Review: Snail Mail’s Authentic Self-Love at DC9, 2/13

My Valentine’s Day plans this year started out quite simple: order a pizza, hang out with my roommates, and binge cartoons. As my own act of rebellion against modern Valentine’s Day activities and a subversion of existing norms about love and interpersonal connections, I swore I would center my platonic relationships this year. Little did I know that the universe had other plans for me. I had no idea I would be entering a transformative space where I could practice self-love this year when I attended Snail Mail’s February 13 show at DC9 Nightclub.

After two incredible local openers – Birthday Girl DC and Flowers for the Dead – who energized the crowd, it was time for Snail Mail (Lindsey Erin Jordan) to perform. Under the dim multicolored lights and numerous disco balls of DC9, the crowd chattered excitedly as they waited for her to play. After about 15 minutes, I felt a small push on my left arm and moved out of the way to let the person behind me through. To my surprise, it was Snail Mail herself.

I was shocked, not by the fact that she needed to go through the crowd to get to the stage (the other artists had done this as well), but because the Snail Mail I was staring at was not at all the Snail Mail I had envisioned in my mind. Her poetic, introspective vocals sometimes tend into painful, vulnerable territory, sure, but I was not expecting an artist with slightly grown out buzzed hair and a shirt reading “PROUD HATER” to announce herself as the night’s main performer. This was at sharp odds from the iconic promotional images of the Valentine era, where Snail Mail is pictured wearing a light pink blazer, frilly collared shirt, Victorian-inspired brooch, and bouquet of flowers in her pocket, symbols that seem to position her as someone who embraces more traditional and romantic indicators of femininity. I found myself wondering what the night’s vibes would be.

Luckily, I did not have to wait for long. Snail Mail began her show by paying homage to her local roots. As someone born and raised in the DMV, she’s played DC9 before – and she’s played on Valentine’s Day as well! As her set began, the venue’s lighting helped set the mood of each song; “Valentine” was paired with an angry, passionate red to represent her inability to move on from a catastrophic breakup, while songs like “Forever (Sailing)” were accompanied by a sultry purple to reflect her intense obsession with a lover. Snail Mail’s deft command over her multiple guitars was a highlight of the evening.

With each passing song, it became clear that Snail Mail was parting from the palatable archetype of “indie sad girl” musician, instead embracing a more alternative, grungy persona. As an audience member, it made me feel inspired to see an artist embodying the version of herself she wants to be. Snail Mail’s music, performance, and image demonstrated that she is comfortable with who she is as an artist and as an individual; she bleeds authenticity, confidence, and talent. As more time passed, I realized that I should not have been surprised at all. In everything she releases, Snail Mail always demonstrates these ideals. I cannot wait to see what future albums of hers bring if this is the direction in which she is currently moving.

While I, too, am normally a proud hater of a great many things, I was a proud lover of Snail Mail’s show at DC9. I guess the spirit of Valentine’s Day is, ultimately, much more powerful than I ever could have imagined.

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