seattle secret shows
An authentic, raw experience of Music and Art.
The whole idea of music, from the beginning of time, was for people to be happy. ~Robert Plant, Lead Singer, Led Zeppelin.
Music is a story and a true universal language of the world - everyone from unborn babies to the elderly, from all backgrounds and all walks of life can feel what a song is about even if they can't understand the words. Some instrumental songs can be even more powerful than those with words.
For reasons that are emotional, physical, and subliminal, music connects to us all. We feel the story and all the attached feelings of the musician when he or she is strumming the guitar, playing the harmonica, singing a note, or banging on the drums. Behind the love of playing songs and performance art, there is a human nature of conveying story through music.
The orchestrated big-arena shows you see from world famous bands are more of the performance. The story in the music is there, but diluted by much fanfare, stage lights, and production. There is little personal connection between the musicians and the audience, and as such, their story gets lost in all of the glitz and glamour of performing to tens of thousands of people at once.
Seattle Secret Shows bring together musicians, artists, creatives, and people who love to experience music as it is meant to be heard. All the "polishing and production" is cut away, and the story in the music shines through. More importantly, the shows allow the story and the artist to truly connect with the audience.
Managed, organised, and run by two Seattle sisters, Kristen and Carrie Watt, these intimate experiences of music are meant to be enjoyed as just that. There's a wonderful hush in the crowd at each performance where everyone is there and listening intently to every single note that is played and sung. The environment is built purely for listening and the enjoyment of music.
Between songs, their audiences have the chance to connect with the musicians on stage. Little back stories and context to the songs being played often come out and spark a fun banter between the artist and the audience.
In a time when it's not uncommon at music events and social gatherings to see people otherwise distracted by shiny gadgets and unrelated conversation, it's a breath of fresh air to experience a movement like this one where the environment is set up to be so focussed and connected to everyone in the room - all centered around the human love for the experience of music.
Shows are on regularly throughout the year, usually at a monthly cadence. If you're in Seattle or passing through and enjoy music, do consider getting tickets. You won't know who is playing, or where -- only when. The only guarantee is an awesome, intimate experience of live music.
Are you on the list?
"The last thing to leave this planet will be water and music. People cannot live without music." ~Quincy Jones.
Carrie and Kristen were kind enough to chat to me a little about their experience with music, and a little more around some of the back stories behind their shows.
Q: What are your earliest memories of music?
Growing up, we don't remember hardly having the TV on. But we do remember our parents always playing records. Every Saturday night was blues night where they would crank up the blues and we would have a dance party in the kitchen! Some of our favorite times always involved music.
Q: I think that's kind of fantastic, especially how music brought you all together. It's obviously carrying over into your shows, which promote a great connected listening experience for the audience. The hip-hop show in 2014 (featured in some of the images here) was a very different experience which brought people together in a kind of supercharged dance party way. Will we see more of these kinds of shows?
Throughout 2015, we have continued to bring a variety of genres (including hip-hop and dance) to unique spaces throughout Seattle. There will definitely be more shows like that in 2016, as well as several surprises!
Q: What do you hope people who come to your shows get to see?
We really hope that everyone gets to see and feel the sense of community that we have created. Our hope is that everyone leaves feeling truly connected to each other and the artists as well as their music when they leave.
Q: From the very first show (when I was in the audience) that I saw, the connection is well and truly evident. What are some of the reactions you've had from your audience?
We have had people moved to tears on several occasions. Being that close to an artist and seeing them perform truly raw can be an extremely moving and emotional experience.
Q: The bands you showcase are awesome! How do you keep finding new music to share with your audience?
We find our bands in a variety of ways. We are always searching for new music, up and coming artists, and attending as many local shows as we can. But we do get a lot of artist submissions as well. Sometimes, we will get close to 100 in a week and we are careful to listen to all, even if it takes some time. You never know who you could discover.
Q: What do you see as the role of music in our society?
Music is definitely an amazing way to bridge the gap between people of all walks of life. Complete strangers can walk into a room to enjoy a show together, and leave with friends they may have never met before, or have a shared experience. That has always been the goal with our shows. Music is also an incredibly powerful way to express ourselves and spread universal messages that we may not have been able to without a song.
Q: Is there a favourite show you've had? What about it made it special?
That is a really tough question that we get asked a lot. How can we pick just one? Each show is so special and unique in their own way, that each one we do feels like our favorite! That is not a bad problem to have!
Q: That's fair - each show is definitely one of a kind! If you try to distill it down further than just one show that stands out, is there a particular moment at any of these shows you remember?
There was a show that we had in an art gallery and partnered with Melodic Caring Project, who live-streams concerts into children's hospital rooms that have debilitating diseases. Damien Jurado performed at that event and he decided to wear his pajamas pants and slippers in order to show solidarity to the kids that were watching. It was such a moving and kind thing for him to do and something that would not normally happen at a regular venue. His expression of support and community was reiterated by everyone in that room. What better way to lift spirits, build friendships and community, and find a way to connect with those around you, than music?
Artists featured in this project, in order of appearance: Levi Weaver, Runaway Symphony, Catherine Feeny, Nick Howard, The Weather Machine, Sol, Smokey Brights, Legs, Ruler, The Wicks, and Ayron Jones and The Way.
This project was photographed over 2014 and 2015 at many different locations in Seattle, WA, including a coffee roasting studio, an apartment building foyer, the Rhapsody Seattle office, a loft above an auto repair shop, a boat-house on a lake, and an event space for the Seattle Sounders, all of which were filled with people from all walks of life celebrating a common love for music.
Thank you to Kristen and Carrie Watt for not only allowing me to photograph this project and to share it with the world, but also for providing such a wonderful gift to the people of Seattle as well as to the musicians who perform and share their gift.
Thank you to all of the crew - Sound, Video, FOH, everyone - at the Seattle Secret Shows for making me feel so very welcome and for showing me around the each of the unique venues.