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Kuinka at Gypsy Sally’s

How? How. How can be a question, or a statement. For Seattle-based Kuinka, however, three meanings apply. The question that guides this band is how to evolve artistically and challenge themselves while staying true to their roots. The statement iteration is found in their attempts at making music that transcends boundaries and genres, songs with infectious up-tempo melodies and create lyrics both meaningful and silly. And the third meaning? The term kuinka (coo-WINK-uh) comes from the Finnish word for “how.”

None of this would matter without an astounding amount of instrumental talent between Kuinka’s four members; Nathan and Zach Hamer, Jillian Walker and Miranda Zickler.

Thursday night at Gypsy Sally’s was Kuinka’s first stop on a two month winter tour along the east coast and through the Midwest in support of last year’s EP, Stay Up Late.  The night was a thrilling sampler of Kuinka’s catalog, going back to their 2014 debut album, The Wild North. Opening with “Mistakenly Brave” from the new EP, they followed with “Lonesome Road” from that first release. The night went until their first DC audience (it was the band’s first gig in the capital) was literally howling (“Howl” was the night’s final song”) for more of Kuinka’s joyous folk pop.

The evening’s opening band, local Near Northeast, provided the perfect complement to an evening of bands from the two Washingtons. Near Northeast’s set was it’s usual intricate, slightly cerebral rock-jazz-folk melody, with a dash of Eastern influence. Although not nearly as energetic onstage as the headliner, the opener nonetheless captivated its audiences with songs that are complex yet accessible. Playing selections from their two releases, Curios and True Mirror, that included “Temeculah,” “Under the Pines” and “Revival.” In case anyone thought this band couldn’t rock, the group closed with the quasi surf rock of “Indali,” the perfect appetizer to the evening’s main course. Photos/review: Mark Caicedo