To describe experiencing reggae artist Matisyahu live and in concert as a full body sensory experience would be an understatement. He is best known for the success of his Live at Stubbs album, which includes the popular King without a Crown. Matisyahu began his “The Broken Crowns Tour” just last month, supporting the artist’s most recent album release Undercurrent. Matisyahu is a great live act. With his latest tour and studio release, he continues to question the boundaries of what is traditional reggae music. His collaborations and mixing spiritual tones, reggae vibes, beat boxing and improvising delight and mystify audiences. Katie and I were lucky enough to be gifted two tickets to his most recent show in San Diego at Music Box, located in the Little Italy area of downtown San Diego.
Music Box: 1337 India St. San Diego, CA 92101
We don’t get to see live music very often. The last time we visited this venue with Katie’s folks it was a live jazz, rock and blues lounge called Anthology, which closed in 2013. Crowds and chaos, two things that we both are just not that into these days, deter us from fully experiencing the San Diego live music scene. Although we do enjoy jamming to soulful tunes over a couple cocktails or craft beers, “something” always stops us. For example, the time it takes to drive downtown, parking (there is a $5 lot adjacent to the venue) and finances all seem to be great excuses not to go out. In the spirit of breaking some of these old habits and living our best life now, we decided to venture out of our comfort zone to catch what promised to be a fantastic show!
Music Box is an upscale three-story live music venue featuring a variety of signature craft cocktails, beer and small plates. It is intimate. I don’t mean that there is not enough room to get around, the three stories of viewing space are more than adequate. What I am saying is that the venue is perfect for experiencing an up close, intimate and personal live show without relying on projector screens to see the stage. One piece of advice when attending a live show at Music Box – if possible, SHOW UP EARLY! Mingle with guests over drinks and classy bar fare like gourmet chicken wings, street tacos or Kobe beef sliders. More popular shows draw larger crowds and you may end up on your tippy toes or ducking down beneath the crowd to get a good look at the stage. Not to worry though, the venue does boast a few well-placed closed circuit flat screen TV’s, with perfect views of the stage. Of course, all this would not matter if you opt to purchase one of their VIP tables.
The first floor is the most expansive space. The main entrance and bar is a wonderful place to meet up with friends and purchase artist swag as you make your way into the venue. This floor does have VIP seating off to the right, but most of the space is standing room only close to the stage. If you arrive early, there is bench seating (first come first serve) which offers killer views of the stage.
The second floor is strictly for VIP’s. Katie and I spent most of our time on the third floor. The lounge atmosphere appealed to us. There is a small bar in the corner, tables along the wall and a few couches for comfort and conversation. Adding to the décor, a large walled fire display sits amongst the many hand painted murals and art pieces. The outside patio area offers bar tables and chairs and is a welcome escape from the crowd. It is a great area to enjoy a bite to eat and catch up with new friends.
Cocktails were one of the many highlights of the evening. Katie sampled the Ginger Rogers – a refreshing concoction of Hendricks’s Gin, mint leaves, R&D bitters and ginger citrus shrub soda. The drink was both strong and satisfying. However, I was not impressed with the craft beer selection. I guess being a beer snob I just expect every bar, club or restaurant in San Diego to have an expansive selection of local craft beers. I did however, enjoy my Red Trolley Ale from Karl Strauss. This beer never disappoints with just the right mix of hops, achieving a deep copper color, along with malty and toffee flavors.
Service and staff personality stood out. Our bartenders were engaging with us. Although super busy, they made the time to have conversation and connect with us. Shout out to Farrell (not sure if I am saying or spelling this correctly) – rushing food orders out, cleaning up spills and doing whatever needed to be done quickly and efficiently. Music Box is lucky to have employees like him that work so hard.
We arrived with plenty of time to catch both opening acts. Orphan, a New York rock guitar and drum rich band set the tone for the show. Zion I, an Oakland based rap/hip hop artist got the crowd fired up with his political and social message of peace and equality. His rhythms were well timed and highly relatable in today’s turbulent landscape. As cheesy as it sounds, we did have our hands up in the air waving them like we just didn’t care, and joined the crowd in unison shouting out “By the Bay” during Zion I’s performance of The Bay.
By the time Matisyahu took the stage, the smell of garlic truffle wavy fries and the sweet aroma of Mary Jane permeated the air. The sound of the drums and reverb could be felt deep in our chests as the music began to take hold. Although his lyrics were sometimes hard to understand, Matisyahu treated us to a variety of musical stylings – beatboxing and improvising on most of his most popular songs, creating something brand new. Most people had positioned themselves along the third-floor railing to get the best view of the stage. Unfortunately, Katie and I were busy enjoying our drinks outside on the patio while people were lining up and our view of the show was impeded by a sea of concert goers. We did manage to sneak a few peeks and pictures of the stage with a little maneuver we coined “railing shots.” This entailed using a yoga like squat – positioning ourselves between the legs of the unknown individual in front of us and snapping a few candid shots. Not our finest moment, but fun nevertheless.
Before the show, we met an artist named Jimmy Ovadia who travels with Matisyahu painting his masterpieces and drawing inspiration from the music and concert atmosphere. He told us he usually paints from the stage during the shows, which we both thought sounded awesome!
We are super stoked and grateful to have had the opportunity to see Matisyahu live and in concert. The venue was both sleek and stylish. The next time we enjoy a concert at Music Box, it will be from a VIP table on the second floor. We might even invite some friends down with us to enjoy the show. All in all, Katie and I were happy with the show and our concert experience, and would recommend checking out a show at Music Box as soon as possible.