Exit/In is one of Nashville’s most famous and beloved venues. One look above the bar at the wall of artists who have performed on its stage is enough to send the tingles of history down your spine. Monday night, though, Exit/In’s legendary stage was devoted to three local acts: Joel Levi, James and the Wild Spirit, and Vanderbilt’s own Kid Freud. The trio of bands, though quite different in genre and style, combined to put on one hell of a show.
For those of you there on that fateful afternoon in Rand almost two years ago, you remember it as one of the oddest sensory juxtapositions in your Vanderbilt career.
It was, at first, an ordinary lunch hour for the students in our campus dining hall. Some were studying, their laptops and notebooks strewn about, taking up four-person tables all by themselves. Others were casually munching on their Randwiches and “gourmet” Chef James meals and chatting with friends. Many were multitasking.
Then, the music started. At first, it was just a rush of distortion in the background, barely registering in ears so unaccustomed to hearing it. But it soon became clear that this was no mere technical accident. The speakers in Rand were playing metal–replete with screams and growls of vocals and guitars and lacking any consistent melody or rhythm.
Today, Vanderbilt will host its most esteemed musical visitor, excluding Rites and Quake, since Billy Joel (and Michael Pollack) captivated a sold-out Langford Auditorium almost two years ago. Matisyahu burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, delivering a powerful reggae sound laced with traces of rock, hip-hop, and his trademark Judaism-inspired lyrics. It was a wonder to behold him commanding the stage in traditional Hasidic dress, complete with yarmulke and full beard, while performing in a style that broke the mold of Jewish orthodoxy and tradition. We listened in awe as “King Without a Crown” leapt to #28 on the Billboard Top 100, easily the highest a song with explicitly Jewish lyrics has ever charted. We sang along to the powerful “One Day,” which was remixed with new verses by Akon. And then those of us outside the reggae community allowed Matisyahu to slip from our consciousness.
The Matisyahu who will be walking around West End today looks far different from the Matisyahu of ten years ago. Gone is the beard, as is the yarmulke–he wears a clean-shaven look topped by a mop of graying hair. The music, while it still contains Judaism at its heart, has become more secular and more diverse in style, reflecting the man’s continuing spiritual journey. But Matisyahu is as active as ever, having released his fifth studio album Akeda in June and touring extensively in support of the LP. In light of this metamorphosis, let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of Matisyahu’s decade-long career.
It’s rare that you find a prodigious band coming out of Vanderbilt. Vampire Weekend met at Columbia and Tom Schulz met his Boston bandmates at MIT, but here the music scene centers around singer-songwriters—Belmont produces the bands, they say.
With Kid Freud, though, Vanderbilt may have these rock titans’ future equals on its hands.
Despite forming only four months ago, the three-piece outfit is taking its place at the head of the burgeoning music community on West End, regularly packing venues like The End and fresh off earning the opportunity to open Rites of Spring after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands.