‘Boston is like a second home’: Sammy Rae and The Friends rock the Roadrunner

Sammy+Rae+and+The+Friends+pose+for+a+photoshoot.

Courtesy of Sammy Rae and The Friends

Sammy Rae and The Friends pose for a photoshoot.

Sammy Rae and The Friends returned to Boston on Oct. 15 with their “If It All Goes South” tour, filling Roadrunner with cheering fans, electrifying vocals and an unforgettable show.

The show kicked off with a bang as each member of The Friends, and finally Samantha Bowers, otherwise known as Sammy Rae, came on stage one by one, playing their respective instruments as they did. “Follow Me Like the Moon” set the perfect tone for the show with its swinging beat and easy to follow rhythm. 

Throughout the show, Bowers chatted, or rather, sang, with the audience, providing comedic melodies and background to the band’s most popular songs. She noted that headlining Roadrunner was a “historic moment” for them, as it is the largest venue in Boston they have played so far.

The music jumped from tune to tune, with Bowers and The Friends providing smooth transitions between serious explanations and an upbeat tune.

Bowers’ influences were evident throughout the show. The Connecticut native said her own sound has grown from a childhood filled with classic rock. From Fleetwood Mac to the Doobie Brothers, she sought bands where “everybody’s playing hard” and admired the passionate performance they brought to every song and stage.

Such inspiration was evident in Bowers’ own performance. Songs like “Jackie Onassis,” which required quite the array of props, and “Flesh and Bone” had audience members up and dancing, with the Friends matching the energy.

While the music was electrifying, audience members couldn’t help but watch the Friends in what was their undeniable element. The crew played off of each other, and it was evident that their relationship went far deeper than merely band members.

“We have this very interesting thing where we’re dear friends, and we’re co-workers and we’re also a family,” said Bowers in an interview with The Journal. “We’re at the intersection of feeling like brothers and sisters, you know, feeling like best friends and also knowing that we have a responsibility to each other.”

Boston was not just another stop on a tour to the Friends. The city was one of the first places where the band got their chance to tour, and Bowers said Bostonians and their beloved home is a special place for the band.

“For some reason Boston always feels like a second home to us,” she said. “We say that every time we’re in Boston, the [crowd] has just been there for us so many times and despite every time we sell out a room, and it’s just really full of support and good energy.” 

Throughout the show, Bowers spoke of liberation and equality, a pivotal theme within their music. The words “to be queer is to be unlimited” radiated over the crowd, with tangible emotion bringing a warming but serious moment to the performance.

Bowers said the band seeks to not only be the truest version of themselves, but also inspire their listeners to be the same. No matter the identity, the Friends have continuously urged their fans to embrace themselves in their wholly unique form.

“We want to go out there and be so fully and authentically ourselves with the people in the audience can’t help but feel inspired to do the same thing,” she said. Bowers added that her own identity as a queer woman has heavily influenced both her music and performance.

“And there’s all these different things of like, you know, am ‘I queer enough?’, ‘Am I too queer?’, ‘Am I a woman enough?’” Bowers said. “I was very lucky to find this group of people who just welcomed me in exactly as who I was.”

Bowers’ invitation to allow everyone to be expressive of who they are within the concert extended beyond just words. The lead singer led a moment of reflection, where audience members were invited to close their eyes, take some deep breaths and center themselves to be present in the moment. 

Leading into “Good Life,” the moment was an intimate chance for band and audience members alike to take a step back from the music and savor being in the presence of a loving and open-armed community.

Sammy Rae and The Friends came out with their first EP, “The Good Life,” in 2018, and even a pandemic has not stopped the family of musicians from gaining popularity. The band has not taken this for granted.

To Bowers, there is not a perfect enough way to say thank you.

“It’s been amazing and hard to believe. […] It has been special, especially in a city like Boston,” said Bowers. “It’s always special to revisit a city over the years and watch how [fan] numbers grow.”

Bowers’ own talent was showcased in her solo cover of “Hotel California” by the Eagles, which was a delightfully fresh version of a classic tune. Melodic and guitar-based, the song truly allowed the audience to see Bowers as not only a performer, but a truly gifted musician.

From collecting bandanas from different tour sites to recognizing fans to calling out Suffolk’s own Arlo Matthews and encouraging the audience to listen to his new album, it was obvious how Sammy Rae and The Friends strives to connect with fans. At times throughout the show it felt as if the whole crowd was the band’s close friends, rather than a concert audience.

That same connection and intimacy has been what has kept their music so compelling and has continued to draw in fans since their first release.

The show closed with a classic Boston goodbye: an instrumental cover of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.

Looking to the future, the band is going to finish the tour and extend into new cities. In the winter, Bower said the band will be touring the U.K. and will return to Europe in the spring.

While Bostonians will surely miss the Friends, the band and their sense of community will be ever-present through their music and an eventual return to their second home.

Follow Shealagh on Twitter @ShealaghS.