Kishi Bashi wows in Athens

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Kishi Bashi performing at the Georgia Theatre.

Kaoru Ishibashi, the brainchild behind Kishi Bashi, gently said to the crowd assembled in the Georgia Theatre on March 22. “This one is more chill.”

The college students, more prepped for music on the rough and raucous side, take a series of deep breaths – mental conditioning for a Kishi Bashi song from the new album, Lighght. The song glimmers with percussive violin, electronic beats and the deep sonority of Ishibashi’s voice. His music is a gift of light – a lullaby to life and its intrinsic beauty – with song titles such as “Bright Whites,” “It All Began With a Burst” and “Wonder Man, Wonder Me.”

Ishibashi has been touring with Regina Spektor, Sondra Lerche and, in recent years, Of Montreal. A classically trained and renowned violinist, Ishibashi serves up a unique musical expression that has been classified as indie pop, psychedelic pop and experimental electronic music. Though he has been compared to Andrew Bird, his music stands on its own.

In 2012, Ishibashi released his first album, 151a, and in the same year Microsoft and Sony used two of his songs in commercials. Ishibashi took the stage in a ski mask as the crowd chanted, “Kishi/ Bashi/Kishi/Bashi.” His band produced a cohesive sound, complementing Ishibashi, who was calm yet sprightly. Sipping a whiskey cocktail, he multitasked between the demands of his violin and filling the venue with his booming voice. Throughout the concert, a woman on stage in a billowy dress pruned plastic trees and released balloons into the audience, unleashing a giant balloon toward the show’s end. Donning his ski mask again, Ishibashi jumped into the crowd, a plastic scepter grasped in his hand. Crowd surfing until he reached the balloon, he burst it with the scepter – sending a sea of confetti into the audience.

The concert was a highlight of the annual Athens Slingshot Music and Arts Festival, running this year from March 19-22, in the community that is home to the University of Georgia. Downtown Athens was buzzing with activity. Cookie shops remained open until 3 a.m. and streets were packed thick with bars of all kinds. Smoke shops, costume emporiums and vintage stores anchor the city. Coffee shops and creperies moonlight as bars, with drink prices that are reasonable – $3 a pop at most venues.

The Southern vibe of the city was strong, with flowery, bright clothing in vogue. Many of the men were decked out in Hawaiian shirts as Athens breathed in the welcome spring weather. Ishibashi, meanwhile, played “Manchester,” he said, “to usher in spring.”

It started with a word,

and it started pretty well

about a rare and fragile bird that I couldn’t even spell

on the table I think I left it on the table …

I found the last page in the sky cold and sweet, like an apple

Lighght will be released on May 15 by Joyful Noise Recordings.


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