Kina Grannis of YouTube fame, and a SoCal native, serves as a breath of fresh air in a poppy world of spectacle.
a quick little anecdote
I started listening to Kina Grannis in high school. The first song of hers that I listened to was “In Your Arms”. I managed to snag the music video when it was free on iTunes. Needless to say, I fell in love with her smooth, unique voice and the amount of detail that went into making the video (which took 22 months to make and 288,000 jelly beans). Here was an artist that was dedicated to her craft. I later discovered her song “Valentine” and pegged it on my favorite television couple at the time (Kurt/Blaine from Glee). After listening to many more of her songs, I became a fan, especially of her covers on YouTube. The rest is history. I followed her on Twitter and have come to realize that she is not just an amazing musician, but a very kind and passionate soul as well, always seeking to connect with her fans.
I bought my tickets for Kina Grannis’ La Jolla concert last December amid finals and a whole lot of stress. Instead of working on a study guide like I should have, I watched my desktop clock like a hawk, waiting for the moment it would be noon and I would be able to get my tickets. I managed to snag a general admission ticket and a VIP pass, which was pretty damn amazing. After months of waiting, the day of her concert came. My friends and I made our way to Porter’s Pub (an incredibly small venue on the UCSD campus) and split off as half of my group had VIP passes and the others did not.
Along with the VIP pass came a short acoustic set. When Kina came out, smiling, everyone was caught by surprise and in awe as she pulled out her guitar and asked us what we wanted her to sing. She sang her two hits “Valentine” and “Strong Enough” – and her voice, sans microphone, beautifully resonated in the little room. She put a lot of passion into her performance – eyes closed, body moving with the music, it was great to see an artist truly connect with her work. The meet and greet line was a little lengthy, but having the chance to talk to her for a little bit was truly rewarding and felt like everything came full circle for me as someone who is very passionate about music and performance. She’s the absolute sweetest. I say this about a lot of artists, but this wholeheartedly rings true for Kina, who takes the time to talk to every single person despite time constraints.
After Kina went to the back and the venue opened for non-VIP holders, her husband, Jesse Epstein (aka Imaginary Future) opened the show. His haunting, ethereal voice echoed about the room, hushing the (very) chatty audience. He performed a few songs off his album “Fire Escape” (which can be purchased HERE), and was absolutely charming and very earnest (“Some people say that my music helps them go to sleep or study…I don’t know what to say about that, but thank you for listening to my music,” he said during the show.)
He then welcomed Kina to the stage, and she performed a myriad of songs from her albums, Elements (her latest one) and Stairwells (her first one). She truly commands an audience, hopping around her mic and truly getting into her music. Her band also forges a deep presence on stage with her and you can tell that hours of work went into making this tour a success (HIGHLIGHT: her band performing a little parody of a song from Super Mario). Kina did say several times that this show was the last one of her tour, which made it a little more special than others. Tearfully, she described how much it meant that people actually listened to her music and followed her on her journey to success.
What stands out about Grannis is the fact that she is incredibly humble and down to earth, and as noted earlier – while she does command a presence, it is neither verbal nor physical – her musicality shines overall. The nuances of her facial expressions and body language are subtle, but hold a lot of meaning and weight. Her show isn’t full of spectacle like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga (who I both love – I would like to say that I am not pitting them against Kina as they are artists in a separate genre category – I’m just stating this in terms of the way their performances are presented. Spectacle can be good. Okay, back to the review. Sorry for digressing!) – it’s very grounded in reality as she also takes us into pieces of her life through her lyrics. This is even emphasized by the fact that she constantly engages the audience in conversation, and invites individuals on stage to sing with her.
Watching her perform is a transcendental experience – her voice resonates beautifully (whoever did their sound mixing was an absolute genius, for real) and her lyrics are very real and raw. “Little Worrier”, “Forever Blue”, and “My Dear” were emotional standouts in her raw set. Gratitude rings through every note she sings and you just know that music is her true passion.
She serves as a breath of fresh air in a poppy industry that mainly focuses on spectacle.
9/10 (While the concert itself was absolutely amazing, my experience in near the front was a bit blah at times as these two ladies behind me kept using the flash on their cameras. Who the hell uses flash at a concert where FLASH ISN’T ALLOWED? Anyway, it was, overall, one of the best concerts I have ever been to.)
BUY KINA’S ALBUMS/EPs HERE:
- sincerely, me. (2006)
- One More in the Attic (2006)
- In Memory of the Singing Bridge (2006)
- Stairwells (2011)
- Elements (2014)