On Sunday and Monday, January 23rd and 24th, Sammy Rae & The Friends crested the peak of five sold-out shows up the pacific coast. Stretching from LA into two sold-out nights in San Francisco, the tour moves up through Portland and finishes in Seattle on the 27th, where the post-sell-out demand prompted a move to a larger venue. Based on the San Francisco appearance, the demand is warranted.
Lansing, MI-based sextet Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers is opening support for the California leg of the tour. They played a 45 minute set to a majority of the sold-out audience, including favorites “The Last Two Dinosaurs Alive” and “Old Love”. They also played “Help!”, a brand new song (and instant favorite) off of their upcoming release due out early summer.
Sammy Rae is a powerhouse vocalist. Some people pour themselves into their art, but Sammy Rae (and by extension, her Friends and bandmates) are people that spray themselves into their work like a firehose. The only contemporary comparison for the raucous onstage scene is the frenetic stage presence of Andy Frasco & The UN, but this is decidedly more wholesome. Dads might not bring their daughter and friends to Andy’s show, but they were at The Chapel in San Francisco.
The start of the headlining act saw Sammy stroll onstage for a solo piano rendition of “The Feeling”. Less than two minutes in, the rest of the band took up their positions and a gloomy, intent listening party transformed into a pogo dancing, singularly screaming release of dopamine. It’s easy to appreciate a band when its energy at the start feels like an encore performance.
Related: Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers Bring Sunny Disposition To Asheville’s Salvage Station [Photos]
“Talk It Up”, also from The Good Life EP, released in 2018, was the second song, first full-band track in the mix and segued without missing a beat. The crowd sang along as much as they could, throughout the show. But often Sammy Rae’s vocal acrobatics left the majority of the room in the dust to dance.
Relentless drum beats moved the song forward along dueling saxophones that accented basslines charging like a bear running down a mountain through ethereal, foggy keyboards. Punctuating guitar lines all flowed in constant movement to serve as the eccentric backdrop for Sammy’s locomotive vocals. Their friendship appears as genuine and powerful, making the entire performance magnetic.
But it’s hard to watch seven people at once when they’re all as energetic as they are. No one stands still, so Sammy often goes out of her way to highlight individual members. Either by offering them a solo mid-song, or simply hanging on them and interacting with them during a verse or a breakdown, Sammy is more than willing to share the spotlight. High energy doesn’t feel like a strong enough word because it’s so overused, but this band pulls the crowd into that circle of energy as efficiently as the best of them.
For a band that looks like they are having so much fun, it’s clear that they take it equally if not more seriously, too. There aren’t many other bands that sell PDF transcriptions of their sheet music on the merch page. How many bands actually go through the trouble of scoring their music like that? It doesn’t matter. What matters is the output, and Sammy Rae & The Friends are starting with a high focus input to ensure quality through the other side.
Things started to slow down after getting cozy in her “Denim Jacket”; the band and audience metaphorically spilled out on the “Living Room Floor” from 2021’s Let’s Throw a Party! EP. During the song, several of the band members stopped and performed American Sign Language interpretations of the lyrics alongside Sammy’s piano performance, with many in the audience reciprocating the signs back.
“Jackie Onassis” paired with “The Good Life” before Sammy Rae closed the set with “Follow Me Like The Moon”, the namesake of the tour and her latest single, and “Let’s Throw a Party”, the title track off the 2021 EP of the same name.
A surprising highlight of the show, as a local Bay Area music enthusiast, was the first song of the encore, where Sammy and her guitarist performed a duet of Joni Mitchell‘s “All I Want” from the 1971 blue album. The lyric “All I really really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you, too” really sums up what Sammy Rae & The Friends’ are all about. The full band returned to the stage and closed the show with one of Sammy’s old and most popular tracks on Spotify, 2018’s “Kick It To Me”.
Sammy Rae & The Friend’s tour concludes tonight, January 27th at The Showbox in Seattle, WA. For tickets and a full list of dates click here. Check out galleries of photos from the San Francisco performance below via photographer Josh Huver.