Hobo’s go to shows. LOTS of shows. There are sit-downs, stand-outs, sell-outs and sold-outs. We’re trying a new thing here, a review of multiple shows by the same artist in different cities. This could be a terrible idea or a terrific idea. Premise is, I’m always curious how shows might be before I purchase tickets myself. How is it setup so I know not to stand in certain areas, are there blind spots, what kind of crowd does the artist draw, did they sound good? I’ve seen some truly terrible shows and man, I am done with spending my money on those artists. Choosing Kishi Bashi was easy. I’ve seen him before, he’s a hobo fave and I knew a bunch of people would be seeing him so there would be plenty of material. Let’s begin…
Front row balcony, for to see all the things
If there’s one thing I learned from the first Kishi Bashi show that I went to a year ago, it’s that Kishi Bashi fans LOVE Kishi Bashi. And it’s reciprocated. You WILL dance. It’s just going to happen, so be prepared. The energy is infectious and the music is so, so good. The whole band is great and the playing that happens between Kishi and Tall Tall Trees is so much fun to watch. The Metro itself is a love it or hate it type venue, personally, I love it. The love is based on two things, knowing where to stand and bringing earplugs because it can be unnecessarily loud. No shame in earplugs folks, save your eardrums.
I took a friend who decided to go in all virgin ears to the show. Now normally taking someone to a show is risky, taking someone that hadn’t even listened to his music???? Not risky at all, actually. The music is fun and accessible. My friend must have been massively amused when each song would begin and I would turn and go, “oooooh, I LOVE this song.” Seriously, I’m a dork. I was thrilled with the tempo of the show. Songs from his first album 151a to his second Lighght, really meshed well and the show was incredibly well-rounded.
My only meh of the whole thing was the set design onstage. It seemed….unnecessary and only served to block the view of those on the floor that were in the sides. It was low-budget and basic. Takeaway here is don’t stand on the sides, even if you’re front row.
Iowa City, IA
Stood about 3 people back from stage, in front of Daniel.
The Mill is an odd venue. It felt like a family restaurant with booths turned into dive bar with low ceilings that happened to have some floor space for a stage, so they set up a low one, which meant unless you were standing up front, you really had no chance of seeing anything. We happened to be passing through Iowa for sandwich reasons, so we were happy to another reason to be in the state. This show marked my first time hearing a good chunk off Lighght, and seeing the expanded band with Daniel Brunner on bass/keyboard, and Phillip Mayer on drums. The new songs sounded very danceable, and it was amazing seeing K and Tall Tall Trees spazz out on a cover of “Live and Let Die.” They also drank anything people gave them. K also nearly got hit by a ceiling fan when he surfed the crowd. This show made me stoked to see them in June in NYC.
The Bowery Ballroom
New York, NY
Stood at stage, between K and TTT
The Bowery Ballroom is my favorite venue to catch a show, with a good combination of size, quality sound, and ease of access. This time I brought one of my besties, Hannah, who really fell in love with Kishi Bashi after I gave her some music. We made sure to get there early and stand by K and Tall Tall Trees, who seem to enjoy the best bromance ever. We got a great, energetic set complete with plenty of dancing, confetti, and a bizarre elderly contortionist named the Amazing Amy. After the show, Hannah and I caught up with Tall Tall Trees outside and he was pretty psyched to hear about my sandwich trips. We were so happy that even the messed up subway ride home couldn’t wipe the silly grins off our faces.
The 930 Club is something of a legendary venue. Artists consistently name it their favorite nightclub to play in the country in Pollstar’s annual vote, and that love is usually on display whenever an artist takes the stage. Kishi Bashi was no exception on Sunday night. Clearly stoked to have sold out a venue he holds in such high esteem (and on the same night as Andrew Bird played two blocks away!), his set was peppered with comments and stories about his previous visits to the venue and praise for the club staff and crowd, and his playing was full of vim and vigor. As the infectious “Bright Whites” moved into its balaeric second act, Kishi grabbed a microphone to lay down a percussive beat box he could loop and then play over. He had trouble finding a groove he wanted, and before long he’d interwoven several layers of acoustic manipulation for a really cool effect not dissimilar to acapella techno. This went on for a few moments before he cut the music and asked the crowd whether anyone had just gotten that on video. “If you did, could you please upload that to Youtube? That was pretty cool and I can probably use it for something else later.” Highlights of the set included the brilliant on-stage collaboration with Tall Tall Trees, the wacky randomness of a woman entering from stage left to feed the drummer from a string of grapes mid-song, and the wonderful balance of beauty and whimsy reflected in every Kishi song.
Beyond the music, three things about this particular show really stood out. The first was the reverence of the crowd. DC audiences are notorious for going to shows to see and be seen at a premiere venue and not necessarily to listen to music. I can’t count the number of times an audience chats away during an emotionally-charged moment of a set. It’s maddening. That was completely absent from this show. From the moment Kishi arrived on stage, the audience was locked in on every moment and as things toned down for Kishi to lay down a beautiful violin loop, there was not a peep from the crowd. That’s respect. Second was Kishi’s infectious personality, which he injects into both his playing and his playful banter with the crowd. Various points in the show saw Kishi chanting “DC! Metro!” to create a sped-up vocal loop, leaping into the audience to crowd surf (an exercise that went hilariously wrong when the crowd enthusiastically carried him to the back of the venue), and leading a group sing-a-long of “Mr. Steak”. The second thing that stood out was the sequencing of the set itself. The new tracks off of Lighght really meshed aesthetically with older songs much better than I expected. And though there were several crowd favorites interspersed early in the night, Kishi really saved the best for last, with a haunting rendition of “Manchester” leading into a short break before a brilliant encore of a cover of the Wings classic “Live and Let Die” and a frenetic “It All Began With a Burst”, as fitting an end to a night of celebration as any song about new beginnings could be.