Seattle Secret Shows’ 2nd Songwriter Edition of 2014
Sera Cahoone, Vicci Martinez and Griffin House
By Shana McDonald
What do the Pacific Northwest, Pat Monahan of Train, and a pizzeria all have in common? Seattle Secret Shows’ 2nd Songwriter Edition of 2014 line-up of course! Sera Cahoone, Vicci Martinez and Griffin House – Seattle Secret Shows, a spin-off of Seattle Living Room Shows, is quickly becoming my ultimate secret pleasure for experiencing the best in live music – lyrics and melody unite and all seems right with the world if only for three sweet melodious hours. Carrie Watt and Kristen Watt, sisters and co-founders of Seattle Living Room Shows, are celebrating their sixth year of providing top-shelf singer/songwriter performances. Artists are revealed quite literally at show time which only adds to the anticipation beforehand and absolute delight the night of – from Marc Broussard to Meiko, from living rooms to lakefront properties, last Friday’s show at the College Club Seattle on Lake Union was no exception.
Sera Cahoone got the night rolling, opening with a harmonica-driven and soulful Only As the Day Is Long. Cahoone initially appears as a bit on the quiet side, but her lyrics, guitar picking, and harmonica-playing speak volumes. Her set list included songs from all three of her albums, including her yet-to-be-released Dust In Your Weary Lungs, Couch Song (an upbeat crowd favorite), and her recently released Deer Creek Canyon with lyrics inspired by her childhood hometown of Littleton, CO. Calling Seattle home for the last 16 years, Cahoone has been playing for some crazy-good Seattle native bands, like Band of Horses, for almost as long. She manages to make the listener feel as if we happened upon her private diary, where heartbreak and melancholy are made bare. Shakin’ Hands, one of her last songs, was a brighter note, filled with upbeat strumming and sentiments of hope for the future. And her future indeed looks very bright as she has a way of getting to the heart of the matter with stirring vocals and strumming to suit.
Lyrics like She can’t decide if I’m a king or trash, She loves me for the Johnny, but she hates me for the Cash are what make Griffin House the lyrical storyteller that keeps us wanting to turn the page to find out how the story ends. The third act of the evening, House gifted the audience with interesting back-stories for each of his selected songs – anecdotes of recording an album with jailbirds to biblical childhood stories of the infamous Judas kept the audience hungry for more. He also shared that his job at Uno’s Pizzeria inspired him to take music more seriously at a young age – the audience laughing when he said that $50 an hour of playing guitar and singing on the sidewalk was much better than $2 an hour tossing dough. He, like Cahoone, wove in the occasional harmonica, adding that intoxicating blue-grass vibe while enhancing the strong narrative quality in his music. His set list included a song or two from about half of his eight albums, including the popular and sweet The Guy Who Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind, Never Again, Judas, and Why Won’t You Believe (where he really showcased his ability to hold a note as the day is long!). He ended his set with The Other Side of Love, a catchy sweet song encouraging us to seek love, particularly in the most ordinary of moments. He successfully got the audience clapping and singing the refrain – yet another reason why I love Seattle Secret Shows, the audience members are so eager to engage – no coaxing needed!
Although House was the headliner, Vicci Martinez, the second act of the evening and a Tacoma native, stole the show for me. Her petite five-foot frame packs power, rhythm, and foot-stomping soul; she has a voice that haunts and aches in all the right ways and speaks way beyond her mere 29 years of age. And she is meant to be heard live – her recordings simply do not do her justice. Martinez opened her set with her yet-to-be-released Will You Surrender, a tender song co-written by Jessie Payo, a close friend of Martinez’s sister. Seven albums in tow, she sang a great sampling of fresh and tried-and-true tunes including: the soulful You’re Not Alone, the blues-y Peace of Mind (and sung acapella versus recorded is so much more impactful), and cover song Jolene (a nod to her time on The Voice). Little Wing, a song inspired by her godchildren, was another unreleased song that Martinez treated the audience with; it showcased her ability to create tension and build-up and then end with a big bang of powerhouse vocals. When Martinez sings and strums her guitar, she quite literally vibrates from head to toe with rhythm. Add to this a great sense of humor, a hankering for whiskey, and a palpable comfort in her own skin – she oozes charismatic authenticity. Perhaps that is what Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train and fellow songwriter, saw too when he co-wrote Freeway with her (which we were lucky enough to have performed for us). In Freeway, Martinez shares her story of coming out and her family’s initial reaction was to “un-come out” to which the audience had a good laugh. Monohan invited Martinez to his podcast Patcast earlier this year in which loads of soul-baring and humor are shared – “Tacoma Aroma,” life after The Voice, her family finally coming around to her being openly gay, and more . She also sings Hold Me Darlin’ acapella in Patcast – one word: wowza! Although she did not sing this one at the show, a personal favorite of mine, she revealed that she will be releasing a live recording album this November and I will be first in line to make it mine. Martinez sings with an unmistakable and undeniable vulnerability that invites the audience to unfold with her – sigh.
Want to feel like a native Seattle-ite? Want to get some musical street cred? Need a refreshing reminder on why people make and share quality music? Get yourself on the exclusive invite-only list for Seattle Secret Shows by visiting their website or Facebook page and let the music begin.
To see more of Shana’s amazing photography: www.flickr.com/photos/domesticdeeva