by Tiffany Taylor
Kishi Bashi, along with Twain, was a perfect pairing to bring us into fall this Tuesday at Union Transfer. The atmosphere at the venue produces something that is unlike anything I typically feel at a concert. Everything felt warm and light-hearted with the room filling at a slow and quiet pace. As I crept my way to the front, Twain came center stage; just himself and his guitar. What is truly remarkable about Kishi Bashi and his team is they welcome people like Twain and The Last Bison to accompany him on tour. He takes bands from Virginia and more prominently Hampton Roads, where he is from, to stand by his side. For someone like myself, who is from Southern Virginia, I take pride in the idea that people with this magnitude of talent come from the place I was born.
The lights dim and things grow moderately quiet as Twain, also known as Mat Davidson, takes the floor. He is raw and pure and explosive. His music can be best described as a blend of folk/indie with a country twist. For someone to come on stage and captivate a crowd the way Davidson does is every kind of impressive. By the second song, he had me feeling every word he said: “Learn to love the part of yourself you hated for so long.” His guitar playing was impeccable, with everyone in the crowd in awe and memorizing the plucks and strums of each note. All we needed was him and his guitar- the rest he delivered with wild and an outpouring of emotion and charisma. The lyrical content was so personal and relatable- he drew each person in with honesty, whether it was motivated by love or pain.
About halfway through his set, he plays “Old Blue,” switching to the acoustic guitar and had a much more light and airy quality. He carries into the next songs strong and like a forceful wind. Themes of lost love and acquaintances with death pose a realness and intimate quality with Davidson that comes effortlessly. The entire performance had such a coffee house-esque to it because of the solitary and contained moments we were given. A member from the crowd even asked that he play “Good Old Friend” and Davidson easily agreed; the crowd interaction was easy and thoughtful. He ended with a mix between an a capella and light guitar, a song that breathed the words: “Take me home or leave me alone, set my mind at ease…” it was beautiful. It was stunning. It left the crowd loving Twain.
I remember thinking to myself: ‘It’s 9:45 pm on a Tuesday, when the hell is Kishi Bashi going to come on?’ It almost had me feeling it wasn’t worth it, until at 11:30 pm I realized I had stayed the entire show through the encore. Kishi Bashi is a one of a kind musician who incorporates modern day orchestral instruments and electronics into his style.
The group entered the stage and the first thing I thought was: “Technicolor Orchestra!” There were so many bright lights and colors flooding the room it was as if we just had been brought to life. He opened with “Statues in a Gallery” which set the tone for a huge, awakened dance party. He follows into “Hey Big Star” on the keyboard with vocals that are pure, clean, and ethereal. There was so much banter between the group on stage, it made the entire thing feel so relatable and laid back because it was presented so low key.
Mike Savino is quite possibly the most bad-ass banjo player I have ever been in the presence of. During “Atticus, in the Desert” he delivers the a percussion solo on the banjo (something I have never seen before) and it was insane. Savino even passed around the remote to the banjo through the crowd so everyone had the opportunity to play with the colors and speed throughout the performances, which was completely awesome in itself.
“Bright Whites” included a flute solo by Daniel Brunner which he specifically learned for the Sonderlust tour. Ibashi is an innovative art genius and his newest album truly reflects that; delivering his art as more than just a performance. He moves into “Who’d You Kill” which is full of jazz and blues qualities that definitely sets a vibe for the rest of the evening. He even adds in a midway violin solo which is totally bad-ass and then sits back down to play keys as if it was nothing.
Everything aligns in perfect harmony: the bass, cello, drums, keys, banjo, and violin. He uses so many intricacies and delicate moments to transcend the crowd into another element.
Towards the end of the show, he played songs from Sonderlust such as “Can’t Let Go, Juno” and “Say Yeah” which are super ’80s dance tracks that got everyone moving. The progression of the crowd was remarkable, by the end almost everyone was jumping and dancing in some fashion. All of a sudden a dark, cello intro begins and he sings “I Am the Antichrist to You,” a cover song that highlighted a cello and violin solo aligned with Ibashi’s angelic voice. A perfect counteraction to that song was “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” which literally included a person in a giant steak costume and Ibashi diving into the crowd to grab a steak inspired violin- one word: WILD.
“It Began With a Burst” included a vocal loop of everyone saying “Don’t Vote for Trump.” He used an awesome device to record and create things on stage that made the performance even more personable. The show ended with three encore songs and a ton of confetti; I was left feeling overjoyed and I believe everyone else did too. Thank you Kishi Bashi and Twain, Union Transfer will not forget you!