Hop Along at the Irenic

Hop Along is a band known for their raw, emotional songwriting brought forth by lead singer Frances Quinlan’s mighty vocals.  The Philadelphia-based quartet began in 2004 as a solo project of Quinlan’s and later developed into a four-piece consisting of her brother Mark Quinlan on drums, bassist Tyler Long and former Algernon Cadwallader member Joe Reinhart on guitar. Hop Along has been a dynamic figure in folk rock in the post-2010 era, emerging even before Philadelphia was hailed as the capital of new indie with the 2012 release of their album “Get Disowned.”  As their 2015 release, “Painted Shut,” gathered even more praise, Hop Along became a band known for emphatic songwriting laced with expressive riffs.  

Taking the stage at the Irenic to promote their most recent release, “Bark Your Head Off, Dog,” the band worked to translate the powerful sentiments expressed on their record into a fulfilling live show.  The rustic backdrop of hanging lights against wood gave the show a homey, backyard-jam feel. Clad in a mix of shorts, baseball caps and t-shirts complete with a few cans of beer, the band’s natural chemistry effectively loosened the mature crowd.  Beginning the show with “How Simple,” the band had everyone swaying, with a mix of foot stomping and head nodding. They continued into “Kids on the Boardwalk” and “Fox in Motion,” pausing to address the crowd about the extremely high temperature in the room that had us all sweating in gross unity. What followed was a fan-requested rendition of “Powerful Man,” a personal story of Quinlan’s about the time she saw a man abusing his son in public and her inability to confront him.  A few times, Quinlan mentioned how the show was taking place in a church, proclaiming, “it’s weird to sing a spiritually questionable song in a place such as this” before going into “What the Writer Meant.” Finishing the set with album closer “Prior Things,” the group had the crowd bowing their heads rapturously. Returning onstage for an encore, the band played three older songs highlighted with a riff in “The Knock” that had everyone holding their breath. Closing with “Tibetan Pop Stars,” (once hailed by Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus as “the most painfully beautiful song ever”), the band retreated humbly, leaving a storm of applause in their wake.  The crowd responded appreciatively to every bit of light the band gave off, basking in the essence of comfort that permeated through the room. Amidst a room of scene veterans who probably had to put effort into attending a Sunday night show, Hop Along made the experience easy and worthwhile.

Alicia Hoole