Snail Mail jumpstarts the Ramkat renaissance

The indie rock artist is one of the biggest names to visit Winston-Salem in a while


Courtesy of Snail Mail

Snail Mail is the latest big artist to visit Winston-Salem – and the first in a while.

Maryam Khanum, Multimedia Managing Editor

Anyone who has spent an extended time living in Winston-Salem would probably share a similar sentiment toward the quirky little North Carolina city — it doesn’t feel real. It seems to be made up of giant parking lots, remnants of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco glory days, a downtown that feels bustling yet also abandoned and an artsy Fourth Street with stores as niche as a tattoo museum.

To give the city its due credit, there is a wealth of arts and culture beneath the surface of excessive fried chicken chain restaurants and strip malls. The Trade Street area boasts a plethora of art galleries, antiques and vintage stores that exhibit the true artistic potential of the city. It also has places like the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, venues for live performances and incredible displays of musical and theatrical talent, including the UNC School of the Arts. Yet, these spaces fall short of creating a strong art scene in the city.

Following this vein, the music scene in Winston-Salem is no different — on the precipice of being legitimate and actually cool but somehow lacking. Any college student living in Winston-Salem is familiar with this. I don’t mean to paint the city as being devoid of any musical presence whatsoever. Local bars and breweries such as the ones on Fourth Street, Earl’s, Fiddlin’ Fish or Last Resort often invite bands and musicians from all over North Carolina to perform, and we all know and love Hippo Records that’s right by the boba place that usually has most of your favorite artists in stock. For more consistent live music, you can always go to Monstercade or The Ramkat, but unless you’re interested in the underground alcoves of electro-punk or neo-rock genres of music, you shouldn’t expect to be able to see artists you actually know. 

This is why it was such a shock to discover that Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail would be coming to perform in Winston-Salem. Not at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, not at The Ritz in Raleigh — not even Rabbit Rabbit in Asheville. She was coming to Winston-Salem’s Ramkat, and we wouldn’t have to drive four hours to see her. 

For those unfamiliar, Lindsey Jordan, or Snail Mail, is an indie rock artist well known among epicures of the acclaimed “sad girl” genre of music (think Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy and the like). After developing her first EP, “Sticki,” at the young age of 14, her music quickly gained traction, resulting in the release of her second EP, “Habit.” This was the project that cemented Snail Mail into the indie rock genre, with Pitchfork featuring the EP’s opening track, “Thinning,” in their “Best New Track” series. Today, she has amassed almost 800,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and her most popular songs each hold a minimum of 7 million streams. 

I love Snail Mail’s music. I believe that “Thinning” is one of the greatest songs to have ever been produced. Once I collected my thoughts after realizing that I would see her perform live, I questioned why it was so surprising that she would come to Winston-Salem in the first place. 

Ultimately, it is one of the largest cities in North Carolina, and as already mentioned, it isn’t like music, arts and culture don’t exist here. However, artists never seem to come here. The last big music-related event was Paul McCartney performing at the Truist Field stadium in May 2022. 

You’d probably be hard-pressed to think of a musical artist from Winston-Salem. Asheville has a solid reputation for producing indie groups such as Wednesday, Backyard Tire Fire and Elvis Depressedly; and solo artists such as Indigo De Souza. Even Charlotte is the hometown of rapper DaBaby, but it seems like no acclaimed artist has come from Winston-Salem in the contemporary music era. 

However, a quick Google search shows that this has not always been the case. Applauded and nationally-known artists used to perform in Winston-Salem all the time, including artists such as Weezer, Young Thug, Misfits, Third Eye Blind, Plain White T’s, Smash Mouth and more. What each of these artists had in common was that they’d come to perform at a place known as Ziggy’s — a music venue in Winston-Salem that shut down for good in 2016.

“I went to school at Appalachian State, and it seems like every weekend I was driving to Ziggy’s (or Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill) to catch a show,” one Reddit user said. “There was a nationally known band playing at Ziggy’s at least once a month. Seems like when Ziggy’s closed, Winston-Salem never recovered.”

Though the music scene in Winston-Salem is more underground and subtle now, there are still many pockets of the arts in the city to appreciate. You can find tons of bars on street corners that have live music on weeknights or that will host a weekly open-mic night for the locals to showcase their homemade talent. The fact that these spaces always have a good turnout indicates that the people of Winston-Salem appreciate music and would attend more events and concerts if given the opportunity. I sincerely hope more artists like Snail Mail will see the potential in this city and contribute to restoring its musical atmosphere. 

Correction Feb. 16: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of a record shop. This error has been corrected.