by Holli Stephens
There wasn’t a moment where multi-instrumentalist K Ishibashi, otherwise known as Kishi Bashi, wasn’t smiling Friday night at the TLA. The artist had just come off a new album, Lighght, and whenever his name was brought up in an opening act, it was met by a craze of screams and claps. He excitedly told the audience, “We don’t have a show tomorrow. So it’s Friday night for real.”
Some artists like to have the audience experience a wide repertoire of genres throughout the night via their openers. Others bring in a more watered down version of themselves or a few singer solo acts. Ishibashi found the middle ground in bringing in bands Our Griffins and Buried Beds who kept everyone open-minded of what was yet to come.
Our Griffins actually makes you feel as if you are floating on air. For starters, lead vocalist DJ Brown has a voice comparable to Jack Johnson and has just the right amount of control in getting it to soar above the other instruments . I personally get excited whenever an upright bass is incorporated into sets and this was no exception. The baselines were powerful, but because they were for the most part played pizzicato, still added fluffiness and a softer vibe to the total sound. Personally, I would’ve liked to see a longer set, but from what I did hear, I could tell the band knew how to put on a good show.
Fans screamed as the sounds of Buried Beds warming up boomed from behind a projector screen. The Philadelphia natives were led by vocalists Brandon Beaver and Eliza Hardy. Between them and their accompanying band there was a violin, bass, guitar, keys, and drums—a very upbeat combination. It’s almost impossible to wrap your finger around what Buried Beds does, but experimental elements of pop, rock, and classical music seem to all prevail through. Their lyrics tell stories and the accompanying music narrates these quirky and inspiring tales like in “Wolf Confessor”, “Breadcrumb Trail”, and “Stars”. The band ended with their “love letter to the city” called “Begin Again”.
I think the hardest fact to grasp in Kishi Bashi’s set was that there were only three other musicians on stage with him. Eyes closed, it sounded like a symphony of violins and banjos.
Banjo-player Mike Savino who goes by the stage name of Tall Tall Trees accompanied Ishibashi for the first half of his set and it was the first time I’d ever seen someone use a bow on a banjo as if it were a violin. That was only the beginning of how the musician made his instrument multifunctional. A banjo is constantly associated with country and folk music, but I feel that Savino sees his instrument as an instrument. If drumming the head of a banjo produces a cool pitter-patter sound, then why not do it? Savino shows us that it doesn’t matter if a certain technique conforms to a certain genre, it’s all about innovation through finding different ways to produce sound.
A Kishi Bashi show in Philadelphia was long overdue as every song played was met by a craze of shouts of “I love you”, stomps, and claps. He began the set by looping the sounds of his violin and segued into “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!”.
Have you ever seen a violin/banjo duet where both musicians are looping their parts? There is a first time for everything and for those of you who have not, I highly recommend getting your world rocked.
That is not all Ishibashi can do. After that extravagant collaboration had subsided he proceeded to start beat-boxing while looping that, and then added another looped sound on top of that. When he sang, he alternated between distorting his voice to high and low pitches.
After “Q&E”, “Hahaha Pt. 1”, “Hahaha. Pt. 2”, and “Atticus, In the Desert” were performed Ishibashi told the audience he wanted to do a few solo numbers and excused his band. He introduced “Bittersweet Genesis for Him And Her” as a concept of Gaya and how everything from earth forms from this one entity.
Expect the unexpected at a Kishi Bashi show. Ishibashi dedicated “Manchester” to a couple who loved the song and did their proposal on stage as Ishibashi serenaded them.
The guy who was standing behind me seemed bummed as Ishibashi left the stage and I reminded him that there is always an encore. The whole crew of Kishi Bashi came back out to play “The Ballard of Mr. Steak”, a tremendous cover to Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”, and to wrap it all up, “It All Began With A Burst” during which a shower of confetti was sprinkled on the audience.