Hop Along‘s conversion from freak-folk to emo-punks to their eventual destination as indie-pop heroes has been a captivating one. Over the course of three fantastic and distinct albums, the Philadelphia trio, now quartet thanks to the addition of Algernon Cadwallader‘s Joe Reinhart, Hop Along have consistently shown they are not interested in going about things the simple way. Their sound has always been hard to pin down, touching upon all the previously mentioned genre-touchstones without ever leaning too heavily on any of them.
They’ve graduated from Philly’s world-renowned emo-tinged punk scene into a fully formed, breathing, adapting organism. Hop Along refuse to go for the jugular, preferring to kill by 1000 cuts, allowing their songs room to breathe and squirm around anything expected of them. The only real constant is frontwoman Frances Quinlan, who’s juggernaut voice rises above the controlled chaos her band produces to tell confessional stories of love, lust and the everyday people she encounters.
All this has earned the band a dedicated and well-deserved passionate following, something that becomes immediately apparent tonight. Opener ‘Waitress’ instantly has the gathered crowd in raptures, and there’s no let up from the passionate energy for the rest of the show. There is, somewhat surprisingly, a slight preference towards second album Painted Shut, getting a slight nod ahead of latest, poppier record Bark Your Head Off, Dog in terms of setlist choices, though it is worth noting the band toured here last year also. Regardless, all their songs from across their back-catalogue work brilliantly here, even finding room for debut album Get Disowned tracks such as ‘Laments’.
One thing eminently clear tonight is the band, especially the diminutive Quinlan’s, amazement at the crowd’s reactions “for a Tuesday night”. On ‘Texas Funeral’, Quinlan noticing the crowd’s reactions, requested for the crowd to “go as crazy for my one part in this song as you have for Joe [Reinhart]’s shredding”. The crowd in response, not just dutifully return the favour, but turn it up by 11 in reaction to Quinlan’s guitar solo. The connection between crowd and band is really quite a remarkable sight this evening.
Lead single ‘How Simple’ surprisingly gets dropped mid-set, but it is a clear turning point in the crowd’s interactions with this great talent before us. At times, such as new album closer ‘Prior Things’, the band show an influence to 70s rock and 80s post-punk, like a more subtle Sheer Mag, while elsewhere show the delicacies of Big Thief. By the time of their perfectly-paced encore, Hop Along show exactly why they should be mentioned amongst these lauded names, with a three-prong shock of ‘Tibetan Rock Stars’, ‘Well-dressed’ and, their best song, ‘The Knock’.
Altogether this is a wonderful show from one of America’s brightest prospects. Where they go from here will surely be a joy to discover.