Hot off the release of the breathtaking Omoiyari, Kishi Bashi and company delivered an equally breathtaking performance at an intimate 300-capacity church in Portland.
Since releasing his first solo EP in 2011, Kishi Bashi (the stage name of Kaoru Ishibashi) has been making some of the most thought-provoking, intricate music in the indie pop world today. A multi-instrumentalist but known first and foremost for his acrobatics on the violin, Kishi Bashi has a distinctive style all his own (the only even somewhat close comparison to Andrew Bird fails to take into account all but the broadest strokes of either musician’s work). He released his most recent album, Sonderlust, last year, and his tour for the album at the time brought him to the DC area at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. Last week he came back to town, playing the much more intimate setting of Sixth and I, where he had previously played with a string quartet in early 2015.
When it comes to stringed instruments, guitars dominate the world of pop music, and it is unusual for the violin to take central focus. Yet for Kishi Bashi (the stage name of K Ishibahsi, who is classically trained in the instrument), it’s the implement of choice. It is perhaps for this reason that his songs lend themselves so well to adaptation to a more classical form. Washington, DC witnessed this transformation last Thursday, when Ishibashi came to the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue to play a show backed by a string quartet.
From the opening strains of “Manchester” from his first album 151a, the audience knew that they were in for a special evening. While many attempts to adapt popular music to classical form fall quickly into the sort of music that one might expect to hear in an elevator or a grocery store, there was none of that at this performance