Samia | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Samia spins sad songs into pure, unfiltered joy at Johnny Brenda’s
The power behind New York-based songstress Samia is almost unfairly understated on her debut LP, 2020’s The Baby. But seeing these songs brought to life onstage at Johnny Brenda’s last night left the whole crowd vibrating with an unmatched amount of energy. Known for her mournful and contemplative imagery in songs like “Waverly” and “Is There Something in the Movies?,” Samia and her band reworked the backline of her breakout tracks and turned her sad songs into moments of pure, unfiltered joy.
Samia is joined on this tour by Savannah Conley, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter. Conley took the stage solo to warm up the crowd with her ambitious fok-leaning songs, and the cutting edge in her voice proved that she was definitely worthy of commanding a late-night audience on her own. Her set even included a stripped-down cover of the sleek Arctic Monkeys hit, “Do I Wanna Know?”
When Samia and her band came on for their set — with the guys in matching silk pajamas, a key detail to note — they slowly trickled into the opening number off of The Baby, “Pool.” It’s a haunting listen recorded, and even moreso live, with echoing guitar lines layered over deep bass notes and emphatic, repetitive, call-and-response vocals. They immediately transitioned into the up-tempo, cathartic dance track, “Fit N Full,” and the one thing that stole the entire show aside from Samia’s obviously fantastic voice was her dancing. She’s the definition of carefree. She was so grateful to be there, standing in front of us all — and she made that known — but she also completely didn’t care what we thought of her. If we thought she looked ridiculous for letting loose, so what? That feeling of sheer confidence felt infectious.
The setlist included almost all of The Baby. She featured a contemplative version of “Stellate,” the track that was remixed on her album re-release by our very own The Districts. She moved quickly between songs, effortlessly flowing into “Big Wheel,” “Triptych,” “Minnesota,” and “Winnebago.” Older tracks were peppered throughout — she mentioned that “Welcome to Eden” was the first song she ever uploaded to Spotify, and “Django” was one of the saddest songs she’d ever written. Though she only included one song from 2021’s EP Scout, “As You Are,” she made it memorable by bringing Savannah Conley back out to duet about unconditional love. She ended with an encore cover of Heart’s “Barracuda,” which didn’t feel out of place in the slightest. At her core, she’s a rockstar, and this moment gave her the space to be that.
At 24 years old, Samia is one of the most honest and gifted young lyricists breaking out of her scene. I’d argue that up and down. It’s hard to find an artist this dynamic, with the most gripping stage presence and the ability to transform songs that are intended to make you cry into songs that will leave you breathless from dancing. A Samia show makes you feel alive. A Samia record makes you think about the weight of what that means.