By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jul 01, 2008 at 9:55 AM

Last night was the fifth night of Summerfest, and the 29th birthday of Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, who headlined the Miller Lite Oasis in front of a massive crowd. The birthday coincidence was good timing for a Summerfest show because it contributed to the already raging party vibe. (I haven’t smelled that much reefer in the air since Jerry died. Seriously.)

About halfway through the almost two-hour performance, a stagehand brought out a birthday cake and got the audience to sing the "Happy Birthday" song. Although Matisyahu kissed him on the mouth in appreciation, he went on to say, "The Torah says the candle is the soul of God and you should not blow it out, but I’m making a wish."

Matisyahu, along with his five-piece band, blew through a dozen numbers, including "Chop ‘Em Down," the crowd-pleasing "Jerusalem," "Moonlight Twilight," "Time of Your Song," "Lord Raise Me Up" and new songs "I Will be Light" and "So High, So Low."

He also belted out "Slap Me Daft," an autobiographical song about the lack of real-life knowledge provided by conventional high schools and a warning against drugs and alcohol use. "Substance dulls the mind / Traife wine clouds the heart / You can't sew a stitch with one hand / While you're taking it apart."

This song was well received by the crowd, many of whom were young, white teenagers and twentysomethings combined with a fair share of Matisyahu look-alikes. When Matisyahu played at The Pabst Theater last summer, the crowd was more diverse, with a representation of Jewish families and older, die-hard reggae fans peppering the mix.

Matisyahu, born Matthew Paul Miller, is a Hasidic Jew and therefore does not perform on Friday nights to observe the Sabbath. He wears traditional Hasidic clothing, including a yarmulke on his head and massive beard. During last night’s show he donned a white cotton shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes. Towards the end of the gig, he invited hundreds of fans on stage with him -- calling out "Security, we need more people up here! Yo! Yo! Yo!" -- and when the stage cleared, Matisyahu was left wearing a backwards Packers cap in place of his yarmulke.

Matisyahu promised the crowd a new album this fall or winter. Currently, he has two studio albums and one live album.

The unique combination of devout Jew and reggae superstar makes Matisyahu a fascinating anomaly. His signature stiff, nerdy dancing combined with tremendous beat box abilities and reggae songs that rival his Jamaican counterparts are a seemingly unlikely combination. Still, most critics and fans agree that Matisyahu is the real deal. In 2006, Billboard named him the top reggae artist of the year.

Numerous times throughout the performance, Matisyahu called out for "Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace!" (Perhaps this was his birthday wish.)

Last night’s show was powerful and energized, although it didn’t hold a candle to his aforementioned performance last year where Matisyahu was able to offer more music and more psychedelic stage lighting and affects. Plus, fans received more of a genuine feel from where Matisyahu is coming from and a deeper sense of his spirituality.

But that didn’t matter last night.

The band grinned from ear-to-ear for the entire show -- clearly having a blast -- and Matisyahu never stopped moving his body and mouth while the audience maintained classic Summerfest form: falling off benches, pumping arms into the air and imbibing like the world was ending.

Spirituality, schmirituality.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.