting or what they want, they just might not have the patience to see it through.”

According to his audience, they felt the connection to the music through the band’s stage presence and natural flow.

A couple seated near the bar during intermission sat smiling, on what looked like a date.

“We enjoy the music,” said Scott Knudson, who was at the CBC with his wife Cynthia. “My son is really into it — his reggae style,” he added.

“It’s more like hip-hop to me these days, which is still fun,” Cynthia Knudson said. “Since we first started listening to him, it was that reggae sound we really love.”

The pair was enjoying a night on the town together, traveling up to their vacation home from just outside Auburn and making a vacation out of the event, planning a boat trip for the next day.

As Matisyahu and his band performed, he rhythmically would go in and out of beatboxing, freestyling, and picking right back up where he left off.

The light show was orchestrated for the vibe of each song, hyping up the crowd when the beat picked up and creating an intimate atmosphere for some organic, freestyle moments.

One audience member was captured moments from the show.

It turns out James Tennery of South Lake Tahoe enjoys shooting photography, and is also a fan of Matisyahu. Tennery said he follows live music to capture images, as shows are one of his favorite subject matters. He even shot pictures at Matisyahu concerts over a decade ago, the same way he was shooting again last weekend.

“I like shooting shows, the light and the energy from the crowd and the band,” Tennery said.

“There’s always so much expression and passion, especially with the lead singer; they’re just putting everything into the music, everything they have — it’s great subject matter.”

As the show rolled on, the crowd was upbeat, smiling, enjoying every moment. According to Matisyahu his ultimate goal is to put good music out for people to ultimately have some kind of connection.

“The best part for me is making music,” he said.

“The ability to make music regularly, daily, be involved in it and have my life revolve around it in the creation process, and have the unique ability to work with incredibly talented and creative people; just put good (music) out.”

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.

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