LIVE: Sammy Rae and The Friends @ Lark Hall, Albany, 08/01/2021
SAMMY RAE AND THE FRIENDS THROW A PARTY IN ALBANY
Sammy Rae & The Friends are more than an incredible jazz/funk/folk/rock band. They are a community. They radiate a light that few bands have ever captured. One of joy, acceptance and a love for what they do that shines onto the audience in such a way that its reflection beams right back up at them.
After catching their performance in the stunning, newly renovated Lark Hall in Albany, I knew I had to ask my editor if I could write an editorial piece. It just felt too difficult to convey the importance of this band and this experience in the third person.
I discovered Sammy Rae & The Friends on a road trip to Vermont on a playlist from Burlington recording artist Jesse Taylor. The first notes of “Kick It To Me” sprung up through my car speakers and I instantly rolled the windows down and cranked the volume. I must admit this track played on repeat for quite some time as it drifted through the golden streaks of the sun shining through the changing leaves on the windy back roads of the Adirondack Park. It was all I could do to not pull over, unbuckle and have a full-on dance party. My spirits lifted and I delved all the way into their discography on the rest of the drive.
When I reached my destination, I rushed to the computer and found tickets to see them in Philadelphia. Though we were all unsure of what lay ahead and dreading our Upstate NY winters, I was filled with hope knowing one day I could see this band perform live. It was that hope that kept me and I’m guessing many others going through the darkness. It was those dance partiers with my two kids in the kitchen or belting out their songs (with apologies) in the shower, that kept the light alive. I watched countless YouTube videos of their channel while cooking, I mean who makes all their own costumes, rehearses a one-shot play to drop a music video?
I was thrilled when Lark Hall announced they would host Sammy Rae & The Friends for the start of their tour. This venue was saved by owners Jennifer and Justin Miller and restored with all of their passion and spare time over the last few years. Just like the band, it too is a work of love. As I trekked across the state, the skies unleashed rolling thunder, distant lightning, and heavy rains. In the distance, I could see the sun starting to peek through the grey over the Capital District. As if a perfect metaphor for our combined human experiences these past 18 months, the lights lifted over the stage. Then the music, my goodness the music.
Max Zooi and Kellon Anderson donning their saxophones stepped out and began riffing. Shortly thereafter joined by James Quinian (bass), Will Leet (guitar/organ), and C-Bass Chiriboga (drums) and the jam got a little groovier. Cue Myra Moon and Kaya Kulu back up singers extraordinaire and leaders of the dance party with thunderous applause and the band kicked in as Sammy herself joined. The stage was in constant motion and the great mix spread through a packed hall as the community of fans/friends did not stop dancing the entire 90 minutes of a magnanimous set.
Sometimes I’m asked to list key tracks for album and show reviews. I cannot do that here. Each song had its own heartbeat and soul. I have never seen a band so lost in the moment, smiling at each other, encouraging each other, and giving and accepting love from the audience. In conclusion, Sammy Rae & The Friends are what the world needs right now. If you get the chance do yourself a favor and see them. Your soul will thank you. That band’s mantra they share at the end of each show is as beautiful as the band itself:
GO PUT A SMILE ON SOMEBODY’S FACE,
GO TELL SOMEBODY THEY’VE GOT A PLACE IN THIS WORLD,
GO TELL SOMEBODY YOU WANNA BE FRIENDS WITH THEM.
When the lights came up in incredible Lark Hall the band had left a smoking crater on the stage and a packed house of smiling new friends.