LIVE: Samiam @ New Cross Inn, London

By Katherine Allvey

Steam billows from the door every time it opens as if South London’s historic, sticky-floored New Cross Inn is exhaling into the night. This show is cult underdogs Samiam’s only UK stop on their European tour, which by itself would already make this a particularly special sold out evening. However, since last year saw their first new release in twelve years, this is also a confirmation for their faithful that Samiam are not to be written off as a spent force. 

“We haven’t practiced in a year or so,” laughs vocalist Jason Beebout before opening with ‘Lake Speed’. He’s very self-deprecating in his humour, and there’s a disconnect between his appearance and the desperation crammed into his throat as tightly as his band are packed onto the tiny stage. Tattooed fists punch the air, raising layers of translucent dust in each roar and twisting chord of ‘Clean Up The Mess You Made’. “The songs that we do know, we don’t know very well, but there’s a lot more that we don’t…please don’t hold that against us,” Beebout apologises again, nervous behind his oversized green tortoiseshell glasses, but there’s no need for him to feel anxious. If anything, his self-conscious attitude adds authenticity to the everyman statements in his songs. It gives the nostalgic razor wire guitar and vocals on tracks like ‘Dead’ even more of an emotional hit, like a note passed behind your back. 

New songs, like ‘Crystallised’ with its warmth and closeness in the celebration of solitary hope, are received well but it’s the rarely unearthed gems from the extensive Samiam archive which get the biggest reaction. ‘Capsized’ might be older than some of the crowd, but the years have refined their teenage resentment, giving an outlet to the screams which they and we have held inside us for too long. Our rich, discordant claps tie our collective howls together. 1994’s ‘Don’t Break Me’ is almost acoustic before it bursts into magnetic, clouded rhythm. It has to be ‘Sunshine’, a song over two decades old, which shines the brightest though. Even the opening chords produce a huge burst of satisfaction and fulfilment, like a dam we subconsciously built inside ourselves has broken and everything floods out in pointed hands and frenzied bounces. “I hear from kids these days that the 90s are popular,” jokes Beebout before the gentle guitar droplets of ‘Mud Hill’ spread themselves across bass ripples. There’s a violent honesty in our response as we fling our hearts back with each grunge evoking soft drop down. 

Relying on the ‘old songs’ is a safe move and it’s fair to say that, judging by the faded t-shirts from long-dissolved contemporaries of Samiam, most of the crowd grew up with these songs. The band’s return feels tentative, seeking reassurance that their songs are still wanted and needed in 2024. They speed through their set, packing twenty three quick fire songs into ninety minutes with only a brief, awkward break before the encore, like they have a secret that they need to share before their courage fails them. However, its clear from even the briefest glance across the crowd at any point in their set that there was no need for nerves. ‘Full On’ sparks a huge jump up, with a whispered push as hands flail with each trip of the drums until the melody slows and breaks into pieces. The cut-throat trashy vibrancy of ‘Ordinary Life’ is what sends us on our way to spread the message that Samiam’s punk rock torch is still burning brightly. After thirty years of intermittent recording and touring, they’re still able to pull together a crowd united by musical sincerity. 

Kate Allvey