Noise Pop Delivers Snail Mail: The Singer of “Pristine” sells out Great American Music Hall

Rose Melberg and Jen Sbriga (shown left) make up The Softies. The Duo started in 1994 as what was intended to be a side project that evolved into a successful indie-pop-making machine. Photo by Samantha Avila Griffin/SF FOGHORN

Bloodred and electric blue lights illuminated the crowd waiting for alt-rock headliner Snail Mail to take the stage at the Great American Music Hall last Saturday. 

“We’ve had these tickets since November. We’re from Davis, so we drove up for the show,” said attendee Morgan Hickey, 23. “It’s only like an hour but there was like 20 minutes of rain where we thought about going home, but we stuck with it!” 

Snail Mail’s concert was part of San Francisco’s 31st annual Noise Pop Festival, a celebration of up-and-coming and local musicians. Over the course of 10 days, more than 150 performers played at venues across the city. Not just limited to music, the festival also hosts art shows, film screenings and panel talks to spotlight indie artists of all mediums.

Saturday’s show attracted a diverse crowd, from middle-aged men with long white beards to Adidas Sambas-wearing college kids and mommy-daughter duos. The opening bands were an equally eclectic bunch. 

First up was The Softies, a twee-pop duo from Vancouver who took the stage in monochromatic black outfits that juxtaposed their warm wistful sound. Jen Sbragia and Rose Melberg, both on electric guitars and vocals, sang of lost loves and wishes to turn back the clock. Before walking off, they publicly announced for the first time that they would be releasing a new album, their first in 27 years, under a new partnership with San Francisco based record label, Father/Daughter Records. 

Snail Mail’s lead singer Lindsey Jordan (shown above) sophomore album “Valentine” was released in 2021 and has been rated a high 8.5 by critically acclaimed music magazine Pitchfork. Photo by Samantha Avila Griffin/SF FOGHORN

“Can I get [the light] darker blue up here? That’s our mood,” called out lead singer Glenn David Donaldson as his band, The Reds Pinks and Purples took the stage. Hailing from San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood, the band was the sole local artist of the night. The quintet describes itself as “post-indie,” featuring Morrissey-like vocals and morose lyrics set to upbeat instrumentation.

Last of the openers was Montréal based post-punk trio Cola. With new wave vocals that sometimes dipped into a low drone monotone layered on top of lingering bass lines and steady drum beats, Cola’s sound was almost hypnotic, urging listeners to close their eyes, bliss out and dance. A crowd member showed some love and humor after their set, saying “I’m never drinking Pepsi again!” 

When Snail Mail finally emerged, the crowd went wild. Lead singer Lindsay Jordan established a comfortable banter with the crowd which would continue between songs, as she told the audience about her recurring bad dreams as well as sharing that “Automate” is her favorite song off the band’s 2021 album, “Valentine.” 

Jordan’s vocals have an unexpected clear nasal quality that creates a unique blend, wildly differing from her earlier sound. Originally known for her raspy, self described smoker’s voice, Jordan underwent vocal cord surgery in 2021 due to polyps and emerged with a new higher pitched sound. 

Fans weren’t put off by the change. Plenty of voices in the audience could be heard singing along to the band’s indie rock hits including “Heat Wave,” “Glory” and “Pristine,” as well as the band’s cover of Wheatus’Teenage Dirtbag.” Many in the crowd gently swayed while others were headbanging and screaming the lyrics. Through these positive but contrasting reactions came unanimous applause when Snail Mail took their bows, bringing another day of the Noise Pop Festival to a close. 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor:Jordan Premmer, Scene Editor: Inés Ventura

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