Kishi Bashi wows at the Bluebird Theater

One-man wonder-band Kishi Bashi brought his violin, voice and loops to a sold-out crowd at the Bluebird in Denver on Tuesday night.

New solo artist and former Of Montreal member, Kishi Bashi has garnered a lot of recognition for his impressive debut album 151a, and that buzz showed as the packed crowd went wild when he walked on stage, never letting up from constant claps and cheers through the almost hour and a half set.

Known for live-looping his sounds, Kishi Bashi – who’s name is actually Kaoru Ishibashi – plays live violin notes and vocals lines, and then plays them back while playing something else on top, making it sound like he has a whole orchestra accompanying him. It allows for experimentation in what would otherwise be straight pop songs, and seeing it is truly awe-inspiring.

Ishibashi was full of energy, bouncing around the stage and bantering with the audience. He knew when to get serious though, such as on the balled “Atticus, In the Desert,” which proved his classically trained violin looping was no gimic. “I Am The Antichrist To You,” one of Ishibashi’s longer and slower songs was oddly a bigger hit with the crowd then his actual “hits,” which had the crowd slack-jawed at the beauty of Ishibashi on a dimly lit stage belting out a love song in falsetto, with just his perfectly played violin to accompany it.

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However Ishibashi didn’t do everything by himself. Success means being able to get help, and Ishibashi had two band members on stage, a banjo player and drummer –who used a fibula bone as a drumstick– to help on the more complex songs. The audience clapping beat actually provided the rhythm for a few songs, adding in the collective experience of this unrepeatable performance.

Of course Ishibashi played the hits, “Bright Whites” and “It All Began With a Burst,”which pleased the crowd, but what made this performance special was how he deviated from the expected script.

Ishibashi mislead the audience at one point, saying he was going to play a song he wrote in a “Van Morrison cover band,” instead bursting into a crazy cover of “Sail Away” complete with a giant balloon thrown into the crowd and a violin/banjo duel. When he announced in the encore he was going to do a cover, the audience cheered, expecting a cover of Beirut’s, “A Sunday Smile,” which he played for NPR and elsewhere, but instead they got a cover of U2’s “With Or Without You,” complete with a beatboxing interlude.

Ishibashi’s skills on the microphone continued with a equally baffling and hilarious cover of “Just the Tip.” He even stopped halfway through that one to mimic the crowd’s confused faces, asking if he should just “move on to bigger and better things,” but the crowd chanted for him to continue. He also premiered a new song, “Philosophize with it! Chemicalize in it!” which he wrote for a Japanese cellphone commercial and is on the charts over there. He joked that the Japanse “have a hard time with the title,” which is a mouthful, and announced the single will be on his upcoming EP.

He left the jokes aside as the show came to a close, ending on the beautiful “Manchester” and sending the concert-goers into the Denver night with a new understanding of how music can be played.

Contact CU Independent Editor-In-Chief Isa Jones at

Isa Jones

This is Isa's third year at CUI. She has served as a news reporter, entertainment reporter and Breaking News Editor. She is a senior news-editorial and English major. She has a fear of contracting scurvy and being trapped in walk-in freezers, but that rarely interferes with her reporting. Isa enjoys morning runs, whiskey sours, baseball and avoiding homework at all costs. Her goal is to be able to write and travel frequently and never work somewhere involving cubicles, synergy meetings or the phrase "9 to 5." (@theisajones)

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