Kishi Bashi at Lincoln Hall | Photos and review
Instead of spending all that money on Hallmark Cards every year, guys should watch how Kishi Bashi does Valentine’s Day: The sold-out crowd at Lincoln Hall fell in love with his virtuosic blend of originality and depth (with a handful of tacky Valentine’s confetti thrown in for good measure).
After a solid opening by Plume Giant, a goofy Brooklyn-based folk act with promising harmonies, the porcupine-headed Bashi strolled onstage. There were some concerns in the audience regarding the state of his voice, which he had earlier declared tenuous via Twitter; but all worries were dispelled once he opened his mouth. Flanked by banjo player (and Zach Galifinakis lookalike) Mike Savino and drummer Elizabeth Ziman, Bashi launched immediately into his set to Champagne-augmented cheers.
What makes Bashi so incredible live is how easily he treads between familiarity and reinvention. While his soaring falsetto and sleek violin pulls made it easy to identify his Lincoln Hall opener, the live version of “Pathos, Pathos” sounded like it was coming from a completely different planet. Bashi’s mastery of the looping station is often compared to that of fellow alt-violinist Andrew Bird. However, Mother Jones nailed their artistic differences by likening Bashi to “what would happen if Bird overdosed on Adderall.” Like Bird, Bashi used loops to enrich his audio onstage, from crafting intricately layered violin soundscapes to plucking out clever little riffs. But Bashi’s loops were brighter than Bird’s are; sometimes they were too bright, like when chipmunk trills cut through “It All Began with a Burst.” But more often his efforts succeeded—for instance, during a neat reimagining of “Atticus, in the Desert,” Savino thumped out a wooden rhythm on his banjo while Bashi tossed in some impromptu layered beat boxing.
Bashi is not just sonically flashy—pink smoke filled much of Lincoln Hall with a kitschy fog throughout the act, and streams of bubbles issued from a machine balanced on the drum set. Bashi complemented his bright white spikes with a Valentine's-appropriate red rose boutonniere and sparkling bowtie. At times the V-Day schtick might have seemed a little over-the-top, but the audience ate it up. After one excited blond woman received a rose from Bashi himself, she planted a spontaneous kiss on my cheek. “He’s amazing,” she gushed.
Two very different songs stood out in the set. “Bright Whites” was upbeat and sugary, while “I am the Antichrist” was darker—a Valentine’s Day jam for grownups. After he finished tossing chocolates to fans, another female fan expressed bittersweet frustration for her unrequited love. “Why can’t he be my valentine?” she asked the crowd, which didn’t answer; most of it was already queued up to take pics with the star.