It was packed on Sunday night when singer-songwriter Kina Grannis brought her all to the Blind Pig, whisking audiences away with an entrancing, storytelling performance.

Alternating between tracks in her latest release, Elements, and her 2010 album, Stairwells, Grannis interspersed her acoustically based older tracks with more newer, experimental music.

“(The newer music is) a little more mature,” Grannis said in an interview with The Michigan Daily before the show. “Stairwells is a very acoustic album, played on an acoustic guitar, with basic drums and very basic bass. With Elements there’s some electric guitar, the drums are just a little more interesting and less straightforward, and just have weird sounds. We experimented a lot with background vocals too.”

Drawing on a band to fill the stage for the first time on tour, Grannis’s show was a novel performance. By incorporating a full percussion and a bass into her set, she was able to replicate the sounds on her studio album. While during songs such as “The Fire” and “Oh Father” the band overpowered her aerial falsetto, her vocals during “Winter” pierced through the tenacious cymbals.

“We’re able to experiment with sounds a bit more,” she explained. “The sound is a lot closer to what you hear on the album.”

As the show progressed, the audience pushed through the corners of the Blind Pig to see Grannis up-close. And as her voice cut deeper and deeper, the crowd nudged closer.

Surprisingly, she’s also shy. Grannis’s bashfulness took me aback. The modesty in her words is unique in a generally loud and boastful industry. After absorbing herself completely in each song, Grannis took a few moments to recapture the attention of the audience, never forgetting to relate her inspirations and experiences to those that were made possible because of her fans.

Grannis is a rarity. Despite having built most of her following by singing covers on YouTube, her original songs demonstrate a contemplated complexity, uncommon in today’s pop landscape. Throughout the show, fans in the crowd sang along religiously.

Simultaneously, Grannis had unique ways of engaging the crowd. Reminiscing on the moment that kickstarted her career, Grannis called on three of her fans to sing “Message From Your Heart” with her on stage. The song won the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest in 2007, eventually landing her a contract with Interscope Records. Earlier this month, Grannis hosted a poll on social media to allow her fans to choose which cover song would make it on her set list — later announcing that it would be “Sweater Weather,” by The Neighborhood. At Sunday’s show, the cover was stunning, showing Grannis’s ability to modulate a song masterfully to fit a range of emotions.

“It’s a strange thing, because it’s something that’s going on in my brain the whole day,” Grannis said of how she maintains a strong rapport with her fans through social media. “I try to involve them in ways that are more interactive.”

As an artist who gave up a major label contract to pursue songwriting independently, Grannis had advice for younger musicians pursuing a career in Ann Arbor’s arts industry.

“Sing and play and write as much as humanly possible because you will always grow and you will always improve,” she said. “Do it for yourself. Do what excites you and hopefully that excites other people.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.