The Oberlin Review

Snail Mail’s Midweek Show Met with Applause

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Early-week shows typically aren’t the most popular, but indie rock bands Snail Mail and Why Bonnie might have brought one of the biggest weeknight crowds to the ’Sco this semester. They took the stage to play their new releases on Tuesday night.

Students raved over the performance. 

“The way Lindsey Jordan [of Snail Mail] carried herself on stage was not like an artist performing for a group of fans, but [like] she was one of us here performing for peers and just having a good time,” College first-year Eamon McKeon commented the next day. “She talked about things on campus and talked to people in the audience, and making jokes about the tech issues at the beginning of the show. She was very down to earth and casual.”

’Sco booker and College junior Matt Lavine commented, “We’ve had the idea of getting Snail Mail for awhile. I’m from D.C. so I had that in. I just reached out to their manager back in the summer, so it was pretty far out in advance.” 

The show sold well for a Tuesday night — ’Sco employee and College sophomore Will Hagan reported that the total headcount was around 340.

Snail Mail’s success prior to Tuesday night’s performance is nothing short of impressive. Lindsey Jordan released her EP Habit while in high school and signed to Matador Records to release her newest album Lush. Pitchfork raved over its release, writing: “Snail Mail’s striking debut album is emotionally wise, musically clear, and encompasses the once and future sound of indie rock… Sincerity is Lindsey Jordan’s superpower.” Rolling Stone called her an “indie rock prodigy.” While the Review wasn’t able to confirm an interview time with Jordan’s agent, her opening act had plenty to say. 

Why Bonnie is the product of Blair Howerton’s songwriting — a five-piece, eclectic bedroom-pop band hailing from Austin, Texas. The band’s second EP Nightgown was met with positive reviews from The Austin Chronicle, described as a “charming grab-bag” of dream-pop essence. They played the first leg of Snail Mail’s United States tour and rejoined them in Texas in January. 

“It’s been really cool so far. The crowds have been huge — way bigger than what we are used to,” said bassist Chance Williams. 

“The first night in New York was like 800 to a 1,000 [people], the sound guy told us. And our show in Detroit was really big by our standards,” keyboard player Kendall Powell added. 

Guitarist Sam Houdek confirmed that this venue was a departure from the band’s beginnings.

“We played a lot more DIY spots like basements and house shows before this,” he said. 

The group is grateful to be joining Snail Mail on tour. 

“This is definitely the biggest opportunity we’ve had up to this point — places like Oberlin are more familiar to us,” lead singer Blair Howerton explained.

The night began at 9:30 p.m. with Why Bonnie’s opening set. Howerton’s delicate melodies worked beautifully with the punchy drums in the back, and the group was tightly coordinated. They preserved the crowd’s energy by moving in and out of slow jams and ended their set with songs from their next album, set to be released next year. Their last two songs were more rock-influenced, and garnered the biggest response from the crowd. Why Bonnie’s sound was lively and grand, contrasted by their thoughtful musical arcs and emotional lyricism. Their take on the indie pop genre is sure to make an impact with their next release. 

Snail Mail was met with a warm welcome, and after a brief interruption of tech issues from monitor volumes, Jordan had the crowd in the palm of her hand. She played songs from the emotionally-mature album Lush and broke into slow guitar solos between verses. Jordan’s definitive live sound of neat electric guitar tones, open tuning, robust drums, and raw vocals sat well in the ’Sco, and felt less “clean” than her studio recordings — in this way, it was more reminiscent of Habit. Though she’s sometimes known as an untouchable prodigy, Jordan’s humanizing performance made her that much more real. Between songs, she even said that she considered going to Oberlin.

While her songs at times felt repetitive — most of them stayed in the same key and tempo, and featured the same vocal climb throughout the night — her consistent delivery and songwriting is unmatched. Jordan is leading the way for women in the indie rock scene, and is making huge strides as a musician at such a young age. 

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