Samia Toronto debut feels like partying with a friend

Disco light shimmers over confessional night that also offers hope

Who: Samia
Where: The Opera House, Toronto
When: Wed., Feb. 15
Vibe: Intimate, dancing with your best friends under a shimmering disco light
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
Highlight: Cathartically screaming out the lyrics to Is There Something in the Movies — it’s a therapy session and a dance party all meshed into one

NEW YORK-BASED SAMIA might be one of indie music’s best-kept secrets. She has all the markings for stardom; she’s a cool girl, a nepo baby — her parents are actors Kathy Najimy and Dan Finnerty — and has gotten co-signs from Maggie Rogers and Lucy Dacus. Even so, it’s a small crowd making its way into The Opera House on Wednesday night for the second Canadian stop on Samia’s Honey Tour, which started earlier this month.

Tommy Lefroy open the show. They, fronted by American Wynter Bethel and Canadian Tessa Mouzorakis, are awkward and endearing as they find their footing on stage, apologizing for the overwhelming sad songs in their discography. Their carefully crafted lyrics that they harmonize and delightful guitar shreds make up for it. They’re excited to be here. It’s their second ever Canadian show and the first time they’ve heard this many people sing their lyrics back to them. Vancouver-born, Mouzorakis feels a kinship with this Canadian audience, with whom she bonds about her attraction for boys from Northern Towns, a song off their debut EP. They bring back the energy with their newest releases, Worst Case Kid and Dog Eat Dog, uptempo tunes about catastrophizing and feminism (their words). “We’ll definitely be back,” they promise before taking off. We hope they stay true to their word.

Then, Samia appears under a shimmering disco ball and a piercing white spotlight to deliver her show opener, Kill Her Freak Out. It’s a gut-wrenching tune, with hymnal instrumentals that send shivers down your spine. You barely have time to process the devastation she just caused before she goes straight into Fit N Full, a breezy banger about not being insecure. It’s a drastic shift from the Samia with whom you’ve just sung, “I’ve never felt so unworthy of love.” There’s mastery in how she’s curated her setlist for the night; each heartbreaking song is followed by one that’ll make everything feel all right again. It’s cathartic in the best kind of way.

Samia’s energy is undeniable. She bounces off her bandmates, twirling around and delivering kooky dance moves while her drummer pulls funny faces at her. And we, the audience, don’t feel left out. “You guys are too nice,” Samia tells us. “Can we take you on the rest of the tour?” A few songs in, it feels like we’re just hanging out at a basement party watching our best friend perform.

Samia’s performance is intimate, vulnerable and raw. Through her picturesque songwriting, she bares her soul but manages to stay in control the whole time. This is evident in her performance of Breathing Song, a song she admitted to being scared to perform live. It’s just her alone on stage as she recounts the trauma of a miscarriage and the panic attacks that ensue. She does not waiver as she wails out the final, “No No No”s of the song. I am not a crier, but have to wipe away tears as the room goes silent before breaking out in hearty applause.

“We’re gonna shake that off,” she smiles before her band returns to play Honey, a groovy song about getting drunk and not being scared of anything. We need it just as much as she does.

Ultimately, Samia’s show feels like a night out with your best friends: intimate heart-to-hearts and un-self-conscious dance parties. This feeling resonates all throughout the set but is at its highest when the crowd is shouting out lyrics to songs like Is There Something in the Movies, a reminder that we’re all going through it and trying to survive the same human emotions.

Samia ends the show with a performance of Dream Song, on which Tommy Lefroy returns to the stage to contribute silky harmonies. Samia returns once more for an encore of Show Up, a standout from her debut album. It’s not hard to believe her every word when she sings she “can’t help but sing another song for the people I love.” Tonight, we’re some of them.

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