Kishi Bashi Celebrates Oregon's Big Day

Vortex Music Magazine

As fate would have it, the classically trained, beatboxing, live looping violinist's joyous set at the Wonder Ballroom on May 19 celebrated his own brand of effervescent pop as well as marriage equality for all Oregonians.

The stage last night at the Wonder Ballroom was set for a wedding. With sheer white linen draped across the front of the stage and billowing from the rafters above, the glowing lights from within the fabric emanated a warmth, beckoning you to gather round the hearth that was the center of Kishi Bashi's stage.

In the moments before the bow-tied band took the stage, small children darted across the room, burning off energy in the wide open space at the rear of the ballroom—as each tiny sneaker ricocheted off the wooden floorboards, little red LEDs would flash anticipating the carefree merriment about to ensue.

Then, the wedding band—fronted by a violin playing rock star who sings while looping his plucks, bow vibrations and falsetto vocals (all of which are frequently sped up to a chipmunk's pace)—took the stage, and Kishi Bashi started belting out his chirps and chirrups, violin squeaks and high-pitched singsong, beginning with the first single from his new record Lighght (pronounced simply as light).

Full of violin bows and plucks and angelically layered vocals, the complexity of the opening "Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!" started hands clapping, sent confetti flying and raised voices on high.

To create this impressive layering, even with three musicians backing him, there are a lot of moving pieces in Kishi Bashi's live setup. From looping pedals not looping when asked, a broken violin string on just the third song of the set (and the first one in three years), and the waning nine-volt battery dilemma (Bashi offered the dead one to an audience member as a souvenir), it was far from a flawless evening. Yet, Portland celebrated the imperfections, idiosyncrasies, improvisations and differences because that's what you do when the music moves you. When you love someone, you celebrate him or her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. You offer encouragement when he stumbles and cheer when she soars.

While these unexpected bungles might've cast a shadow over another performance or performer, it couldn't of mattered less to the Portland crowd, or Bashi himself who was heard to blurt something about it being the most amazing show ever. Flaws are what make us all human, and just when you thought Portland couldn't be anymore infatuated, Kishi Bashi drew the biggest cheers of the night introducing a new song as the main set wound down.

"Wait, you guys had a big day today!" he exclaimed, continuing that he had performed the next song for OPB earlier that afternoon, but apparently the noon broadcast was pushed because the station had something more important to air. Amending the title of the song to "Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her or Him AND Him or Her AND Her," kids bounced on parents' shoulders, hands clapped and the Wonder Ballroom—as well as other ballrooms across town—celebrated our differences and the right to equality regardless of those differences.

Between the dueling banjo and violin during "Carry on Phenomenon" (which may have contributed to the broken string a song later), his funky beatboxing during the encore rendition of "Bright Whites," or his childish bouncing around while rocking the mic on "The Ballad of Mr. Steak" (watch the "lyric" video below), Bashi was humbly relishing every second on stage. Profusely effusing thank yous, his "five-minute cool-down song" following "Mr. Steak" saw Bashi frenetically covering Paul and Linda McCartney's Bond theme song "Live and Let Die," as well as crowd-surfing with a GoPro—obviously leaving him more breathless than before.

Finishing with "It All Began With a Burst," it was the honest personality bursting forth from the stage that moved Portland. But if affected Bashi too: As he closed the main set alone on stage, he broke the song unable to suppress his own burst of blissful laughter, amazed by the emphatically audible voices singing along to "Manchester" (audio below)—you could tell that Kishi Bashi, along with the Oregonians in attendance and elsewhere across the state, hadn't "felt this alive in a long time."

Set List:
Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!
Carry on Phenomenon
Atticus, In the Desert
Wonder Woman, Wonder Me
Hahaha Pt. 1
Hahaha Pt. 2
Beat the Bright Out of Me
Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived
Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her
I Am the Antichrist to You

Bright Whites
The Ballad of Mr. Steak
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
It All Began With a Burst

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