Snail Mail Delivers to Western Mass

Since announcing their signing to major indie label Matador in the fall of 2017 Snail Mail has been among the busiest bands in the business.  Front woman Lindsey Jordan has been thrust from life as a high school student in a nearby suburb of Baltimore, MD to the face of the next generation of indie rock in what I imagine feels like overnight.  The 19 year old sensation has earned the praise and acclaim the old fashioned way, hard work. Jordan and company have been on the road for the better part of the past year opening for fellow rising stars Japanese Breakfast, Girlpool, and Bonny Doon as well as more veteran acts like Beach Fossils, Alvvays, and fellow label mates Belle and Sebastian.  More recently in 2018 Snail Mail has moved into the headlining role, an impressive feat in under a year of consistent touring. Tonight’s stop in Holyoke featured Austin based bedroom pop outfit Why Bonnie open for the capacity crowd comprised largely of students from the Five College Consortium (Smith, UMass, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire) in Western Massachusetts.

Why Bonnie took to the stage and opened with the lively and buoyant “Hollow Moon” from their most recent EP Nightgown.
Fronted by Blair Howerton on vocals and guitar, the fivesome also featured Sam Houdek on lead guitar, Kendall Powell on keyboards, Chance Williams on bass, and Mitch Lamon on drums.  Their brand of indie pop was well suited for the night’s clientele and saw a slew of fans clamoring around their end of the merch table post show. It’s always refreshing to see a relative unknown band find pockets of fans in the most unlikely of geographies.  Why Bonnie’s set was solid and reflected a very capable and creative quintet of young but capable musicians.

Snail Mail wasted little time in taking the stage once the transition of instruments was complete.  A noticeable change from their tour with Belle & Sebastian was new rhythm guitarist and fellow youngster, Daniel Butko.  Butko stood statuesque plucking strings timidly while Jordan strummed and picked with an adept ease that is often found in road hardened veterans.  To this point, I found a comfort in Jordan’s playing that I hadn’t just months earlier. Jordan’s poignant and expressive lyrics often become the focal point of her songs, particularly in a live setting where she’s begun experimenting with offbeat placement of her lyrics, as compared with the studio versions.  However, as Jordan plays with the syncopation of her words her guitar playing has become more noticeable and foregrounded her genuinely exceptional chops.

Opening with “Heatwave” from the debut full-length Lush instantly captured the fervor of the crowd.  “We haven’t done Western Mass in a while…” noted Jordan between songs and before launching into “Dirt” from their 2017 Habit E.P.. Jordan strummed her iconic red and white Fender Jaguar through the next few tracks including “Slug,” “Golden Dream,” and “Speaking Terms.”

Prior to launching into the melodic “Let’s Find An Out” Jordan recollected, “I don’t know what the occasion was but we went to a Smith party once”, which was received with a majority of cheers. She paused and recalled, “It was weird” which fetched a fair number of “oohs and ahhs from the Smith heavy crowd.   Jordan appeased the crowd by clarifying, “It was cool though.” “Any Smith students here?” Jordan asked knowing full well what the response would be. The reply was of course a resounding “Woohooo!” from many. After a rousing rendition of “Full Control” Ms. Jordan lamented that “We had to play to shows in Boston yesterday…that’s not your fault, just explaining the long pauses between songs.”  The toll of touring for the past year was not lost on this crowd, at least not this audience member. Gathering her energy and knowing her audience Jordan introed the hit single “Pristine”, and final one as an entire band, by saying: “Here’s a gay one for you Western Mass”. Jordan continued solo with her gorgeous green hollow body electric that seemed to overshadow her petite frame with it’s oversized body.  She strummed her way into the sonorous “Deep Sea” and crushed what was left of our hearts with a stinging rendition of “Anytime”. And with that Jordan graciously rasped “Thanks…have a good night” and exited stage right.

No encore. No need.

It’s special to witness someone like Lindsay Jordan shape rock history right in front of you.  To be at the vanguard of what is sure to be reflected on as a moment in history is exciting, energizing and fulfilling.  Be a witness to what’s to come and catch this very special talent when she visits your town.

Setlist:

  1. Heatwave
  2. Dirt
  3. Slug
  4. Golden Dream
  5. Speaking Terms
  6. Let’s Find An Out
  7. Full Control
  8. Pristine
  9. Deep Sea
  10. Anytime