Photos and Review by Chandler Mays
Kishi Bashi and Tall Tall Trees played to a packed house this past Monday at 529, located in the heart of East Atlanta Village. When I walked in, I was both surprised and elated to find that the owners had recently knocked down the dividing wall in the showroom, joining 529 with the vacant area next door, thus more than doubling the space available from which to view the stage. With twice the space, and still noting the amount of people that attended this event on a Monday night, I knew I must have stumbled upon something special.
Mike Savino, the frontman for Tall Tall Trees, started off the night with a solo performance. Armed with only a banjo, he entreated the crowd to a handful of charmingly delicate folk songs. Using loop-pedals, he would create energetic rhythms by slapping on the front and sides of his banjo, then furiously strum through his set. Judging by the amount of hand claps interjected, the audience was definitely into it. The set had a minor problem during the first song when the microphone mysteriously cut off. Instead of stopping, Mike lifted his head and, with the enthusiasm of an opera singer, belted out the rest of the song a capella. A couple short whoops and hollers from the back signified that the audience was indeed still listening, and they appreciated his laid back reaction to the technical dilemmas at hand. It was this happy-go-lucky attitude that set a very spirited and cheerful tone for the rest of the night.
When I watched Kishi Bashi take the stage, I immediately noticed that his outfit was perfectly incongruous. Above the waste, he wore a white button-up dress shirt under a black tuxedo jacket, also buttoned up, and a fancy black ostrich feather adorned his frontside, stemming from the inner jacket pocket. Below the waste, he wore jeans and a pair of old, dirty sneakers. His upper-half signified that he would be serenading us with an ancient classical instrument: the violin. His lower-half, however, suggested that we were about to have some fun, and boy did we ever.
The rise of Kishi Bashi’s career began when he emerged as a touring musician with the likes of Regina Spektor and Of Montreal. He was then, through Kickstarter, able to raise the money to record his debut album, 151a, which is clearly the product of a highly talented musician, and has already become one of my favorite albums of the year. It is catchy like The Beatles, beautiful like The Shins, sunny like the Beach Boys, unconventional like Animal Collective, and ethereal like Jonsi. I’m not very surprised the album’s popularity is spreading quickly, but it did actually seemed to catch K Ishibashi off guard. At one point, he asked, “Is this a Monday night or a Friday night? This many people on a Monday? Do you guys have jobs?”
Kishi Bashi is a one-man band that orchestrates lush, deeply layered and complex avant-pop songs with no more than his violin, his voice, and a series of looping pedals. At the beginning of every song, we were able to observe as he pieced together each of the individual parts, brick by brick, until he ended up with an arrangement that you wouldn’t initially conceive to be created by one person. He would create beats with his mouth, loop it, then pluck his violin strings, loop it, then hum a sequence of notes, pitch-shift it, then loop it. He would play an achingly beautiful melody, double the speed, loop it, then play another melody on top. Once he gets past the first few layers, you start having trouble distinguishing between what’s being currently played, and what’s looped. After he’s created a dizzying whirlwind of sounds, he jumps right into the song, impressing you with his beautiful voice, which sounds somewhat relative to James Mercer or Zach Condon. Mike, from Tall Tall Trees, accompanied Kishi Bashi for much of his set, adding a delightful folkiness to the sound, and harmonizing along on vocals.
There wasn’t a sour moment to be found during the show, and I was also very pleased when Kishi Bashi treated us to a cover of “Sunday Smile” by Beirut, one of my favorite bands. The highlight of the night ended up becoming my favorite song on the album. His delivery of “I Am The Antichrist To You” made the hairs on my arm stand at attention. Chills were sent down my leg, and admittedly, a couple man-tears were shed. I can’t recommend this show enough, and thanks to the strong turnout, Kishi Bashi declared that he would be back to Atlanta soon. I advise you not to miss his next appearance.
Full Gallery after the jump…