By Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com | Posted December 01, 2018 at 12:24 PM
Lindsey Jordan spent the opening minutes of her Friday night performance not rocking or crooning, but scurrying on and off stage and fiddling with her on-stage speakers.
“I wish this were an act,” the 19-year-old Maryland native jokingly lamented to the crowd.
It would not be until the encore of the indie darling’s performance at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City that the sold-out crowd could truly see just why her Jordan’s moniker Snail Mail has become a small phenomenon of the indie-rock scene. Her debut studio album, “Lush,” has found itself on many end-of-year album lists after its June release, and was good enough to prompted Rolling Stone to crown her “an indie-rock prodigy.”
It was too bad then, that equipment issues plagued much of this 75-minute performance, more or less from the opening notes. Issues with in-ear monitors — the tech that allows the band to hear how they sound on stage — left Jordan spending the majority of her largest New Jersey headlining gig so far straining to hear herself and struggling to hit the lofty notes that make her voice and thus her music so powerful.
Despite visible frustration and constantly having to check in with the sound mixers, Jordan plowed ahead the best she could, with more poise than one might expect from someone her age. Still, there were times where Snail Mail sounded like a band that hadn’t had a sound check, and she made reference to her sound issues several times throughout the night.
The female-fronted rock scene appears to have entered into a small golden age, with artists like Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus (both on Matador Records along with Snail Mail), Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy all highlighting 2018 with excellent projects and ensuing tours. Jordan was born in 1999, but was clearly influenced by bands like Sonic Youth, The Cranberries and Pavement, who got their start in the 1980s.
Snail Mail stands out as Jordan’s ethereal yet grungy and expressive voice belie the type of teen angst that you can only truly receive from, you know, an angsty teenager — like the second chorus from “Heat Wave,” in which she sings, “and I hope the love you find swallows you wholly like you said it might.”
Jordan thanked the crowd for bearing with her, and they were rewarded by the end when things finally started to coalesce. Snail Mail was at its best in its final few songs when it was just Jordan on stage with her guitar, the sound stripped down and her voice finally able to cut through the failing tech. Then rejoined by the band for the encore, she cut loose and belted, even dropping her guitar and hopping off stage into the crowd to sing one of the final songs much to the venue’s delight.
What might have been the best song of the night didn’t even come from the acclaimed “Lush” but rather 2016’s “Habit,” as snail Mail closed strongly with “Static Buzz” as Jordan found her groove vocally and ended the show on a strong note.
In the midst of an international tour, this almost certainly wasn’t the band’s favorite performance. But considering the type of critical acclaim and following Snail Mail has earned, it’s safe to say this won’t be her last performance in New Jersey — here’s hoping the next one is more surely footed.