JAMnight Live! with Snail Mail: Lindsey Jordan’s maiden Bangkok performance may be as intimate a performance as we will ever see from her, and was a perfect showcase of female musical talent

JAMnight Live! with Snail Mail: Lindsey Jordan’s maiden Bangkok performance may be as intimate a performance as we will ever see from her, and was a perfect showcase of female musical talent

Last Thursday, Snail Mail performed for the first time in Bangkok. I had no idea who Snail Mail were, I didn’t even really know they were coming to Bangkok, but in the lead up to this show I heard some pretty solid things about them, so I checked them out.

And I loved them! I’m starting to like this process a lot more – you hear a band is coming, you listen to their songs, you get absolutely hooked and excited to hear them play live, and then you don’t have to wait long as the show is only a few days away. Instant gratification. I also love how organizers understand this and are starting to put out content that helps you with this process – song playlists, briefs about the band and their history, and little tidbits that make you feel that you know them personally.

 

I’m starting to like this process a lot more – you hear a band is coming, you listen to their songs, you get absolutely hooked and excited to hear them play live, and then you don’t have to wait long as the show is only a few days away. Instant gratification.

 

I must admit that Snail Mail’s honest story-telling and indie rock style took me back. It may sound cliché but I did feel like a bit of a teenager again and the songs reminded me of growing up and being young and idealistic. Yes, I know that’s odd when Jordan’s lyrics are much more realistic than idealistic, but well, that’s what happened. I basically listened to “Lush” and “Habit” all Wednesday and was pretty excited come Thursday. I was also looking forward to seeing Deun and Yanin, the opening acts, as I have been a big fan of both for quite a few years now and I consider them two of the best vocalists in the Thai music scene.

Rockademy, the venue, was set up a little bit differently than usual, with the stage to the left of where you walk in instead of directly in front of you. I liked how if you climbed up the stairs to the platform near the entrance, you got a bird’s eye view of both the band and the crowd, a perfect snapshot of that connection between a performer and their audience.

Deun, the former lead singer of Sasi, was up first. Playing solo, she commanded the stage and the audience’s attention like few can on their own, with those bright, airy, yet powerful vocals that have always reminded me of a modern take on Thai classical singing, just a very exceptional sound. She released “นี่” (Surreal) just this September and I feel it picks up where she left off with Sasi, with all the great things she brought to that band delivered in an acoustic package. She recently signed with White Music and has some exciting things coming soon.

 

Playing solo, she commanded the stage and the audience’s attention like few can on their own, with those bright, airy, yet powerful vocals that have always reminded me of a modern take on Thai classical singing, just a very exceptional sound.

 

She started with a new track she said she’s never played before which she described as “about being an introvert, liking someone but not telling them”. She followed this with “When I See Your Face Again, which built wonderfully, starting from almost spoken word up through to rock, and she concluded the number by saying how happy she was to open for Snail Mail and sing her own songs. Next up was “Bang Bang”, an English song and one of my favorites from her previous band Sasi, which started with some technical difficulties that the audience politely endured. Seriously, this was a lovely audience. As the song ended the audience waited to clap to the point that Deun had to tell them the song was over and they could go ahead.

The crowd had grown by this point and she followed with another Sasi song, “ถ้า” (If), which she wasn’t able to play with effects, but it was something I preferred anyways. The song took me back, back to when I would scout out and attend Sasi’s shows. It’s a band I will miss and I will always count their sound as one that, along with others, defined the sound of Bangkok’s indie scene for me. Deun continued with two more new songs, both about relationships and heartbreak, both with signature slow, vocal focused starts and strong, guitar focused endings. She completed her performance with “นี่” (Surreal), her latest single. I found it quite similar to her previous work with a slightly new direction musically, just a little revolving a little bit more around her voice than before, complementing it better. She ended the song with very light, soft notes, almost fading to nothing, the crowd again waiting patiently for her to finish completely, and then offering appreciative applause.

 

… this was a lovely audience. As the song ended the audience waited to clap to the point that Deun had to tell them the song was over and they could go ahead.

 

After a short break, Yanin was up next, but with a full band setup which was different to what I’ve seen before. Just like Deun, Yanin has also recently signed with White Music and will be releasing some material soon, but while I am excited about this upcoming project, Yanin is someone who I find performs more rarely than most, so this still felt like a rare chance to see her, especially with a great setup and stage like this. And it seemed like she felt this a bit as well, clearly enjoying every minute of her performance, often closing her eyes and dancing around the stage, completely content in her own little world.

She started strongly with a song that took advantage of the full band, building throughout until Yanin finally ripped the mic off its stand as the song peaked, before slowing things down and ended it a capella. She continued with her next song “On The Way”, growing into the set and moving across the stage, swaying back and forth with the music, her performance a very distinct contrast of being completely focused on the mic and the lyrics while singing, and then completely lost in the moment and unaware of her surroundings while not singing. It’s like, while she may be in her own little world, as an audience member you are quite convinced to lose track of your surroundings and become a part of that world. I like how some of her music has become quite a bit more indie rock than the more acoustic approach it had before.

 

… her performance a very distinct contrast of being completely focused on the mic and the lyrics while singing, and then completely lost in the moment and unaware of her surroundings while not singing. It’s like, while she may be in her own little world, as an audience member you are quite convinced to lose track of your surroundings and become a part of that world.

 

Next up was “อากาศ” (Atmosphere), a favorite of mine, which she explained was an important song for her and was responsible for people coming to know about her over 3 years ago, followed by another song which was a perfect showcase of her vocals, which she enjoyed much like the rest, at one point fully involved, leaning over as she sang, almost like a metal act. She ended this song by thanking HAVE YOU HEARD? for having her, mentioning that it’s been some time since she’s played, before launching into the next song, an unreleased track that I was happy to see was similar and a continuation to her previously released tracks, her style intact. She ended her set with probably her best known track “ไม่มีสิ่งใดไม่ชัดเจน” (Nothing is Unclear), performed quite differently than I’ve seen before, a little faster, a little more in a rock style. Both Yanin and the band seemed quite content to enjoy this final number to its full extent, each fully involved. As the song ended she shyly thanked what had again been a great audience.

Acts like these are proof of the talent Thailand’s scene has. With Deun and Yanin, it’s just a joy to see them play. I’m happy to see them pursuing the next stage with White Music and I hope it works out for them.

After a break, Snail Mail appeared, got straight up on stage and started their set, opening with “Heat Wave”, one of their most popular songs, the sort I’d expect her to close a gig with. Lindsey Jordan’s voice is the sort that you can prepare yourself mentally to hear live for the first time, but still hits you smartly between the eyes. It’s somehow soft and firm, innocent and mature, all at the same time – and it’s a perfect fit for the stories she tells.

 

Lindsey Jordan’s voice is the sort that you can prepare yourself mentally to hear live for the first time, but still hits you smartly between the eyes. It’s somehow soft and firm, innocent and mature, all at the same time – and it’s a perfect fit for the stories she tells.

 

From almost the first song, I could tell something was a little bit off, and it became more apparent as the set wore on, Jordan was struggling. What followed though was one of the best examples of musical control I’ve seen. I heard later that both her health and the sound system at times were putting her under pressure, and as someone with a girlfriend who has been a musician for many years, I’ve seen this struggle before, when a singer doesn’t have all the tools at their disposal and does their best to deliver regardless. Jordan managed the situation really well, working with what she had a putting on a solid performance, focusing on the two things that carry her songs – vocals and guitar – clearly putting her full focus into both in order to output her songs as close as she could to the original rendition.

She followed her first song with “Dirt”, from her first EP “Habit”, introducing the song with a quick hello. “We’re Snail Mail, thanks for coming. This is cool!” I loved the parts of this song that got her singing, long, rich notes, her vocals on full display. Up next was “Slug”, also from her first EP, which ended with a lovely section where the band faded away and she sang alone, the words echoing around the room. This was followed by “Golden Dream” with those 3 words in the chorus that stand out so well, “I’m not yours”. The band ended the song strongly and sang “Thinning” and “Speaking Terms” next, Jordan still struggling a bit, but more relaxed than before.

 

Jordan once described this song (‘Second Most Beautiful Girl In The World’ by Courtney Love) as “so relatable and gorgeous, all the lyrics are insanely personal and heartbreaking … I feel completely at one with it up onstage”, and it showed. So reproduced each word with care, yet still with a touch of her own style.

 

After this 6th song, Jordan stopped proceedings and noted that she couldn’t hear herself through her monitors. After some quick fixes, things improved and after that the rest of the show was much smoother. They continued with “Full Control”, a favorite of mine, and Jordan’s vocals as she sang “in full control, I’m not lost, even when it’s love, even when it’s not” was one of the peaks of the show for me. “Pristine” was next and the full band and audience looked like the enjoyed the number a lot, Jordan moving around the stage, comfortably belting and hitting big notes. They sang “Deep Sea” next, after which the band left Jordan on stage alone to sing a final two songs on her own.

Singing “Anytime”, the stage bathed in soft light, it was like the world stood still, pierced only by Jordan’s high notes, “in the end you could waste your whole life anyway, and I want better for you”. It was beautiful. She introduced the final song, “Second Most Beautiful Girl In The World” by Courtney Love as a cover and “her favorite song”, picking up where she left off with a gentle and emotional performance. Jordan once described this song as “so relatable and gorgeous, all the lyrics are insanely personal and heartbreaking … I feel completely at one with it up onstage”, and it showed. So reproduced each word with care, yet still with a touch of her own style. It was the perfect way to end a show and it ended up being just that, as Jordan left the stage and didn’t return for a further encore, like some may have expected from the set-lists of her recent performances in Japan.

 

Each of these women have amazing things ahead of them, and to see and hear each of them right on the cusp of this is something I’ll always remember.

 

I can understand if some audience members were disappointed by aspects of this show. I get it, you want to get the very best that can be offered, but to me, I felt honored to know some of the back story and to be able to see the ebb and flow of how the band coped with difficulties on the night. At 19 years of age, this may be the furthest Jordan has ever been from home, and I’m happy I got a chance to see this intimate and delicate performance from her, full of brilliant and emotional little moments. I probably will never get the chance again.

It was a gig that HAVE YOU HEARD? have to be applauded for. Each of these women have amazing things ahead of them, and to see and hear each of them right on the cusp of this is something I’ll always remember.

 

Written by Abner Olivieri, photos courtesy of HAVE YOU HEARD?, taken by Labyrinth Film & Krirakrit Worawetkulsage.

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