Snail Mail is the indie rock brainchild of Lindsey Jordan, who burst onto the music scene as a high school student in 2016 with her debut EP Habit. Still only 19, she and her band recently headlined a UK tour, stopping in Bristol for the first time to play a sold-out show at The Louisiana.
The band was supported by Bristol locals, Wych Elm, who played a Nirvana-worshipping set that raised heartrates in a small but very crowded room of people who, up until then, seemed virtually lifeless. With breaking voices and bleached blonde hair obscuring at least 50% of the band members’ eyes, the performance smelled a little too much like teen spirit but nevertheless served as a great warm up act.
When Snail Mail appeared a short while later, most instantly striking was the intimacy of the show; even through the dense insulation of the crowd you could clearly see whites of eyes and hear the tuning of unamplified guitars. They opened with ‘Heat Wave’, Jordan’s voice, as piercingly clear in person as it is in her recordings, immediately drenching the room with her signature shade of suburban melancholy as she effortlessly switched back and forth between sonorous cries and hushed lilting. It was impossible not to feel moved by the band’s impressive ability to overwhelmingly convey an emotional palette shared with shoegaze bands such as Slowdive.
It was tangibly evident during the show that Jordan’s band was not made up of session musicians dragged onstage by their wallets, but people who had a deep respect for and understanding of her music. They bounced beautifully off each other with great levels of interplay, throwing musical flare not present on recordings onto songs such as ‘Pristine’. Later in the evening, the band quietly disappeared as if they had forgotten something offstage, leaving the frontwoman alone to serenade the crowd. Jordan was unfalteringly confident in this setting, performing beautifully and holding her own, assuredly quipping “I’m gay” when whistled at by male members of the audience.
The band reappeared at the end to play a short encore and were greeted by a sustained cheer from an audience who, it seemed, had all been made to feel alone in a packed room through the sheer strength of emotion in the performance. A Snail Mail show is an ultimately humbling event as feelings that can often be too difficult to put into words are masterfully wrought out of you by a truly prodigious young artist.