Sam Evian – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton – 24th October 2018

Photo by Iain Lauder

With two stunning albums to boot on Saddle Creek, both of which have somehow seemingly gone under the radar, surely it won’t be long before the talents of Sam Evian are recognised among musos alike. Brainchild of former Celestial Shore guitarist Sam Owen, a singer-songwriter/producer from New York, the band’s super smooth whispered Americana sound takes strong influences from some of the American guitar greats from the 60s/70s, holding a strong emotional retrospective edge to each track. We first came across Sam Evian at their astounding performance at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar over The Great Escape Festival 2018, so we were thrilled when we heard they were coming back to Brighton.

Off the back of a brilliant debut album, Hollow Hands’ warm wistful tones set the bar very high for the night’s entertainment at The Hope & Ruin. Their sound of yesteryear fits into a beautiful Americana folk-rock realm, featuring the catchy off kilter melodies and pretty vocal harmonies that fill you up with nostalgia for the simpler time from which their sound derives. It’s charming, chirpy and comforting, packaged nicely together by the impressively polished three-piece. Towards the end of the set, the guitarist and bassist from Sam Evian scamper on-stage for a glorious psych epic – the highlight of their set – and then it just ended. A short 20-minute set just wasn’t long enough for the Brightonian support act, evident by the fondness of the audience’s reaction, who wanted more of lead-singer and creator Max Kinghorn-Mills’ sunny sounds.

Having toured with Hollow Hand, Sam Evian would have been well practised in matching their quality and began their set with a slowed yet incredibly catchy ‘Sleep Easy’, the opening track on their debut LP. Heads were swaying and nodding as the crowd gazed in awe at Sam’s slide guitar prowess. A primitive version of the superbly melancholic ‘IDGAF’ immediately followed; showcasing the true basic brilliance behind all the extra layers and effects which feature on Sam Evian’s records. It was a mightily strong start, with each member of the quartet totally aware of the musical boundaries in which they can play in, can express themselves in, and could create special unique moments of musical brilliance at will and with ease. The crowd were captivated and in total wonderment to the audible magic Sam Evian was putting on show. It was incredible to see a band that is so at one with each other; their understanding of the music they have constructed and each other’s role within their music was a treat to see. The entire performance had no lows, and only continued to impress time and time again – whether it was the raw blues swagger of ‘Health Machine’, the dreamy splendour of ‘I Remember’, or when they had Holly Macve feature on ‘Cactus’ and Max Kinghorn-Mills playing on ‘Country’. The room left in total glee, blown away by the standard of the performance we had seen. The lucky few who found themselves at the gig, myself included, I’m sure will look back at this gig and think, “I saw them when they played in the most intimate of settings”.

There are a lot of things that make a great gig – it could be a lead singer’s stage performance or the visuals that go with the music. Yet, at its core, it will always be a band’s musicianship which will stand out among the rest. Sam Evian have this in abundance. A bassist who dances around his fretboard frantically to create the delicate groove; a guitarist who gets lost in the emotive tones of his rhythms; a drummer whose beats just flow out naturally without thought; and Sam Owens, the creator, the orchestrator, an Americana virtuoso.

Iain Lauder