Kishi Bashi / Tall Tall Trees – Mayday

I’ve been a semi-regular listener to NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast for years now and have discovered more than a few amazing bands from it.  One of my most recent and surprising discoveries is the music of Kishi Bashi (stage name of K. Ishibashi).  Podcast host Bob Boilen picked Kishi Bashi’s 151a as his favorite album from the first half of 2012 and I can’t disagree. Kishi Bashi’s music is lush with orchestral finesse and energetic whimsy.  When a friend made me aware of a him playing a free show at Cincinnat’s hipster watering hole Mayday I immediately put it on the calendar. Upon arriving at Mayday and having a few tasty microbrews my friend and I noticed Ishibashi setting up his merch table and milling about in the bar area with Mike Sevino of the opener Tall Tall Trees before soundcheck.  I always love to see musicians who don’t spend the pre-show time in a bus or greenroom.  It’s refreshing to see musicians who are just regular guys – regular guys with insane amounts of talent.

Tall Tall Trees frontman Mike Sevino took the stage first by himself.  He played a unique brand of bluegrass infused indie rock with a loop station and a banjo, creating a sound unlike any I’ve heard.  The crowd was still a little sparse, but filling in as the sounds made their way into the bar area.  His set was somewhat plagued by technical difficulties, which he shrugged off and trudged forward with a few self-depricating, playful jabs at himself and his gear.  Unflustered, he finished the majority of his set before inviting Kishi Bashi to join him for a climactic violin and banjo tune that had everyone in the crowd in a frenzy.

A few minutes passed before Kishi Bashi took the stage for his set.  He was joined by Sevino for the majority of it as the duo managed to make very convincing renditions of the complex songs from 151a and his EP Room For Dream.  Between the two of them they looped violin, banjo, bass, vocals, beat boxing, percussion and more.  It was truly a clinic in looping and a tribute to the mastery of arranging.  Kishi Bashi’s songs Bright Whites and Manchester were the clear standouts as Sevino even managed to sing harmony on the Japanese language parts of Manchester.  One of my favorite things about the stage at Mayday is that there is no exit except through the crowd, creating a sense of intimacy rarely felt as a show comes to it’s close and the first thing the band/artist does is step down into the crowd to greet the eager fans.

It’s rare to see that amazing of a show by such a talented musician and not have to pay a dime.  If you weren’t there you definitely should keep an eye out for the next time he comes through the tri-state area.

Brian Bruemmer
Brian Bruemmer