Why Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan Is Psyched About Her Baltimore Homecoming

Ahead of an epic five-night residency in her hometown, Jordan shares her favorite Baltimore spots.

We would be far from the first publication to call Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail, a wunderkind. The Ellicott City, Maryland native began her career in 2015 the ripe old age of 15, going onto drop her first studio album, Lush, to great acclaim in 2018. In late 2021, Jordan’s second effort, Valentine, hit the charts, pushing the now-23-year-old indie rock darling squarely out of the teenage anomaly category and launching her into the limelight as one of the Baltimore area’s most popular recording artists.

Now fully recovered from a surgery that put the Valentine tour on hold, Jordan is returning to the city that gave Snail Mail its start with an epic five-night Valentine's Day weekend showdown at fan-favorite venue, Ottobar, from February 10-14. Featuring a tight arrangement of Baltimore’s finest up-and-coming acts and yet-to-be-announced heavy hitters, Valentine Fest promises to be a musical love letter to Charm City—much like these musings straight from Jordan herself.

Valentine Fest has been in the works for over a year. It was supposed to happen closer to when the record came out, but then I got surgery on my vocal cords and I had to take an insane amount of time off of speaking and singing.

The initial concept was for there to be three bands every night, some more famous than Snail Mail and some that we wanted to introduce to people. It was a lot of trial and error, asking everyone who I wanted to be part of it, but it all came together pretty nicely without a lot of pulling teeth.

We haven't played Baltimore in a long time, so it feels cool to do something big here and put our friends' bands on, and also have some legends come out. We've played the Ottobar so many times—it's always been the spot. I've been going there since I was a teenager, so it seemed like the only solution. There are a lot of creative spots in Baltimore we could have set up at, but Ottobar is the zone.

The Ottobar
The Ottobar

I discovered Baltimore as a teenager. My mom used to take me to shows there, and then I met some friends that were college-aged when I was in high school that had cars. As soon as I became friends with those people, I started going to DIY and house shows in the city all the time. When I got my license, I was always there. Other than the tourist destinations, field trips to the aquarium and stuff, I wasn't super familiar until I started being interested in the scene. And then it was just instant.

There's a lot of really great spots there, so many great bands at the time, and now, and always. I got kind of obsessed with the rich musical history. I didn't know anything about that until I started delving into the topic, started going to the record stores and making friends and seeing what was up.

The Sound Garden
The Sound Garden

A lot of my friends live near Hampden and Charles Village. There are some sick spots there, record shops like True Vine and Sound Garden. There's a bar, Clavel, that I've been really into. I really like this place, W.C. Harlan. It's not divey, but it's kind of like a dungeon, which is cool. But I feel like the time I spent really rocking with the scene, I wasn’t old enough to drink.

I used to go to that place, Golden West, a lot for breakfast. That place is dope. There’s a diner, Sip & Bite, in Canton, the really bougie part now. Then there were some diners in Fells Point that I used to really like.

Crab, that’s kind of the Baltimore food. And Natty Boh beer, Old Bay. But yeah, I hate seafood. I've tried—I'm always trying oysters and shit. It's the consistency. I feel like whenever we have friends come to town, I know the lay of the land enough to be like, “All right, let's go to this seafood spot,” but then I'm like, “I'll get a beer.”

Sip & Bite Diner
Sip & Bite Diner

I feel like everything about Baltimore is just sicker. There was so much to look into, all the musicians that came out of Baltimore. I feel like it's an indefinable unique spot where people come together to be weird. There's so many great weirdos from the past, and I like that there isn't a specific sound. I've been to a lot of experimental noise-type shows, punk shows, awesome indie rock—it's all over the place. It's a place where people, historically, have had permission to be weird.

The art shit there is cool. John Waters, I'm a huge fan of him. And there's a lot of really cool art museums and stuff—fucking David Byrne went to MICA. I dated a girl who made me go to the MICA showcases. There was this museum that I used to go to with my mom all the time, the American Visionary Art Museum. It was like an outsider art museum. It had all these big physical displays, and I remember there was this guy who built a ship out of matchsticks, a hyper-realistic, gigantic ship.

The scene that I experienced, at least here, were just a lot of true artists, people that were not concerned with being famous, which makes a big difference. In New York, it's like everybody's grinding to make it, which I just think is really cringe. Even when we started, it wasn't to make it. We were just chilling, we were just having fun, and I feel like that's the nature of Baltimore. I never felt I was surrounded by people that were trying to be big stars—it was genuine creative energy, which is much more inspiring to me.

I got lucky in the sense that it did work out for me, but it started from a place of being inspired by the people around me, and just wanting to be part of something. That ethos carries me still. It makes me feel grounded to know that that's who I am and where I'm at at all times, and anytime I fall away from that, I try to bring myself back.

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Meredith Heil is the Editorial Director of Thrillist Travel.