an evening with samia and savannah conley – Photo Diary

After a rather delirious four hour drive to Indianapolis, the dimmed mood lighting of the White Rabbit Cabaret resembled the relieving, comforting sensation of finally hiding under your warm duvet after a long ass day of being a human being. Sarah and I had driven with the AC on in the Honda for a couple hours, the both of us freezing–unbeknownst to each other and reluctant to turn it off just in case the other person actually felt like being a popsicle. 

Melting away the drive we had just endured, the two of us settled in amongst candlelit tables, couples with cowboy hats, and some sort of CBD-infused beverages illuminated in the glass behind the bar. The stage had no real barricade, inviting more intimacy between audience and artist. Everyone in the room all on the same level, just as the floor beneath our feet. How appropriate this felt for a show put on by Samia and Savannah Conley–two artists who bare their hearts through their music, detailing the vulnerable experiences of love and heartbreak anyone in the audience can resonate with. They just put these sentiments into words better than anyone else in the room can string together.

Rolling around 8:00 PM, Conley graces the stage. It’s just her–donning a delicate floral dress with white, heeled boots (she made a point that it was these shoes giving her any sort of height; in reality she was really quite short)–and a white and gold Gretsch Falcon. As simple as the set itself was, Conley commanded the attention of the entire room with somber tracks like “Being Around You” and “Dream Boy” off her latest project “Surprise, Surprise,” in addition to a chill-inducing cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know.” With an angelic voice and a dash of southern charm, she was golden. 

The White Rabbit fell silent to the strums of Conley’s guitar and erupted in polite applause following the ending note. It almost felt wrong to sing along in fear of taking away her moment, becoming a distraction. Somehow there was an unspoken agreement in the room about this. Conley received this silence with a bit of intimidation, but the crowd’s response to her charisma seemed to ease any nerves she could have had. After a bit of banter with an open invitation to DM her dog photos after the show, I realized her set had flown by. 

Following a short intermission, the applause picked up again as Samia’s band filed onto the stage–we got Ned Steves on bass (who received an eruption of chants calling out “Steve! Steve! Steve!”), Noah Rauchwerk (AKA “Wormy”) on drums, Sam Calvo Rosenstone on keys, and Boone Wallace on guitar. I should mention that the quartet was clad in matching silk pajama-like outfits. Very casual chic. Of course, the most whoops and hollers went to Miss Samia, who skipped towards her mic and slipped right into her ethereal “Pool.”

“This song is about a restaurant in the East Village,” Samia introduces her song “Waverly”.

“The one where all the waiters are celebrities?” someone in the room quipped. 

“Yeah, how’d you know?” she replies playfully. 

Samia is the kind of girl whose energy captures the room. She’s a natural star, what can I say. Her voice soars like angel wings over songs like “Triptych,” while also grabbing you by the shirt collar in her cover of Heart’s “Barracuda.” OG tracks like “Welcome to Eden” sound just as good a few years removed from their origin. Recounting her writing “Django” while crying in a bathtub at 17 over a boy she liked, Samia was able to laugh at in the present day, “I remember writing the line ‘I just wish that I could watch you / Light your cigarette one more damn time’ thinking God that is GOOD!.” She takes up the opportunity of every interlude, every space the music creates, for twirling, rolling, ass-shaking, and improv ballet routines. Catching her breath, Samia jokingly teased that her side gig was as a professional ballerina. It only felt appropriate that someone tossed a bouquet of flowers on stage. Charismatic and humble–and, I mean, with a voice like that–it’s hard not to love her.

The band too. Midway through her set, Samia disappears for a quick steam break to replenish her voice, placing the spotlight on Steves, Rauchwerk, Rosenstone, and Wallace. In true barbershop quartet fashion, the band delivered a serenade of Bobby Vinton’s “Mr. Lonely.” There was laughter in the room, but truly the kind where everyone is laughing with you and not at you. Honestly, they killed it. 

A standout moment during the show broke out with a duet of “As You Are” between Samia and Savannah. A song about love and acceptance of your purest form from those around you, it was fitting that the two friends sang it together. Exchanging a warm embrace as the track faded out, the girls gave a glimpse of the authentic love and admiration that went into writing and putting a song out like that. No bullshit here.

While it was the music and performances that became the forefront of the evening, I believe that the labor of love this tour became is what solidified itself within my memory. Squished like sardines in a van together touring the country, Samia and Co. were like best friends going to sleepaway camp together, except no one here got homesick; home was right here in this circle of friends. During her set, Conley recounted how the entire crew had sat together earlier in the day, taking turns saying what they loved and appreciated about each other. To these people I’m just a stranger, but there was something so genuine about how Samia and Savannah looked at each other, how they spoke about each other. Here was a group of people that not only respected each other as artists, but would probably also take a bullet for each other. The tour and the community built around it defined what it means to do cool shit with your best friends.

Samia professes in “Show Up” that “nothing will ever stop [her] ass from showing up” for her friends. In the same notion, there’s no question that fans will follow this very sentiment for years to come. 

All photos and writing by Weronika Koleda. Taken on 35 mm film. Copyediting by Sarah Yoerger.


Follow and listen to Samia:

Spotify | Bandcamp | Instagram | Twitter | Apple Music | Upcoming Tour Dates

Follow and listen to Savannah Conley:

Spotify | Instagram | Apple Music | Twitter

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