After a day of torrential downpour and pushy winds, the low-lit intimacy of a Samia concert was a welcomed reprieve for San Francisco. On Feb. 27, the 25-year-old indie singer-songwriter performed seasoned favorites and tracks off her recently released sophomore album Honey at Bimbo’s 365 Club.
Singer-songwriter Wormy — whose real name is Noah Rauchwerk and who’s also the touring drummer for Samia’s band — filled in for the original opener Tommy Lefroy. Casual and inviting, he strummed his guitar and played a cozy set full of easy listening acoustic tunes. Without fuss or frills, Wormy kept the atmosphere down to earth. Samia joined her bandmate on stage at the tail end of his set, which spiked the mellow ambiance with anticipation that persisted until she kicked off her own act.
Samia created a thoughtful, albeit overcast, mood by starting the show with the album’s opening track and lead single “Kill Her Freak Out.” Haloed by soft blue lights, she glowed like a Y2K angel in a white corset top and lacey skirt that flowed to her ankles. Her voice rang like cut crystal, the tone forward and refreshingly clear. Chords on the electric organ descended like a wedding procession, or maybe a funeral march: An interior, vulnerable ballad like “Kill Her Freak Out” set a surprisingly bruised atmosphere for the show.
When Samia followed it with the indie rock song “Fit N Full,” off her debut album The Baby, the moment of introspection passed, but a twinge of melancholy coursed through the upbeat song’s satirizing themes on body image. The transition stung like the whiplash that comes after stepping out of a warm, halcyon cathedral and suddenly being lanced by the stubborn winds of the city.
Juxtaposition proved to be the show’s underwire as Samia fastened seemingly disparate experiences or perspectives together, implicitly suggesting their gulf of difference may not be as wide as we think.
During a later part of the concert, for instance, she performed twin tracks “Breathing Song” and “Honey” back-to-back, to staggering effect. The songs approach the same subject — using alcohol as a distraction — but from vastly different perspectives. “Breathing Song” is staggering on the record Honey, but in live performance, Samia’s final and desperate belt cleaved, crushed and devastated. On the other hand, “Honey” glimmered as the happy counterpart. A disco ball dropped from the ceiling and coated the venue in shimmering prismatic light.
Experiencing “Breathing Song” in person was one of a handful of moments when a track on Honey outstripped its recorded counterpart and blossomed in a new light. During “Pink Balloon,” a reflection on a relationship on its last leg, Samia sings, “I’m trying to make you laugh/ Sweating like an acrobat.” She stood still, earnest in her plea and fixing the audience in a devastatingly beautiful trance. Her stance loosened in the lyrical “To Me It Was.” She frolicked on stage during instrumental passages and then curled over to croon “Is it too much to ask?” in “Pool.” Samia came across as the kind of performer who feels music in their whole body, intensely and emphatically.
But the concert wasn’t all doom and gloom. Samia often moved across the stage freely and loose-limbed, swaying her hips like Kat Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You.” She teased and toyed like she had tricks up her sleeve in “Charm You,” as a wry smile played on her face. “Mad at Me” bubbled with girlishness as Samia jumped around the stage, tossing her hair with abandon. And when she introduced “Amelia,” Samia called it a song for dancing — and undoubtedly her buoyant and bright performance energized the crowd as the concert neared its end.
Samia wrapped the show in a blanket of snowflake soft humility. “I only write songs about things that I’m scared of,” she confessed sotto voce in “Is There Something in the Movies?” The night ended with “Dream Song,” where swelling synths became regal and rounded out Samia’s delicate singing. Samia makes music awash with uncertainty and fissures about life and relationships, but her concert demonstrated that what pervades is her gentle confidence in a way to wade through it.