Kishi Bashi @ Oxford Art Factory
Reviewed on Thursday February 16
Don’t judge a book by its cover, the saying goes. By judging Mike Savino, AKA Tall Tall Trees, purely on surface value before a note is played – hirsute, well-dressed, wielding a banjo – one might expect an apple that doesn't fall far from the Mumford family tree. The book we're presented with, however, tells a very different story.
Savino is a masterful, inventive performer, building up loops through a mix of percussion and distortion pedals. Matched with his impressive singing range, he quickly gets the audience onside. When Savino calls for rhythmic claps to keep the beat or for the crowd to try out its best falsetto on one of his hooks, people are instantly responsive. There's just something about Savino's magnetism that allows his performance style to resonate so soundly – even when he screws up a loop or loses power on his side of the stage, the response is instantly forgiving, mixed with amazement he was able to assemble something so meticulous to begin with. By the time you read this, Savino's third LP Freedays will be out in the world. It comes with a strong recommendation for those seeking nu-folk from an unconventional place.
In 2014, Kaoru Ishibashi performed his first-ever headlining show in Sydney at a sold-out Newtown Social Club. Literally surrounding himself with fans on the small stage, it was a beautiful and memorable performance that would be difficult to match for most musicians. Thankfully, as is well-documented by now, the man who performs as Kishi Bashi is not most musicians. He is chameleonic, versatile and consistently entertaining, regardless of what stylistic path he chooses to take.
With Savino returning to the stage, as well as drummer Seth Hendershot, Ishibashi conducts his first full-band headliner with aplomb. There are moments of bittersweet beauty, such as ‘I Am The Antichrist To You’ and opener ‘Statues In A Gallery’, which stun the audience into silence. By contrast, there are also huge spontaneous dance parties with the killer hat-trick of ‘The Ballad Of Mr. Steak’, ‘Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!’ and ‘It All Began With A Burst’.
No matter where the trio land, they handle themselves impeccably throughout, all the while joking around with their admittedly terrible Australian accents and in-jokes about vernacular and local food. Misty eyes, meat pies and worn-through dancing shoes – that's a Kishi Bashi full-band show for you, folks.