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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

I wanna be friends with Sammy Rae & The Friends

The “Camp Tour” pitched their tent at Ryman Auditorium for the night.
Abby Hoelscher
Sammy Rae sings into the microphone sitting cross-legged on the stage floor, as photographed on Feb. 23, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Abby Hoelscher)

After a week of mental preparation for the amazing acoustics of Ryman Auditorium, I was excited to finally make my way to my seat amongst rows of pews for a night of camp. On stage, there were fake plants and a forest back-drop, along with some stereotypical camp direction signs. Waiting for the opener, We the Commas, the crowd’s excitement was palpable. When the lights finally dimmed, everyone screamed. 

Cam and Lenny, two of the three brothers from We the Commas, came running on stage along with their drummer, guitarist and saxophonist. I immediately noticed their outfits — or more so how stylish they were, dressed in open button-ups and casual jeans. The first song they performed, titled “The Introduction,” was all instrumental, emanating the sense of a warm opening number, welcoming you home. After this song, Jordy, the third brother, came running on stage as the crowd went wild. They immediately jumped into their next song, “We Used to Dance.” We the Commas is a band of three brothers from San Diego. Their music style is beachy and upbeat, with guitars and drums playing a big role in the backing track. There were a few saxophone solos, over which the crowd responded with cheers.

After each song, We the Commas did not shy away from expressing all of their gratitude, which made me think every song would be the last. The group closed with a song dedicated to their late mother, called “Keep Going” because those were her last words of advice to them. Overall, We the Commas’ production was remarkably encapsulating and so high-energy. Their signature move of the night was an “I love you” in sign language pointed toward the crowd, wiggling their pointer and pinky fingers like a cute wave, saying goodbye to the audience.

After taking a detour to the merch table, I made it back in time for the second dimming of the lights: when the Friends entered on stage. Many were anticipating the Sammy Rae, who came running out after an unbearably long applause. Rae opened with a few sweet words — expressing gratitude for their fans and thanking them for the enthusiastic welcome — many of which were sung in a musical tone. Rae’s voice was so breathtaking, and every high note sung seemed natural and effortless. The opening track, “Follow Me Like the Moon,”  included a little dance, in which the group lined up for the chorus and swung their hips to the beat of the music. Immediately following this, they jumped into “Talk It Up,” a song about being confident and unstoppable. Next, they introduced “If It All Goes South,” a song about being yourself and embracing mistakes. This was an especially exciting inclusion, as the song is reserved exclusively for concerts in the South. Every song in their discography is reminiscent of a musical theater soundtrack, with each track having an important, heartfelt message behind the production. 

I felt like I was actually at summer camp learning life lessons, sitting around a campfire with a group of people who were comfortable singing songs together without a care in the world. Rae helped to create a feeling of support and kindness between the audience and band.

“You know what happens when you get hurt, Nashville? You learn to heal yourself,” Rae said.

The whole evening, everyone was bouncing with energy and enthusiasm. There was never a dull moment from Sammy Rae & The Friends. Later in the night, Rae expressed how they were so glad that their fans were willing to let them take artistic risks and deviate from their normal routine. You could tell Rae and her band of Friends were having the time of their lives onstage as they shared their music with a packed auditorium. Along with this, they teased a handful of unreleased songs on their next new album including, “Luck of the Draw,” “David,” “Thieves” and “The State Song” (which mentions Nashville). Sammy Rae & The Friends’ performance at the Ryman was one to commit to memory. If you are ever in need of some feel-good, upbeat music with carefully chosen lyrics, Sammy Rae & The Friends should be in your queue.

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About the Contributors
Kailey Aldrich
Kailey Aldrich, Staff Writer
Kailey Aldrich (‘27) is from Olmsted Township, Ohio, and studies biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering. She is a Life staff writer interested in anything and everything, but she loves creative writing. She is great at relaxing and having fun with her friends instead of studying. You can reach her at [email protected].
Abby Hoelscher
Abby Hoelscher, Photography Editor
Abby Hoelscher (‘27) is from St. Louis and is an aspiring elementary teacher currently studying in Peabody College. She previously served as Deputy Photography Director. Outside of writing, she enjoys performing, learning Taylor Swift songs in American Sign Language and trying the seasonal lattes from the campus coffee shops. She can be reached at [email protected].
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