Travel

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.

Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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
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
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
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.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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