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Snail Mail delivers 'Lush' sounds in San Francisco

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by Chloe Catajan

In increasingly fast-paced times, Snail Mail reminds us to take a moment to reflect. Lindsey Jordan, the Maryland project's creative force, does this in her songwriting. She ruminates on a feeling and gives it space to breathe through gut-spilling lyrics and intuitive guitar melodies, all of which are even more telling in person. Backed by a full band, Snail Mail delivered an utterly emotive performance to a sold-out Fillmore in San Francisco.

Jordan, bassist Alex Bass, keyboardist Madeline McCormack and drummer Ray Brown went into full blast with an opening jam session before simmering into "Heat Wave." The popular track off 2018's Lush dug right into troubled thoughts surrounding a disconnect between loved ones.

"I hope the love that you find/ Swallows you wholly/ Like you said it might," Jordan sang with a slight snarl. Her vocal frills constantly affirmed the intensity of her emotion, whether they took form in those lilts or in the rasp that came out in longer notes. Even with the fuller sounds of "Dirt" and "Slug" from 2016's Habit, Jordan's vocals had an unshakeable vulnerability that evidently resonated with the audience.

Some of the night's most massive singalongs took place during the mellow "Speaking Terms" and punchier cut, "Pristine." Heads swayed as the crowd belted in unison. These songs about heartache and learning to move forward became an immersive experience that fans seemed to take comfort in.

Snail Mail slowed things down with "Deep Sea." It was desolate, melancholy-drenched and a perfect transition into the evening's last stretch. Jordan's bandmates then exited the stage, allowing her to perform the last two songs solo. She first wished the crowd a safe journey back home and shared a story about road signs in her hometown that read, "Safe driving is my favorite."

Slow-burners "Anytime" and "Stick" closed the set, leaving an impression as moving as a hyped encore would have. Their softer melodies were sullen to illustrate past hardships, but their lyrics looked into the future with a hopeful glimmer. In tune with its own thoughts, Snail Mail left fans with a balanced backdrop for their own introspection.

New York duo Black Marble took the stage beforehand with an entrancing set of gothic synthpop. Heavy basslines, hard-hitting drum tracks and buoyant synths swept The Fillmore with immense soundwaves, putting the pair's dexterity on full display. While songs like "MSQ No-Extra" and "A Great Design" had a New Order-like flavor to them, Black Marble lacquered its retro influences with a distinct, dark froth. Grandiose vocals from lead singer-guitarist Chris Stewart further added a haunting dimension the duo's cloudy melodies.

Black Marble's set also included a cover of Wire's "In Manchester" and closed with the heartfelt "Iron Lung" off 2016's It's Immaterial. It was a grand sonic collision of all things beautiful and dark.

Choir Boy opened the show by setting a mood that was equal parts serene and gloomy. Reminiscing The Smiths, the Utah-based quartet stirred together somber melodies with sprightly chimes, creating an arresting contrast that hooked the crowd's attention. Frontman Adam Klopp took Choir Boy's sound to an even greater level, projecting deep yet atmospheric vocals. "Blood Moon" off 2016's Passive With Desire pulsed with sweeping synthscapes that especially brought Klopp's dynamic singing to light.

(Photos: Chloe Catajan)

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