Last week myself and a few members of the Serenity team arranged for a bus load of high school students to attend Sam Weber’s show at Serenity as part of our youth & the arts outreach initiative. Thanks to our community sponsors, the seats were filled by local teens (and a handful of adults) who were given the experience to escape into the mind and music that is Sam Weber.
There are multiple layers to what this night meant. The first being that Sam was not an obvious choice for our local youth, apart from the similar age demographic. When he started to play some of the adult chaperones had looks of worry on their faces that his music was not the genre that the youth were “into.” Although at face value this may have been true, it made the importance of them being there even more poignant. For young people growing up in a rural community of 2500 people almost 2 hours from the closest urban centre, this was exposure to authentic arts & culture unlike many of them had ever experienced. Sure the odd kid goofed off during parts of the show, but for the vast majority, they listened with intent, crowded around Sam and the band afterwards asking questions, getting autographs, and acting like they had been given a taste of what is beyond the mountainous tree lines of our small town limits. Even the more introverted of the group who huddled in corners whispering about the night blushed when sharing with me what it had meant to be there, while one of the well known young male athletes in the crowd approached each guy after the show to offer a handshake and a hug. Without any prompting, Sam gifted each student with a CD, a treasure that will likely pay dividends as they delve into not only his music, but are inspired to discover additional local artists across BC and Canada.
Sam’s performance was not showy, he didn’t climb out into the crowd or pull anyone onto the stage. There was not a rehearsed factor that dazzled or wowed. For all but a handful of songs, he had his eyes closed when he was singing. Through all of this you might ask, how did the music resonate? How did he connect with the audience? But to truly understand the answers to these questions is the quest to understand Sam Weber and embrace how he approaches music.
The entire night felt like we were voyeurs into a series of intimate moments, as if we were watching Sam and the band play together in their own home, immersing themselves in each song, internalizing every note. All four of the band members have an intense calming presence, where playing music becomes somewhat of a meditative state. To say the night was entertaining doesn’t quite define what it was. But watching how each of their bodies moved, how their faces reacted to the sounds, the tones, the harmonies…it was captivating. They gave everyone the opportunity to go wherever the music took us. We could be there, yet not there, lost to the daydreams and fantasies of our own minds. Yet between each song, Sam was effortlessly present, kind, generous and vulnerable with the audience. He shared his personal feelings and stories that gave everyone a taste of his personality off the stage which is all together sensitive and endearing.
The few times I have had the privilege of being in Sam’s presence, there is an indescribable feeling of contentment. I have never met someone with an energy that is equal parts innocent and wise. The dichotomy of this plural nature to him as an artist is what sets him apart and defines his uniqueness. He isn’t trying to be an artistic martyr for the masses of his generation, neither is he attempting to divorce himself from the stereotypes of 20-something musicians playing in their parent’s basements. The beauty of Sam Weber is his unequivocal submission to music. Within minutes of seeing him perform you know that no one becomes that talented as a musician without yielding to its every demand. Countless hours of practicing, listening, studying, reading, learning, experimenting, creating, immersing, obsessing, sharing, performing, collaborating, and the list goes on that all continue to repeat themselves as one does when they have dedicated their life to the pursuit of music as art.
Surrounding Sam is his band of equally accomplished musicians who stand shoulder to shoulder with him in his vision. Multi-instrumentalists in their own right, each bring their individual abilities yet above all their devoted friendship to one another. Hugh Mackie stuck mainly to his impeccable skills on the keys this night, but showcased some of his guitar work and provided the night’s vocal highlights with his beautiful tone that came and went as passing gifts. Bassist Esme John grooved and harmonized while Marshall Wildman on drums provided just enough percussion to satisfy and the most fantastic facial expressions that kept me glued to his corner of the stage. Each and every one of them seemed to be having these distinct experiences while seamlessly connecting with each other.
Of course at the forefront was Sam himself who for anyone who has read his extensive biography knows that you will be hard pressed to find someone who plays guitar quite like this. Those of us on the Serenity team have all come to acknowledge that Sam doesn’t just play music, he becomes it, they are one in the same. Although somewhat undefinable by genre, he is immediately identifiable as an artist. Serenity owner/operator Shirley de Vooght marvels that Sam has a voice that is distinct, “The moment I hear it I know it’s him. He has his own brand of sound that you can’t manufacture.”
On this night as we listened and watched him experiment, improvise, and invoke new intonations of his songs before our eyes, my heart whispered a repetitive plea, “Never change Sam, never change.” Not in the sense of never evolving creatively of course, but in the spirit of remaining authentic, uncompromising, and free.
Sam and the band have just wrapped their two month cross-Canada tour, with the focus now on completing the new album to be released Spring 2016. Having heard much of their upcoming material live, I can attest that the themes, expressions and arrangements are primed to take hold of new and established audiences alike.
To get a sense of Sam Weber’s musical styling and personality, click on the link below to check out his 4 part video series “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue” and accompanying interviews that were featured this past March by the magnetic bloggers and music enthusiasts Betty and Kora (www.bettyandkora.com).
Here is Part 2 of the video series showcasing a song I hope to see on the new album, ‘I Wander Around in the Dark.’
Visit http://www.samweber.me for links to music downloads, social media feeds and more.
Sam Weber performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 18, 2015.
Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght.