Matador Invades College Street

 Snail Mail rocks the stage. Sachyn Mital Photo. 

Snail Mail rocks the stage. Sachyn Mital Photo. 

Fans from far and wide were in attendance to see Belle and Sebastian last Wednesday night. What they didn’t expect was for the show to come with an added treat—dynamite opener Snail Mail.

The show, held at College Street Music Hall was a blend of true artistry. Two bands, both under the Matador record label, shared the venue, blowing fans away by the end of the night. Up first was Snail Mail, who is led by 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan. Then there was the main act—stalwart band Belle and Sebastian, who have been playing for over two decades. About 1,500 came out for the show.

It’s good timing for the opener: Snail Mail released an album titled Lush last Friday, and if the concert is any indication, it’s not one that listeners should miss. As she took the stage, Jordan immediately evoked singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. Both artists have a strong, yet angelic pitch along with a side of trueness and angst that is seemingly hand-crafted for music in the indie vein.

But there’s something new there: Jordan emits a youthful exuberance and swagger that is refreshing for a band this year. Her songs “Heat Wave” and “Speaking Terms” soaked the hall in sound, bringing the audience onto the dance floor under bright, shifting lights. Their music, seamless on recordings, is dynamic live, with a masterful usage of pedals and propulsive drums.

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On stage, Jordan was reserved but self-aware, in a sort of far-off zone or trance as she sang. At the end of the set, she pulled up her hood and walked off the stage alone. She oozed with confidence, sending a message into the crowd. It was high time to check out her music. Members of the audience didn’t want to be late to this party.

The crowd in New Haven represented the northeast well on Wednesday night. A blend of veteran fans from the early days, who have seen Belle and Sebastian play countless times, and newcomers who were there for their daily dosage of indie pop were in attendance.

Then Belle and Sebastian were up, playing a mix of old standards (front man Stuart Murdoch joked that the band “dug deep” for “Fox In The Snow”) and pieces off their new release How to Solve Our Human Problems. Their ensemble was a well-oiled machine, filling the stage with masterful guitar pedaling, soaked in more synthesizer than their recordings. As they cycled through their set, members listened to each other, no one clamoring for a solo.

And the group knew its audience. Getting into New Haven’s brainspace Wednesday night, the band threw in a classy Jim Morrison tribute in the middle of fan favorite. They had dug into pieces from their first album Tigermilk, and  brought on Stevie Jackson to sing a verse from The Doors' "Peace Frog" as they sang "I Don't Love Anyone." It was a beautiful tribute to the Lizard King. The crowd’s appreciation for the reference was nearly palpable.  

Or as Murdoch joked with the crowd, “I’m hearing the good yelps tonight.”