Review: Guster with Kishi Bashi

By Lindsay Kosma Photos by Kurt Shackelford

Aprill 22, 2015

It’s not a made up name. Kaoru Ishibashi performs under his pseudo-real-name and, well, wouldn’t you? From the beginning, Seattle native Kishi Bashi was sharply focused on putting on a great show, a goal he exceeded at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC on Monday.

He leapt into place onstage, donning a leather vest that he later explained was given to him by Luke Reynolds (a member of Guster) on Reynolds’ birthday so he deemed it a negative-birthday gift.

Kishi Bash photo by Kurt Shackelford

The show began with the confident and resonant melody of his violin, which permeated playfully into the crowd and so captured everyone’s attention until his instrument was the only sound to be heard.

Because Ishibashi was so animated, you hardly noticed his foot directing the loop pedal as harmonies began to fold seamlessly into the music. He played this way, resembling a cinematic composition and sans beat, just long enough to evoke contemplation of the meaning of life. The sound grew fuller and abruptly: beat boxing?! Electronic sounds? Multi-octave variations?! His music sprang to life and was not confined by any style or genre, though you could clearly hear influences from his classical background.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

This melting pot of sound continued throughout his set and included ukulele-style use of his violin in “Atticus in the Desert.” He performed several songs from his most recent album Lighght, including “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!” and “Bright Whites.”

“It is an epic tale. I hate saying my songs are epic, but I can call it “an epic” since it is pretty long,” he joked of his refreshing and intelligent poetic narrative titled “Bittersweet Genesis for Him and Her.”

The night continued on with a performance that was an inspired, energetic, and provoking display of immense talent. He really jazzed up the crowd when he hilariously performed “The Ballad of Mr. Steak.”

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

“It’s actually a pretty popular song in Japan,” Ishibashi said. “I went to a karaoke bar after performing in Tokyo and ‘Mr. Steak’ was on the machine. I was so surprised! There, they rate you on things like pitch and rhythm and I couldn’t get past 84%. I tried twice.”

It is clear why this natural performer has toured with the likes of Regina Skeptor and of Montreal. Currently on his East Coast tour with Guster. Kishi Bashi brings an element to performance that is unmatched, creating technical compositions using only his violin and the robust library of sounds he can create with his mouth.

Ryan Miller photo by Kurt Shackelford

Then there was Guster. Equipped with a mug of what I assume is tea, Ryan Miller walked over to his xylophone on center stage and the audience erupted. As one of the original members since 1991, he has contributed impressively to the band singing lead vocals, backing vocals, and playing guitar, bass, piano, banjo, harmonica, ukulele, and keytar.

Joining Miller on stage were original band members Adam Garner and Brian Rosenworcel, as well as longtime member Luke Reynolds, all with their own profound list of instrumental contributions which they rotated through during the performance.

“How y’all doin’ tonight?” Miller asked. “It’s Luke’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Luke.” The crowd went absolutely wild with every word uttered from the stage and it was clear that the audience was packed with long-time fans. “We are going to play a bunch of songs from a lot of different albums for y’all tonight. Ya ready?” Cue the loudest uproar from the crowd thus far.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

They aptly began the set with “Long Night” off of their new album. The ambient guitar sounds and xylophone coupled with the lyrics evoke deep and understandable emotion. The chorus, indicative of the vulnerability that has garnered the loyalty of the fans that filled the Fillmore this night, goes: “How many times I’ve wished for change / Gave up, gave in, and called it fate / Repeating all of the same mistakes / Wasn’t ready for what I’d find.” It’s a seamless example of the type of raw, acid-soaked chamber-pop that is their newly evolved style.

Throughout the evening Guster played several other songs from the Richard Swift-produced Evermotion. They also peppered in some older tunes that they didn’t need to announce for the crowd to recognize and sing along.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

Since the early 90s, Guster has produced music that echoes their personal, yet relatable, journey through life and through the years they have continue to inspire and innovate. Today, they bring a new flavor to an old favorite.

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