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Donna Missal and Samia Light up the Sinclair

Donna Missal Concert
Donna Missal performing at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA.

Last Friday, rising indie artist Donna Missal performed at the Sinclair in her headline tour, following the release of her first album, “This Time,” in September. On her website, Missal said of the tour, “I was homeschooled. I never had a school dance or a picture day or a graduation. THIS TIME TOUR is your invitation to the winter and spring formal I never had.” She was accompanied by New York singer-songwriter Samia, who will next be joining Hippo Campus on their Bambi tour in April. Though both still lesser-known artists, each addressed a growing number of enthusiastic fans, filling the room with haunting vocals and a powerful stage presence that left the audience in awe.

Samia opened with confident, humble energy. She walked out onto to the stage in black jeans and a cropped long-sleeve tee, introduced herself and her guitarist to the crowd — quipping about the phlegm in her throat — and then proceeded to sing. Haunting vocals in songs like “Welcome to Eden” and the upbeat, vengeful energy of “Someone Tell the Boys” transfixed the crowd. She introduced her recent song “Lasting Friend” by saying, “This one is about how in middle school all the boys used to line up in the gym and touch my boobs at lunch,” her voice simultaneously joking and gravely serious. What followed was a powerful exploration of the complicated nature of shame over time, featuring an extended electric guitar solo. Samia’s song “Milk,” with calming lyrics that allude to coping with the death of a loved one, evoked a tangible sense of peace within heartbreak. She ended with a cover of The Knack’s 1979 single “My Sharona,” for which the tone of the performance became lighter, even celebratory, as she danced around the stage with the mic, lay on her back, and kicked her feet to the rhythm of the song. Before walking offstage, she repeated her former introduction, “I’m Samia. This is Sarah,” to affectionate laughter.

Missal opened her set with “Don’t Say Goodnight,” the last song off “This Time.” She let the ambient intro build suspense before coming onstage to the cheering of the crowd. Like Samia, Missal dressed simply, in a white tank top that left a sleeve of tattoos glowing beneath the colored stage lights. Her energy was contagious. She danced in smooth, rolling motions, punctuated with punches to the air in time with the music, often reaching her arms up and out to the crowd as if to connect with distant audience members.

When she paused her set to say a few words, the performance took on an empowering tone. “Women have been oppressed for a really long time,” she said. “Women are being represented now, and they look like us and they feel like us and that’s really important. So for all the women that are here tonight supporting other women, thank you so much.” Then, smiling into the audience, she quoted a line from her song “Girl,” and the crowd chanted it along with her: “When women hate on other women, everybody loses.”

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The support Missal’s fans offered her went both ways. Everything about her stage presence lent itself in service to connecting with her audience, and the lyrics of her songs seemed written just as much for her listeners as for herself. Throughout the show, she continued to drop words of wisdom. At another pause in her set, she said, “I don’t think I heard this enough as a woman in the music industry, but your age does not define your value and your youth does not make you more valuable.” Staring out into her audience, Missal reassured every woman in the room that they have all the time in the world to reach where they want to be in their lives.

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