Sailing away with Kishi Bashi at Great American Music Hall

Kishi-BashiPhotos by Mike Frash // Written by Kevin Raos //

Kishi Bashi with Tall Tall Trees //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
February 27, 2013 //

After releasing one of the top albums of 2012, it was hard not to have high expectations going into Kishi Bashi’s Tuesday night show at the Great American Music Hall. K Ishibashi, a blossoming solo artist who has adopted Kishi Bashi as his artistic moniker, made his full-length debut last year with 151a after years of touring with musicians such as Regina Spektor and Of Monteal, to name a couple.

K’s solo material is vibrantly upbeat and refreshing, and he has already been commissioned for numerous commercials. A virtuosic violin player, Kishi Bashi’s solo approach makes you wonder how the songs could be translated in a live setting. With the use of a looper and his own voice, both beatboxing and singing, K was able to recreate the layered complexity of 151a while still allowing enough room for exploration.

It cannot be stated enough just how good Kishi Bashi is at violin. His skills were on marveling display as he would effortlessly shred up and down the fret board, creating a cascade of sound akin to a De Beers commercial. After creating basic song structures with his looper, K is able to orchestrate an ascending symphony of violins. This unparalleled sound establishes a fascinating dichotomy between a boisterous blend of classical and contemporary, bridging the past with the present.

With the intermittent help of two other musicians, opening act Tall Tall Trees on the space banjo and Elizabeth Ziman on percussion and keyboard, K Ishibashi was able to create a thick sound at times without the aid of the looper. Don’t expect a carbon copy of his album live; the inclusion of Tall Tall Tree’s banjo lends a bluegrass sense to the live versions of Kishi Bashi’s music.


With only one full-length album and one EP under his belt, it was clear that K would need to add a little extra to his repertoire to satiate the audience. Boy did he not disappoint. Kishi Bashi played nearly his entire catalogue of songs this night at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. In addition to his two albums, K pulled out two covers during the show, Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” and U2’s “With of Without You.” “Orinoco Flow” was a clear evening highlight, and featured an extended jam/hoedown in which K and Tall Tall Trees dueled back and forth before finally segueing into “Bright Whites,” one of Kishi Bashi’s most popular tunes.

K’s friendly banter with the audience was a welcome contrast to the inflated egos many musicians possess. He mentioned his rising popularity in Japan for a commercial song he wrote called “Philosophize in it! Chemicalize with it!” “It’s charting,” he added with a smile.

He seems like an approachable person, someone you could have a beer with after the show, even with his recent success and growing popularity. Even when up on stage, you could feel the humbleness and kindness in his heart, something that does not come through with many musicians. In fact, he announced an after party at a nearby bar, and K challenged the audience to get him drunk by saying he was the designated driver.

As K mentioned toward the end of the evening, he has come a long way in his brief solo career. Kishi Bashi opened for Of Montreal at Slim’s in March 2012, and one short year later he has sold out Great American Music Hall. K earned this full circle moment by producing a classic album that he recreates sublimely live.

Intro/Pathos, Pathos
Atticus, in the Desert
Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived
Wonder Woman, Wonder Me
Chester’s Burst Over The Hamptons
Beat the Bright Out of Me
Conversations at the End of the World
I Am the Antichrist to You
Philosophize in It! Chemicalize With It!
Orinoco Flow (Enya cover)
Hoe Down
Bright Whites
It All Began With a Burst

With or Without You (U2 cover)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: