Last month Kina Grannis visited my neck of the woods and had a show at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA – just outside of Washington, DC. If the venue sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same place that hosted David Choi back in February. I always wondered if Kina’s well known charm from her Youtube videos and album could make the transfer to the live stage and was lucky enough to find out at this June 15th show.
Things got started just a little past the 8PM start time, and the opening act was a musician by the name of Adam Swink. Without going too much into it, the guy has a radio friendly voice but very little stage presence and was a bit dull to watch live. He wasn’t terrible, just unmemorable and I’ll leave it at that.
Around 9PM, Kina came on stage to enthusiastic fan fare (though not of the same magnitude of the fan-girl driven response David Choi evoked months earlier). It was a warm reception by the crowd and after setting up her mic and guitar, she jumped into the first song of her set, “Strong Enough”. I wondered how Ms Grannis would do without the aid of the percussion found in the studio version, but she pulled it off fine and with good energy. It was a great way to start things off. Later on in her set while performing “Stars Falling Down”, she accidentally sang the wrong verse and humbly admitted her gaffe, evoking a shared laughter with the audience before restarting and finishing it off beautifully.
The vast majority of the songs performed can be found on her album Stairwells, that was released earlier this year. One of the most notable and highly enjoyable exceptions was her unexpected cover of Coolio’s 90’s hit “Gangsta’s Paradise”. It started off quite tongue in cheek and a bit awkward with the rap but once she started strumming, things were completely switched up and Kina surprisingly nailed it with a Jason Mraz-esque twist. It was a pleasant surprise for sure. Here is a video I found on Youtube that someone captured of the song:
From there the show progressed with Kina singing some of her catchier tunes including “In Your Arms” and my personal favorite “Valentine”. You can tell the crowd appreciated it too. Unfortunately the energy stagnated a bit as the latter half of her set was filled with slower ballads that didn’t have the benefit of the additional instrumentation of the studio versions. The glowing exception was when she sang “Stay Just a Little”, complete with the tenderness found in the original recording. It was melancholic but beautiful.
One area that Kina excels at is continually interacting with the crowd, taking the opportunity to breathe between each song, sharing the often charming background stories behind her music and always showing love to her fans (Kinnerds) that have helped her get where she is today. For instance, at one point she got the venue to shine the house lights unto the crowd so she could video record us as part of her own sentimental keepsake. At another point she gave away key chains to people who were celebrating their birthdays. And for her closing number she ended with the fan favorite “Message From Your Heart”. By having the audience join in on the chorus of MFYH Kina exemplified perfectly the unique synergy between her fans and herself that enabled a girl with talent, charm and a webcam to independently release an album, go on a national tour and continue living her dream.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable concert. Things got a little sleepy in the second half but Kina closed the event on a high note. There were times where she could have benefited from having a supporting band but for the most part she carried the show well with just herself, her guitar, and her fans. If she ever plays near you I highly recommend you check it out!