Sondre Lerche at Altar Bar (Oct. 20, 2014)

For the last stop on his North America tour, Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche brought his own particular brand of rhythmic indie-pop to Pittsburgh’s Altar Bar. Opener Chris Holm warmed the audience up with a soulful vocal-and-guitar set, and then joined Lerche on stage to play bass, along with drummer David Heilman.

Touring in support of his most recent release, Please, Lerche quickly launched into a series of songs from the new album, starting with “After the Exorcism,” followed by the upbeat single “Bad Law.” Lerche’s music is always disarmingly earnest, and newer songs also demonstrate a tendency start simply only to devolve into distortion or exuberant instrumental jamming. This translated well to a live performance, with Lerche and his band ripping through newer tracks, which then provided a pleasant counterpoint to older acoustic material.

As always, the most charming aspect of Lerche’s live performance was his loose, conversational tone in addressing the audience. He engaged in some banter in quiet moments between songs, and was wryly self-deprecating after forgetting the middle verse to an older song. “I have a setlist. I just don’t respect it,” he told an audience member who suggested that he stick to the agenda. “Two Way Monologue” later became an exuberant audience sing-along as Lerche initiated an extended call-and-response chorus. He remained engaged with the audience throughout, launching into “Wet Ground” during his encore based on the shouted suggestion of an audience member. Closing track “Modern Nature” cast the audience as Lerche’s duet partner, ending the set on a communal note. Lerche, of course, stayed long after the end of the set to sign merch and take photos with fans, who eventually dispersed, already looking forward to the next time they would be able to catch him on tour.

Post by Gesina Phillips.

Recent In-Studio Sessions

We’ve had lots of guests into our studio in the last few months. In case you missed those shows, check them all out below.

Drinking Water- 8/5/2014
Fusion of experimental rock, ska, reggae, and hip hop
Based in Yuma, AZ. Pittsburgh was their 50th day on tour, and they were only half way done!

The Humminbird- 8/7/2014
Avant psych-folk from Chicago. Really distressing and compelling to listen to. Super avant-garde (and awesome).

Mark Natural and Blankets for Laura- 9/5/2014
Local DIY kids rocking the folk-punk scene.

Suavity’s Mouthpiece- 9/12/2014

Sessions hosted by Anna Rosati.

Concert Review: Kishi Bashi

I kicked off my first day of senior year right with Kishi Bashi’s stellar performance at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, PA this past August. I’ve seen Mr. Ishibashi twice before: the first time as a touring violinist for of Montreal at Terminal 5 in NY and at Carnegie Mellon, during the spring semester of my sophomore year in February 2013. Kishi Bashi was supported by HEIDEMANN, an independent act led by namesake Monika Heidemann, and Bombadil, a charming four-man band from North Carolina. I had been eagerly awaiting this concert after the release of Kishi Bashi’s second full-length album Lighght, pronounced “light,” earlier this year in May.

HEIDEMANN opened the night with her eccentric tunes that sounded like they were imported from outer space. I’ll admit she wasn’t the kind of artist I was expecting to open for Kishi Bashi and the only parallel I could draw between the two was their shared use of musical looping. Although she is currently based out of Brooklyn, NY she definitely had more of a Seattle or Portland hipster vibe. Her slow tempo, live-recorded music was reminiscent of when I saw Dadelus open for Yeasayer at the same venue in August 2012. HEIDMANN’s lack of experience showed during her performance, “[she was] a bit awkward,” as one concertgoer put it. Although HEIDEMANN’s musical tastes don’t line up with mine, she clearly has a distinct style that will enable her to stand out from other artists.

The end of HEIDMANN’s set marked the beginning of another, as three dapper men took the stage. Something was amiss though, for the fourth member of Bombadil was nowhere to be found. In my eyes, it didn’t make a difference since the remaining three gentlemen did not fail to impress me. Bombadil’s stage presence was largely reminiscent of the time I saw Punch Brothers at the Rex Theater where all five of the band’s members were clad in elegant menswear and had no trouble interacting with the audience. The band’s folk-pop sound was similar to the likes of Fleet Foxes or the Decemberists with the peppiness of Good Old War sprinkled in. I adored Bombadil’s soothing harmonies and calming tunes, both of which were refreshing to my ears, a pure delight.

The drastic juxtaposition between HEIDMANN and Bombadil’s musical styles kind of took me by surprise, however I thought they were suitable openers for Kishi Bashi. Ishibashi was classically trained in violin while growing up and when he stopped by CMU in winter 2013, I had the chance to speak with him for a brief moment. Kishi Bashi mentioned that he drew his influences from chamber music, jazz improvisation, and what he referred to as “adolescent music,” produced by artists such as Nirvana. Today, he seamlessly blends traditional and electronic elements together to form his own genre of music.

Kishi Bashi’s mastery of the violin was made apparent right from the start, as the audience was welcomed with one of his signature string introductions, which segued into “Philosophize In It Chemicalize With It!” from Lighght. Despite the release of Lighght a few months earlier, I found that the show’s repertoire was well-balanced. It featured songs from Lighght, his debut album 151a from 2012, and his EP Room for Dream. Going in to the concert, I was mostly interested to see him perform new material, the bonus track “Brandenberg Stomp” in particular, however, in retrospect, I was not disappointed with the selection.

The best thing about seeing Kishi Bashi in person is seeing him construct songs from the ground up. Watching him record and mix the simple phrase, “Ha ha ha” for “Hahaha Pt.1” was extremely satisfying and mesmerizing. He also caught the audience off guard with a seemingly impromptu cover of “Live and Let Die,” originally performed by Paul McCartney and Wings. What I love about Mr. Ishibashi is his ability to turn plain, ordinary speech into not just music, but an experience. Kishi Bashi’s concerts are not just about listening and watching him on stage, it’s about experiencing how his music is made. Till then, I’ll be waiting for his return to the Steel City.

Kishi Bashi will be on tour through November 1, 2014, for more information visit Kishi Bashi’s Facebook page!

I’d like to thank Tito Belis for all of his help!

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