I’ve made it my mission to review every single live performance I’ve seen this year and I’m sticking to it! I saw Snail Mail perform at Chicago’s Wicker Park Fest a few weeks ago – but better late than never, in my opinion.
Lindsey Jordan is just 19 – but she’s been making waves ever since her debut album Lush, received positive reviews across the board, commenting on the “emotionally wise” content of the album about suburban woes and the complications of youth and adolescence. Rolling Stone commented on the album’s “smart lyrics” and compared Jordan to Liz Phair and Sonic Youth – Consequence of Sound called it “One of the most engaging and relatable indie rock debuts in quite some time.” Not too shabby for a kid straight out of high school, right?
This year’s Wicker Park Fest boasted an interesting lineup with artists like Sir The Baptist (A Chicago Native) and Porches, headlining sets from Against Me! and The Get Up Kids. I hadn’t had much interest in any of the other acts (maybe Porches) except to check out Snail Mail, whose earlier album release lived up to the hype and became one I very much enjoyed.
Snail Mail ended up having one of the biggest crowds I had seen all day on Saturday – and they weren’t even subheadlining the festival that day. With just 45 minutes to play, Jordan and the rest of the band seemed in their element onstage, and despite her youth, I was impressed with the ease and effortlessness that she embodied onstage. Maybe it’s the fact that Snail Mail has played Chicago several times this year – once earlier in January and again in June.
While it’s obvious that I enjoyed Lush in its entirety, parts of the set failed to translate into a live performance to me – and that may just be because so much of the album sounds the same – cohesiveness aside, the lack of transition between the songs is what potentially threw me off. This may be because of the genre in itself, the album is mainly indie rock but but on the softer side of things where its inherently gentleness can fail to come alive in a live performance setting. Jordan was also particularly quiet, not seeming to speak much to the audience in between songs – can be because of her inexperience as a touring artist or the fact that she just doesn’t want to talk in between songs.
While I don’t think a conversation between an artist and their audience is necessary in order to keep a performance’s momentum going, it would have created some sort of dialogue and more engagement between the audience and the band – also breaking up the songs that do sound a lot like each other (in my opinion – music is subjective, of course).
Expecting such a young performer to be a stage veteran is just unrealistic, and I wouldn’t expect someone who’s still in their teens to be fully developed in terms of their stage presence and artistry – which is something I hope that will help Jordan and Snail Mail as they continue to develop and gain more experience. The vocals and instrument playing seemed to be quite on par to me – which at the end of the day, is probably the most important part to a live show’s success in a genre that is so focused on those key elements.
Would I see Snail Mail again? Absolutely. Festivals are never the same atmosphere for a band compared to them performing their own headlining show – there are too many differing factors involved in a festival performance and its audience compared to seeing someone perform at their own ticketed event. This sentiment was echoed to me earlier this year when I saw Overcoats perform at the Taste of Randolph in June (click here to read about it). With such a strong debut, it’s inevitable that Snail Mail’s story is only beginning – and with as many shows in Chicago as they’ve had, I’m sure they will be back sooner than we all realize.
Click here to read the rest of my 2018 show reviews.