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The Trials and Tribulations of Growing Up

Written by on May 2, 2022

Snail Mail @ Hollywood Palladium [4/27/2022] Article by Sam Joslyn. Photos by Katrina Weissman.

In a concert hall on Sunset Boulevard on a night bordering spring and summer, Snail Mail made me realize I was growing up, whether I liked it or not.

Having released her first full EP Habit in 2016 while she was still solidly in high school, Snail Mail tamed a wild, brooding adolescent sound, capturing the broken hearts of indie kids across America in the process. Her reign over the demographic continued with her first album Lush, which expanded on themes of dissatisfaction and malcontent in the life and love of the teenager.

“It just feels like /The same party every weekend / Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? / And if you do find someone better / I’ll still see you in everything,” a young Lindsey Jordan, the oh-shit-she’s-my-age young artist behind the Snail Mail moniker.

With Jordan’s newest release, Valentine, she has run into a quandary many artists face: as her sound is polished and her music begins to appeal to broader audiences, how can she hold on to the fans of the beginning, the fans who like her for her lack of polish? One UCLA Radio photographer described her lack of enthusiasm for the newest release, feeling it had lost that visceral emotion so fastly associated with teenage angst. Glimmering synths filled the gaps between Jordan’s traditionally sparse indie production landscape, as if she was bleaching the grout between the tiles in her bathroom, yelling “See? I’m an adult now!” In the age of queer indie sad-girls making it big, many day-one Snail Mail fans could only cling to her coat-tails and pray they not be left in the dust.

Shuffling into the Hollywood Palladium, the venue greeted me with a storied and aging aroma, a pleasant scent quite rare in Los Angeles, the city always looking ahead to the next big thing. As concertgoers slowly trickled onto the auditorium floor, I could almost see the swingin’ dance parties thrown here when they first opened in the 40s. Back then, entry required a $1 cover charge and dinner cost $3; I kept this painfully in mind as I paid north of $15 for a tall can of “domestic” beer (read: Pabst Blue Ribbon). 

As I took my first sip of the American Piss Water, the Australian Goon Sax shuffled awkwardly on stage and began their hazy gothic post-punk set. With their flowing, carefree tales of teenage and quarter-life-crisis embarrassment, the opener felt like a vestige of Snail Mail’s past sound of teenage angst, now relegated to the opening act. In truth, they looked out of place; their emaciatedly slick knee-bobbing was not reciprocated by an exceptionally normal-looking crowd. 

After a synth-filled set, the trio closed out with the delightful rock’n’roll waltz “The Chance,” to which the audience couldn’t help but swing along.

Like a gymnasium production of Romeo and Juliet, red light blanketed the empty stage, and with little pomp and circumstance Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail’s true identity, strutted to its center. It was only right that she began with “Valentine,” the angry, sardonic album-opener:

“Why’d you wanna erase me? / Darling Valentine? / You always know where to find me / When you change your mind”

Jordan’s platinum-dyed bangs shook about as her small-in-stature frame permeated an enormous and captivating musical energy. Fitted in elegant, flowing purple pants, her appearance affirmed what her music had stated: she had grown out of her lazy everyday high school wardrobe and graduated to a fully curated celebrity image.  At first, it was surprising to find that such a larger-than-life character – as presented in her nail-bitingly angry sound – could originate from such a physically tiny person. But in a way, it only made sense that such a ferocious voice, energy, and angst would come out of a small, quiet-looking person who likely did not have many other outlets to espouse their rage.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” she asked plainly as the band backing her shredded through “Thinning,” a song which felt impossible not to produce a mosh pit. “Thank you,” she concluded, after the audience responded with an amount of energy she deemed adequate.

In her performance, Jordan achieved what few musical acts can in a Los Angeles venue, which (in my opinion) are plagued with generally disinterested, post-ironic audiences: she created moments on the stage that were impossible to ignore. I spent a good portion of the concert in my own head, thinking of personal woes this week of college had brought me. For the longest time, I had felt like I was doomed to an adulthood where every emotion I felt was muted, distracted by the toil and trouble of everyday life. Snail Mail smacked me in the face, dragged me out of my tenured depression, and threw me back into the intense emotional throes of teenage life through her selfless guitar breaks. She wrapped up the feeling of the concert in a sweet little bow with the chorus of her first encore song, “Mia”:

“I love you forever / But I’ve gotta grow up now / No, I can’t keep holding on to you / Anymore.”

Lindsey Jordan is growing up, and so are we, the chronically frustrated high schoolers who fell in love with her years ago for screaming the words we ourselves had to swallow. In a brief conversation between the opener and headlining act, someone remarked to me how they missed how “visceral” things felt back in high school, how these days she felt the same things, only less intensely. Bue as she threw herself into her final encore song “Pristine,” Snail Mail broadcast a message the hormonally ravaged youth and depressed adults both could agree to: no matter how old you get, blasting the music you listened to in high school and scream-crying into your pillow feels pretty damn good.

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