6/3/14 – The Sinclair

As opener Buried Beds finished their tastefully melodic and fun(ny) set, co-frontman Brendan Beaver gave headliner Kishi Bashi a deserved introduction: “…and next comes Kishi freakin’ Bashi,” he riffed, improvising most of his dialogue while remaining honest and emphatic. Buried Beds was good, a great opener, but the mildly geeky audience, chattering about things like aerospace engineering, behavioral psychology, and whether giraffes or rhinos have more mass, was here for violin virtuoso and singing angel Kaoru Ishibashi (the man behind Kishi Bashi). Or, excuse me, Kaoru freakin’ Ishibashi.

First, let me clear the air: Kishi Bashi is a badass. He’s a “renowned violinist” who has shared both his musical virtuosity and his incredible creativity with audiences in three studio albums, the most recent being Lighght (pronounced “light”), released in 2014. He played a good mix of old and new, popular and budding, tunes. It was invariably upbeat; pop-y but idiosyncratic; filled with pitch-perfect falsetto and every variety of violin loop imaginable. Ishibashi would riff. Improvise. Record. Layer four or eight bar tracks only to double the speed, then halve it, creating textures I’d never felt. Only occasionally did it devolve into a mess of unidentifiable sound, and only occasionally was that a nuisance. Otherwise, the innate excitement of this live, unconventional, and (relatively) spontaneous music-making method carried the show. Ishibashi knows how to wrangle the fiddle so well that 50 percent of his sound sounds nothing like the instrument, for better or for worse.

Three musicians accompanied Ishibashi on stage: one pretty ordinary bassist, one very ordinary drummer, and one slightly strange banjoist. The bass and drums were unspectacular, but laid a foundation of normalcy for Kishi Bashi to manipulate. The banjo player, more often than not, opted for the unfamiliar—he changed octaves, altered distortion levels, and played ripping melodies. Songs often climaxed with the man hammering the body of the banjo like a timpani. (I’m glad the instrument’s still intact.)

Although I’m sure Kishi Bashi could slay a dragon with his violin, he’s a humble dude. He acted like one of us, a listener, would. He laughed and stumbled through stage banter, talking (yes, talking) with the audience. He was clumsy at worst and endearing at best, but fun throughout. The fourth wall was broken once Kishi Bashi, given a banana by a manager or roadie and then being told to eat it while crowd surfing, leapt onto outstretched hands while enjoying his fruit and adrenaline. He didn’t finish the banana, instead inadvertently sharing a piece with a lucky (or not-so-lucky) audience member. “Don’t eat that, please,” he asked afterward.

The most entertaining songs of the evening were the ones interwoven with melodies and loops. “Philosophize With it! Chemicalize With it!”, the set’s opening number, set the night’s fun mood. Tunes like “Carry On Phenomenon” and “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” followed suit. Subtract an out-of-place “Live and Let Die” cover, and the setlist would have neared greatness. Pulsing, uptempo new songs were balanced by slower (though no less energetic) classics, namely “Manchester” and “I Am the Antichrist to You.” Sprinkle in a few improvisations, a few funny stories, and a lot of smiles, and you have yourself a concert.

Looping Violins and Loopy Smiles: Kishi Bashi
Pros
  • Creative (great use of loop station)
  • Humanizing interaction with audience
  • Great opening band
Cons
  • Occasionally too much loop and not enough foundation
  • "Live and Let Die" cover (his own material is good enough)
8.5Overall Score

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