I'm a little apprehensive when the music venue I walk into sells incense, candles, and other kinds of urban hippie paraphernalia.

Mr. Spot's Chai House gave me flashbacks of going to school in the hacky-sack capital of the West Coast, Santa Cruz. From the yellow walls to the dizzying disco ball, the place screamed Guatemalan pants and bong hits. So I guess it was only fitting that San Francisco-based Karney--a folk-rock singer/ songwriter--had decorated the tables with a big green postcard of The Weed while plugging her single "My Little Bush."

The green bud worked its way into a couple songs, from the aforementioned track--with such sing-along lines as "Weed, weed, it's what I need"--to critiques of the drug war. Karney and her backup singer--Stand Out Selector, aka Steffan Franz--kept what they called a "conscious vibe" going, with Franz doing occasional dancehall raps behind Karney's running commentaries about the Columbine shootings or watching her lover during sex, and one song that included the line, "Prophecy, harmony, education will set you free." Franz looked like a Latino John Lovitz and sounded like a Rastafarian with a cold, and he was having fun, at one point yelling out, "The vibe in the Chai House is hot!"--said vibe probably coming from the dude in the back who yelled, "Nice!" to lines like "Free up a little weed."

Karney is a charismatic singer with a wide vocal range, a powerful delivery, and a skill for writing dark melodies fitting for the heavier subjects she was tackling. Listening to her sing made me think a woman this confident was born to perform with a full band (which I later found out she already has, but left behind on this Seattle trip "due to expenses"). Her style reminded me of a wide range of singers who I honestly have to say I only hear at my parents' house--female artists like the Indigo Girls and Edie Brickell. But if you're into the weed-smoking, liberal consciousness, urban hippie folk-rock kind of thing, Karney plans on heading back up to the Northwest some time soon.

For more information on Karney music and upcoming performances, go to www.karney.org.