The Piranha Shop is tucked into the SODO neighborhood of Seattle. If it’s interior looks a bit like an old paint supply warehouse, artist studio, or an art gallery, that’s because it is. Its atmosphere creates the perfect energy for a music venue and the perfect place for a Seattle Secret Show. By the time I was inside, the place was already packed. Once again, another sold-out secret show! After a while of shuffling around, squeezing past other guests, and checking out the gear on stage, it was time for the reveal and some music.
Otieno Terry meant serious business from the first notes. His keyboardist and manager, Max Levin, swayed back and forth to the beat of “The Party” as Otieno walked onto the stage like he was just casually walking into his home. Otieno began to sway back and forth with Max and vibe off the music. Soon, the mic was to his mouth and it was show time. Otieno’s range was incredible. One minute he would sing down low and then moments later he would be up so high you felt like you had to stand on your toes to hear it. The songs would flow seamlessly from these beautiful ballads like “Honesty” that spoke of love and loss to “Jaguar Stupid” that made you want to hit the dance floor and shake your hips. Every instrumental was peppered by the dreamy sounds of the keyboard and the combination provided the perfect backdrop for Otieno’s vocals. In the middle of “Trial By Fire,” Max began to play a familiar piece on the keyboard. It felt like the whole crowd slowly came to the conclusion together that they had transitioned into a cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless.” At this moment, Otieno made this cover his own with a soulful voice and transcended the poppy, auto-tuned original. Otieno closed the set with “American Dream,” another beautiful ballad that felt more like a spoken word than a song.
Kuinka was fresh off a tour through the Midwest winter and were ecstatic to be back in the comfort of their hometown. You could spend an entire Kuinka concert trying to perfectly describe their sound and end up changing your mind every song: Is this a folk concert? No, they have synths and drum pads. So, they’re like pop/electronic? No, the lead guitarist is shredding right now. So, they’re rock? No, they have slower, sad songs too. So, blues? No way! They also have cellos, mandolins, and banjos. So, they ARE folk? In the end, they are just Kuinka. With their huge array of instruments and massive musical range, they had everything any music lover could possibly need. Each member accented the other perfectly. Their voices and instruments constantly added layers to every song, making their sound more and more complex. And the harmonies. My God, the harmonies! Until this performance, I had never seen anyone headbang while playing the banjo nor had I ever heard a synth being played over a mandolin and a cello. I am extremely grateful that I was able to witness both of these during their show. Kuinka owned the stage. They would have the crowd stomping their feet, clapping their hands, hooting, and even howling during songs like “Curious Hands, “Mistakenly Brave”, and “Howl”. Moments later, they would hold the crowd gently in their palm with “Long Way Down” and a cover of The Cranberries’ “Linger.” With each song, you felt like Kuinka was giving something to you and with every emotion they evoked, you felt like you were giving something right back to them.
Terry and Kuinka are two of the most creative musical acts currently in the Seattle music scene. Their musical breadth reinforces the idea that no artists needs to or should stay within the lines of a single genre. If you happened to miss this show, you can catch Otieno Terry at Upstream Music Festival in June and Kuinka at the Nectar Lounge on April 28th with Sisters and Rainbow Girls.
Want to go to a Seattle Secret Show? The next show is on March 23rd and features performances by Headwaves, I Will Keep Your Ghost, and Eastern Souvenirs. You can find more information about this show and future secret shows at www.seattlesecretshows.com. Or you can buy tickets right now at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3333249!
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Videos from the show
Pictures from the show
Photos shot and edited by Mocha Charlie