Frances Quinlan sings like someone who loves singing. That’s not only to say that she has a clear talent for it, but also that her inflections are often adapted throughout Hop Along‘s performances — ever-changing, evolving, so songs always sound fresh and vibrant. At the band’s sold out headlining show at Union Transfer this Saturday night, in celebration of their new album Bark Your Head Off, Dog, hushed words became screaming anthems, better suited for live performance but also providing texture over the harmonies provided by Thin Lips’ Chrissy Tashjian. In addition to the band, the show featured low-hanging lights casting a moody glow on the stage, as well as guest appearances from the Philly band’s peers and friends (Kyle Pulley on tambourine, Cat Park on vocals), and a newly-brewed Hop Along IPA from nearby Love City Brewing on tap at the bar.
Opening the night was Eight, notably consisting of three members, and their meditative punk was wonderfully suited to trance out to while warming up. Their set of guitar, bass, and drums is classic but felt fresh, larger than the trio seem. With two singers on top, Cat Park and Mimi Gallagher, they managed to exchange vocals in a strangely haunting way that stood out over the fuzzy guitar, and drums provided by Pat Brier.
Nervous Dater, a Brooklyn band that feels distinctly Philly, matched tone with Eight, the four-piece’s set bringing both shredding guitars and dashes of humor. Frontwoman Rachel Lightner shared an early story of a drunken conversation with Frances and Mark Quinlan that led to the formation of Nervous Dater. Songs like “Vominos” and “Bad Spanish” show off their ability to juggle relatable and frank lyrics with complex riffs, while channeling that same musical dexterity into songs like “Serenity” and “Don’t Be a Stranger,” turning their authenticity into deep and often confessional songs.
Hop Along began their long-awaited set with frontwoman Frances Quinlan singing solo with her guitar, an electric version of “How You Got Your Limp.” The rest of the band joined for their new album’s first single, “How Simple,” with an ecstatic response from the audience, it being their most pop-adjacent song written.
Though most of their set was focused on tracks off their new album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, they made time for an updated version of the off-kilter song “Kids On The Boardwalk” from 2012’s Get Disowned as well as “Texas Funeral” and “Horseshoe Crabs,” both from their 2015 album Painted Shut. They closed on “Prior Things,” a strings-laden vignette adapted for live performance with the use of a looper pedal, left on repeat as they exited, the sound decaying as antique lights pulsed as backdrop.
Seeing as it was a homecoming show for the Philly band, an encore was required. They began their second set with “Well-Dressed,” a fan favorite, Frances’ vocals being heard just as well as the entire audience’s. They played through the opener off Painted Shut, “The Knock” and closed on their original hit single, “Tibetan Pop Stars,” an excellent closer for its heavy guitar and strange but memorable lyrics.
Throughout the night, Tashjian and Joe Reinhart swapped backup vocals, keyboard, and guitar parts, showcasing their abilities to maneuver musically, changing instruments and keys on a dime. Tyler Long on bass was subdued but shown on songs like “Tibetan Pop Stars” and “How Simple.” Mark Quinlan’s rhythms channeled everything from disco, lounge, and stadium rock, often all at once, and his and Frances’ banter felt familiar to anybody with siblings, I’m sure. A special night for fans of the Philly natives, the two-hour set could not contain all of the songs the audience called for, but was more than enough.
Hop Along setlist
How You Got Your Limp
Kids on the Boardwalk
Somewhere a Judge
The Fox in Motion
What the Writer Meant
One That Suits Me
Look of Love
Tibetan Pop Stars