at The Sunset
I love it when a concert meets or exceeds your expectations. Many times, prior to going to cover a show for EA, I will have formulated in my head what I think the gig will be like. The bands stage presence, the energy, how much the performance will resonate with me, etc.
Monday night I found myself at The Sunset in Ballard. Having been there a handful of times (most recently for Guitar Wolf), I knew the front of the room was chill with friendly staff and the back of the room was where the 200 capacity venue held their concerts.
All the way from New Orleans, Louisiana (with a hometown of Shreveport), artist Maggie Koerner was going to take the stage with her soulful, powerhouse vocals. I had been listening to Maggie’s work leading up to the gig and I envisioned being floored by her vocals in an actual live setting. I was right.
First up for the evening was local band Timberfoot. A late addition to the bill, the four piece played a 30 minute or so set of great tunes – inspired by Modest Mouse and Radiohead, with an indie and Americana flair. I was pleasantly surprised by their set. All four musicians could play, they were in the pocket most of their set, and the songs were really done well! They could use a smidge of a visual identity on stage but that’s nitpicking. I would definitely check them out again, especially when they’ve had more show notice and/or a longer set.
After a brief changeover, local songstress Katie Kuffel, took the stage. I’ve known about Katie for quite some time but things never worked out for me to check her out live. Finally that changed Monday night.
Backed with a very competent rhythm section (who had only been playing with Katie for a matter of months), Katie played an eclectic set of tunes in her set. Soulful one song, singer-songwriter-ish (if that makes any sense) the next, with very melodic sensibilities, Katie played her set with artistry and soul. I liked how the lyrics told a story but the music wasn’t so, for lack of a better term, basic. The songs were put together well and that just enhanced the lyrical and vocal approach. As she stood at her keyboard and sang, the audience was drawn into her music. Katie is another artist I would like to see again.
What can you say about Maggie Koerner? She had played with Galactic (at the Showbox) a few years back. She has been out on her own since then, collaborating with other artists here and there as well. She is a no nonsense, powerful, vocalist and songwriter.
I had the opportunity to interview her (see link below) before the show. She was thoughtful yet no filter at the same time. She has the southern courtesy we in the other parts of the US have heard about but rarely, if ever, practice. How often do you fellow Seattle-ites say hello to a stranger walking down the street?
Maggie took the stage in front of an audience that was there to hear her sing. The room was quiet while she performed. This is one of the best aspects of The Sunset. If you want to chat and hang out, you can stay in the front room where the main bar is. If you want to actually enjoy the performance, you can stay in the back room.
Backed with a three piece band (guitar, drums, and keys), Maggie transformed into a vocalist of timeless proportions. As she went through songs from her three releases (the newest being the “Dig Down Deep” EP from 2016), I kept thinking to myself, “this is the same person I just interviewed a few hours ago”?
Her voice just wraps itself around each lyric, each nuance of the melody, and just takes hold of the listener. Her performance Monday night had to be one of the rawest vocal performances I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard a lot over the years.
For those not familiar with Maggie’s music, she sings a mix of soul, blues, and jazz. The word channel comes to mind – Maggie was channeling this music through her as she mesmerized the audience at The Sunset.
Maggie sang beautiful renditions of, “He Calls Me Mama”, “French Fur Traders”, and “I Love You, I Do” among many others. She ended with a haunting rendition of her title song, “Dig Down Deep”, that was just jaw droppingly good. They say that a performer has to cross the artistic line otherwise the audience won’t cross it with them. Maggie obliterated that line last night – she took all of us on a ride through her musical world and, man, let me tell you – it’s one heck of a world!
The evening couldn’t have been better. Two standout artists – it’s always nice seeing local talent with, well, talent and a headliner that just absolutely floored me. How that voice comes out of that woman is beyond me.
I chatted briefly with Maggie after the set and she was back to her pre-show self – no frills, pleasant, present with the fans, taking photos and such. I commended her on the performance, was ready to purchase CD’s that Maggie ended up giving me instead as a thank you for the coverage (so nice of her to do), and wished her safe travels down to Portland, the next stop on the tour.
If Maggie Koerner ever comes to your town, on any part of the bill (hopefully headlining), go see her. Don’t think about it, ponder it, wait on it. No.
Go. See. Her.
Special Thanks: Maggie for being such a genuine talent. Thank you for doing the interview (in your van no less!), for being so candid during it, and for bringing your tour all the way up to Seattle. I know it’s hard on the artists who have to slug it out on the road, driving massive distances in vans to play shows. I think I speak for every fan that was there Monday when I say that we sincerely appreciate it.
Thanks to Katie S. for setting up the interview and for being so responsive.
Thanks to Dillon and Zak for the communication the day of the show (and for introducing yourselves while I was just sitting in the bar looking like a dork before the interview).
Thanks to Katie K. and Timberfoot – it was nice chatting with both of you. I’m sure I’ll see you at future shows!
Thanks to the Sunset staff – you’ve been treating me well the past few shows I’ve been there. If I lived closer, I would definitely hang out there more often. See you at the next show!