Friday, July 27, 2012

Kishi Bashi Covers Beirut at Sold-Out Double-Header

"I'll be playing at Joe's Pub on July 26th, and I'll have a band.  Now I have to find a band 'cause I said it."  So foretold Kishi Bashi at Le Poisson Rouge in mid-May.  Tonight he commenced his summer tour with a sold-out double-header at Joe's Pub.  While his band only consisted of Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, K dazzled the crowd with his virtuosic violin skills and technological ingenuity.

Using delay pedals to loop material and concoct songs piecemeal onstage is not a new concept.  Keller Williams has been doing it for almost two decades.  Reggie Watts has made a comedy career from his improvisational looping.  What seems to make Kishi Bashi special is his instrument of choice: the violin.  Plucking on the strings with his fingers or playing it traditionally with a bow, K takes the instrument normally reserved for classical music and propels it into the future by processing the sound through various effects pedals: ramping the speed, shifting the pitch, making noise.  On top of that, he layers a series of percussive vocals.  And on top of that, sung in an octave-pogoing range, his optimistic and introspective lyrics.  If you're having trouble imagining this, or if you're not and it sounds awesome, check out his NPR Tiny Desk Concert below:

While I prefer my Kishi Bashi solo (or if we're being totally honest, fronting Jupiter One), the addition of Savino on banjo and backup vocals was at least interesting.  Also playing through a pedal board, his banjo went from serving as a bass drum when hit with a mallet to a white-noise generator when caressed with utensils.  A cacophony decayed into crickets and then crescendoed into something similar to THX's Deep Note.  The banjo complemented the violin best on "Bright Whites," the song taking on a bluegrass feel and the violin taking on its fiddle label.

The songs performed by Kishi Bashi alone, however, received the most applause.  After an exciting "It All Began with a Burst," K played the slower "I Am the Antichrist to You," introducing it as a love song with a status of "It's complicated."  Then he asked, "Who wants to be a guinea pig tonight?" before going into a cover of Beirut's "A Sunday Smile," which he prefaced by saying that he wasn't the greatest at it.  He flubbed a part halfway through, and exclaimed, "Shit!" before hopping back in over the sounds of mild laughter.

Which brings me to yet another layer of Kishi Bashi's performance: his humor.  The contrast of his complex music with his silly stage banter helps to humanize him from musical marvel into a funny friend.

On the temperature of the room: "Is it really hot in here, or is it just really hot in here?"
On a sound issue with Savino that caused a small hold-up: "We're losing sales, man."
On instructing the crowd to sing the Japanese part of a song: "It's so easy; it's just another language."

For the encore, Kishi Bashi unveiled a very different version of Jupiter One song "Turn Up the Radio," barely using his pedals at all, trading out the original synth-y song for a somber dirge.  After enlisting the audience to sing on what was supposed to be the last song, "Manchester," K couldn't help but be overtaken by the room's energy and segue into "Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons," the only track he had yet to play from his album.

As I was leaving the venue, I overheard a woman say, "He's like a drug."  While that might be an overstatement, I am going to see Kishi Bashi for my third time this year on September 20th.  Maybe I just have trouble admitting that I have an addiction.


Highwire / Alaska / Wake the Moon / Nothingless / Waiting on the Day

KISHI BASHI – 07.26.12 – JOE’S PUB (LATE SHOW) (1 hour, 16 minutes)

Intro > Pathos, Pathos / Atticus, In the Desert / Wonder Woman, Wonder Me / Beat the Bright Out of Me > Conversations at the End of the World / Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / It All Began with a Burst / I Am the Antichrist to You / A Sunday Smile / Bright Whites

Turn Up the Radio / Manchester > Chester’s Burst Over the Hamptons

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