Snail Mail Live at The Biltmore Cabaret

Saturday 07th, July 2018 / 08:00
By Maggie McPhee

Photo by Andrew Bibby

The Biltmore Cabaret
June 24th, 2018

Snail Mail—Baltimore native Lindsey Jordan’s indie-rock solo project—played Sunday at the Biltmore with three accompanying members in support of her first headliner tour. Without introduction, the group whirred through improvised guitars, bass and drums into the mid-tempo melancholy of Heat Wave.

An apt opener. “It’s hot in here,” Lindsey sighed into the microphone afterwards, wiping the back of her hand to her brow. Indeed, crammed in the busy Biltmore basement under a single red light felt like the foyer to hell. But that heat was like a rite, so when Lindsey asked “don’t you like me for me?” during Pristine, the crowd’s sweat served as tacit assent.

This sensory space set the perfect stage for Snail Mail’s intimate intensity. Her guitar-rock churned around us during the set’s crisper moments, and when the band ground the tempo to a near-halt on songs like Golden Dream, we bore witness to the overheated breakdown of some great machine. Fiery and fatalist, the set was angst incarnate.

Lindsey, bleached dead-ends catching the stage lights like a halo, growled her confessionals into the thick air. Although classically trained on guitar, her vocals come from an ache for outlet rather than obvious talent, à la Bob Dylan. Unlike Dylan, Lindsey’s performance posited that personal is political—especially for the oft marginalized voices of queer female youth. “All of me would rather sing songs about women by women.” she told the audience before closing with a Courtney Barnett cover.

She treated inner minutiae with heft and respect but not without underplaying this seriousness with the occasional cough into her microphone. Deadpan and doe-eyed, she’d oscillate from earnest to jocular yet never wavered in her sincerity. No pretense, no parody—just the awe-inspiring act of vulnerability.