You could sense the adoration fans have for Samia from outside of the venue, from across the street. The line in front of Thalia Hall hugged the corner facing 18th Street, kids bundled in jackets that just barely fought Chicago’s frigid winter air. Skirts and dresses peaked out from beneath the occasional pea coat or down jacket; glittery eyelids reflected yellows of the streetlights. People weren’t here to kill time, no, this was an occasion. Excitement radiated off the girls gathered before me in line, who quickly connected with two strangers joining them–one of whom had know idea who they were seeing tonight and had arrived purely on the persuasiveness of their friend. They had driven an hour from outside of town.
It is always a pleasure to witness Samia put on a show, even more of a pleasure to see the indie darling grow an audience. Looking around me, I could tell there was a shift in energy as the amount of strangers’ faces filled the venue. It was only last September when I saw her perform to an intimate room of around maybe 50 people in the middle of Indianapolis. Today, she was about to grace the stage before a few hundred people––a difference of only four months.
Supporting Samia on the midwestern leg of her tour was Tennessee/NYC native Annie DiRusso. Entering the stage, she was clad in a casual black floral dress (that coordinated with the outfits of her bandmates), chunky platform sneakers, and donning a signature electric green eye look. Someone from the crowd calls out complimenting her shoes and DiRusso pokes fun at her mom’s online shopping habits.
“Thanks! My mom got them off eBay!”
A powerhouse on the guitar, DiRusso commanded the stage with beloved tracks like ‘Nine Months’ and ‘Don’t Swerve’, in addition to an unreleased track. Though this was her first tour with a full band, I don’t believe a single soul in the room could piece it together. DiRusso is a natural performer with constant bursts of energy, a firecracker moving from stage left to stage right. In between verses she’ll spin around with her guitar, and thrash her head back and forth belting into the mic during ‘20’. An honest, charismatic, and vibrant performer, this is not the last we’ve heard of Annie DiRusso.
A brief 15 minute intermission later, the familiar faces of Ned Steves (bass), Noah Rauchwerk AKA “Wormy” (drums), Sam Calvo Rosenstone (keys), and Boone Wallace (guitar) filed under the deep cerulean haze on the stage. Trading in the matching silk pajamas of the previous tour, the band color-coordinated with basic white tees. An eruption of cheers filled the room as the one and only Samia glided towards center stage. Brown cowboy boots peakabooed from beneath her gorgeous periwinkle dotted dress, conveniently matching the fresh blue streaks in her hair she had recently debuted. The same compliments that were thrown at DiRusso resurfaced for Samia, someone calling out, “I like your hair!”.
We had only gotten through “Pool” and “Fit N Full”, two tracks providing a healthy balance of somber, ethereal sounds with unbridled joy, before Samia paused to take in the audience before her. Holding back tears, she tried to compose herself, mentioning how it’s way too early in the set to be getting so emotional. She turned back to the crowd, marveling at the number of faces glinting under the stage lights.
“Half of you have to go home!” she joked.
Still coming off the high of performing a sold out show at the famous Webster Hall in New York City (Samia dubbing it the “greatest night of my life”), there was an immense gratitude in her tone as she candidly conversed with the fans in front of her. Two back-to-back sold out shows was no small feat, and here she was processing it in real time.
The night carried on with crowd-favorites like ‘Triptych’ and ‘Stellate’, in addition to ‘As You Are’ off her latest EP, “Scout”, a body of work that seamlessly carried the loving undertones of the current evening. Towards the middle of the set, Samia introduced a brand new unreleased track she wrote with fellow indie prince Christian Lee Hutson called ‘Pour Some Sugar’.
“He said to DM him on Instagram what you think of the song,” Samia said half-jokingly.
One of the highlights of the show had to be the band’s spotlight moment, a tradition I’m so glad they’re continuing. Spinning some very true but also very not true tale to preface this performance, the room quickly erupted in unison singing along to the iconic cover of ‘Forever Young’. A choir of hundreds of voices proclaimed “Let us die young, or let us live forever”, and in that moment everything seemed like it was going to be ok. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, I could have ridden into the sunset at that point. It was much like a happy ending in a movie-musical of some sorts. But the show wasn’t over yet.
We were invited into the back half of the set, which included a peer-pressured Samia limbo-ing under Steves’ bass (you can limbo bitch!), a throwback to one of her earlier tracks, ‘Ode to Artifice’, and a soulful performance of ‘Is There Something in the Movies?’–a song you can cry to as you hug the Thalia Hall barricade or in the comfort of your room at 2AM. The show was peppered with several comments and little apologies from Samia regarding the plethora of sad songs in her catalog.
Not only is Samia a talented songstress within her own discography, but her choices of covers never miss. Wrapping up the night, we watched an excellent rendition of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’, yet another song that seems to capture the tone of the evening. Somber, but powerful, Samia has a way of making the room feel bigger, fuller than it is. And just like that, she’s able to bring it all back in again–a master of intimacy.
Annie DiRusso returned to the stage for the show’s encore, joining Samia for a duet of ‘Show Up’. A song proclaiming love and devotion to the people around you, this was the clear message Samia and DiRusso emulated within the walls of the hall that night. It was a concise summary of the gratitude, tenderness, and loyalty one experiences when at a Samia show.
Samia is not only a performer, a songwriter, but she is also a friend. A friend to those who know her best, as much as to those that are met only in passing. Riding off the labor of love that became her Fall 2021 tour, this current run of shows serves as a testimony to the people that make these experiences happen. We thank those who make a life worth writing songs about, we thank those who make the shows happen, and we thank the ones who keep coming back to see them.
The tour is called “Loving U Thanking U”, and we’re thanking Samia back.
Photos and words by Weronika Koleda. Taken on 35mm film.
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