Ending the Drought: Sylvan Esso and Samia’s Return to the Stage

After two years away, Sylvan Esso and Samia made their long-awaited return on the opening night of tour at McMennamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon. Read Bren Swogger’s full review below, and see photographer Sydnie Kobza’s full photo gallery from the show here.
Sylvan Esso at Edgefield on September 6, 2021. Photo by Sydnie Kobza.

In March of 2020, live music effectively died. Though it survived in fits and starts at socially distanced bars or online live streams, for nearly seventeen months, the magic of the crowd was no longer. Fast-forward to September 2021. With many people vaccinated and mask rules in place, the world of live music was finally ready for its return.

On the night of September 6th, the sun lay low behind the trees, casting a golden glow on the crowd gathered at McMenamins Edgefield. With an abundance of caution implemented by both venue and state, a sold-out crowd packed the venue lawn, 100% masked and vaccinated and ready to bask in the awe of live music after so long a drought.

It had been two years since Sylvan Esso and opening band Samia had played a live show. Tonight was the first night of tour, and though the pressure may have been mounting, the crowd was starved for what magic was in store.

Decked out in shimmering silver suits, four band members took to the stage, soon joined by lead singer Samia Finnerty. Wearing a black sundress, accented with white sneakers, she danced around the band members, feeding the crowd with her boisterous onstage personality.

Samia at Edgefield on September 6, 2021. Photo by Sydnie Kobza.

There always exists an energy transfer in live music. The crowd feeds off the energy of the band, while the band in turn feeds off the energy of the crowd. It’s a long-held cycle, and the higher each go–the more they feel the music and the night–the better it all becomes. 

Watching Samia on stage, it seemed as though, after two years away, her energy had finally been unlocked after far too long. And watching the crowd react–people getting on their feet, dancing and swaying, trying to sing along even if they didn’t know the words–was to witness music in its purest form. The evening was just beginning, but it was like a long drink of water after too long a thirst.

As the sun fell below the horizon and stars began to just appear above the crowd, the night’s headliner was due to make their long-awaited return to the stage. 

Sylvan Esso has always succeeded in making the simple beautiful. Their brand of electro-pop is very sparse, with Nick Sanborn’s minimalist synth and drums backing lead singer Amelia Meath’s smooth vocals. In their live performances, they translate this minimalism to the stage beautifully. 

Sylvan Esso at Edgefield on September 6, 2021. Photo by Sydnie Kobza.

Though unaccompanied by any other musicians, between the two of them, their sound and presence were enough to fill a stadium. With an incredible light display, synced perfectly along with Sanborn’s booming synth, Meath basked in the glow of the lights and sound, sliding across the stage and oozing with charisma through their 21 song set.

Though the show wasn’t without its technical difficulties and forgotten lyrics, after two years away from the stage, the humanity of the performance was what made the show even more special. It was a welcome back for so many people: the members of the band, the photographers in the pit, the crew back on the road, and the people in the crowd who longed to finally be back in the bliss of the live show.

Though the pandemic still rages on, and the road ahead is surely not without its challenges, the world feels just a little bit better with this joy in community restored.

Let’s try not to let it die again.

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