31st October | Thekla
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
A perfect Halloween night started with a chill in the air, moonlight creeping over the top of the dark sky, and sparse footfall under the eerie red iridescence cast off from the Thekla sign. Yet despite tentative early numbers for Snail Mail’s return to Bristol, attendance quickly swelled prior to a support slot at this sold-out show. A select few attendees donning Halloween attire, gently acknowledging the holiday – perhaps with just a hint of irony – of course deserve a special mention. Snails and skeletons, it all made for something different.
As the clock rolled around to eight, Hachiku – aka Anika Ostendorf – began her humble set, bringing the bedroom pop from her self-titled EP to stage, along with a rather spot-on and lovingly performed cover of The Cranberries’ hit ‘Dreams’ for good measure. Despite some apparent stage jitters, Ostendorf’s music was captivating from start to finish, the Casiotone-esque and aptly titled ‘Zombie Slayer’ proving a highlight. Towards the end, Ostendorf broke out for a couple of minutes, once humorously checking her phone so that she’d meet a stringent curfew, and regaled the crowd with an anecdote of the peril of buying hot chocolate and being environmentally conscious. It was impossible not to be won over by her charm.
Not long after, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan and live band appeared and immediately launched into a furious opening jam that frankly could’ve made Boredoms blush. Perhaps seeming to pay homage to Jordan’s history in the Maryland punk scene, that fierce intensity is something that never quite returned in the duration of their set as they settled into a familiar indie groove, but it was gratifying to see what extremes the band could take their sound. It certainly demanded your attention; Snail Mail were here and making a statement.
Unfortunately, that statement may not have been the one intended; as the noisy intro segued neatly into ‘Heat Wave’, Jordan’s voice seemed to be railing against notes she couldn’t quite reach. The result was a little awkward and that seemed to be the general consensus from crowd reaction. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant, especially in parts where her voice didn’t need to stretch; it was exactly how you’d imagine Lush in the live setting. It was only in the higher register, those moments when the chorus peaked, that you’d be jolted from Snail Mail’s sonic reverie. It doesn’t seem quite representative of what Jordan is capable of, which is unfortunate, but after so many months on the road, perhaps touring had taken its toll or perhaps Jordan was feeling somewhat under the weather.
That said, the instrumentation for each song sounded as good as its recorded counterpart, maybe even a little more sombre as Jordan and the band slowed it down, prolonged pauses, and amped up the guitar. This control of the music was reassuring, and promising for what lies in store for Snail Mail. Leaving the venue that evening, I’d certainly be curious to see how this performance compares to future ones. I sincerely hope she continues to shine as she already has done this year.
If you missed Snail Mail at Thekla, why not see her live KEXP set here: