Photo: Andy DelGiudice
Photo: Andy DelGiudice

Kishi Bashi Pushes Boundaries at Sixth & I

Perhaps describing an artist as “original” isn’t…well, original. Maybe it’s a little cliché, too. But, in searching for how to describe Kishi Bashi, this is the truest word I found.

Kishi Bashi, known by name as Kaoru Ishibashi, melds violin with keyboard, guitar and drums to create a sound that’s both exuberant and intimate. He also incorporates the looping pedal, a digital sampling machine that layers sound, giving his music an electronic and ephemeral feeling. It’s the perfect base for his voice, which he blends into the instrumentation seamlessly.

Listening to him at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue this Monday, where he performed with indie banjo band Tall Tall Trees, I was transfixed. How did Kishi Bashi create such a unique musical style? And what about him was so incredibly striking? I think it’s about boundaries – and how his music ignores them.

Take his opener, “Philosophize it! Chemicalize It!” He performed the song with classical violin, but also slipped in some jazz. The song has a psychedelic quality to it, but is also strongly pop. The composition is bright and joyful, but also hauntingly nostalgic.

Or “Mr. Steak,” which he performed later in the set. Like “Philosophize It! Chemicalize It!,” the song opens with classical violin, but quickly transitions to electronic pop before shifting back to classical. The piece is a curious combination of different genres, fearless is its musical style.

The end of the show was the ultimate disruption of the norm. Kishi Bashi and crew went from stage to audience, performing their last few songs amidst the crowd. Without access to electricity, they were completely acoustic.

I swayed with other concertgoers and sang along as I watched from the balcony. It felt like attending a show at your friend’s house, surrounded by like-minded music lovers. At one point, Kisihi Bashi even handed his violin to an audience member to hold while he transitioned to guitar. It was a warm and personal end to the concert. Performing while surrounded by fans gave the sense that we were all a part of creating the music – that the boundaries between performer and listener were an illusion.

Kishi Bashi’s approach and style – “original,” through and through – offers a full-spectrum musical experience. I’ve never left a show feeling more uplifted and connected, both to the artist and to other concertgoers. He’s genuine, generous and unique; he’s an artist that you’ve got to see for yourself.

To learn more about Kishi Bashi and to view his upcoming tour dates, visit www.kishibashi.com.

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; 202-408-3100; www.sixthandi.org

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Jamie McCrary

Jamie McCrary is a writer, musician, and educator currently based in Washington, DC. As a journalist, she’s covered everything from science policy to statistics—though the arts is her specialty. She is currently Communications Coordinator for American University’s Kogod School of Business, where she writes articles to promote the school’s faculty, students and events. Ms. McCrary is published in NEA Arts Magazine, Connections Magazine, and Eat-Drink-Lucky. She holds a B.M. in viola performance and also maintains an active performing and teaching career. Learn more at mccraryjamie.wixsite.com/writer-editor/