Kishi Bashi with Twain
October 3rd, 2016 at The Royale Nightclub
By: Dominic Yamarone
As we entered the Royale, which is typically a nightclub, the crowd seemed more oddly mellow and subdued. There was conversation here and there, and the pump-up music on the loudspeakers wasn’t overbearing. The venue itself was beautiful, with decorations that seemed appropriate for a Golden Age theater or concert hall. The crowd gathered in front of a small stage on the club’s dancefloor. There was no bad spot in the house and the furthest people from the stage were no more than ten feet away.
About an hour after doors, the opener, Twain, walked on stage, a single musician with a twelve string guitar. He was soft-spoken and looked like a southern George Harrison. As soon as he began to play, you could tell his music would not be slow or soft. It was going to be loud, and it was going to rock. He played screaming, high energy folk tunes with powerful lyrics. He made his guitar sing, playing it so hard he broke a string. Switching over to his electric guitar, he continued getting every ounce of sound out of it that he could. He was also very friendly and had some great banter with the crowd between songs, often joking about politics or telling stories from the tour.
Shortly after, Kishi Bashi took the stage. Kishi Bashi is the stage name of Karou Ishibashi, a classically trained violinist, who makes stunning dance and electropop songs. In his live performances, he is usually accompanied by Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, who plays a banjo in every way possible, and some other backing musicians. For this show, they performed with a drummer, cellist/guitarist, and a multi-instrumentalist who covered bass, flute, and pretty much any instrument you could think of. Seriously, this guy played a different instrument every song. This tour was timed along with the release of his new album, Sonderlust. The album title is a made up word built off of another imaginary word. Sonder, as defined by John Koenig’s, Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, is the realization that every stranger you meet has a life as complex as your own.
The band walked on with the Stranger Things theme playing, which fit their unique style of music fairly well. They started off the show with a somewhat underwhelming song off their new album and an acoustic version of their new single, “Hey Big Star.” I was mildly disappointed that they hadn’t started off strong, setting a mellow mood for the show. The next song proved me wrong entirely. They played “m’lover” a beeping, stuttering ballad with a climax which had the whole crowd dancing and screaming along with the band. From there on out, it seemed like every song he played had a similar effect on the crowd. Between songs he would often riff on his violin with Mike Savino on the banjo. They would play blues and folk songs face to face with the most intense focus until one of them made a mistake, drawing laughs from the crowd and performers.
Ishibashi also played some of his biggest songs off of his first two albums, 151a and Lighght. When he played “Bright Whites” off his first album 151a he looped his vocals and violin in three or four layers. He used these loops to improvise new parts of the song and even paused halfway through to set up a beat for the drop by looping his beatboxing. This song seemed to explode at its climax and everyone in the venue went crazy singing along. This was also true for when he played his fan favorite “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” off his second album Lightght, for which he actually brought out a man in a steak costume to dance on stage. During the break of this song he stage-dived into the crowd to retrieve a steak themed violin. Though it got off an unassuming start, this show had an absolutely wild energy until the final bow. There is no doubt that this was due to the showmanship of Kishi Bashi and the chemistry of his touring band. It’s a show that I’ve seen before, but every time is so different that I will see it as many times as I possibly can.