After so many nights spent at pop shows, with wild productions and manicured sounds, there’s something fresh in a smaller set, where the rawness of music as an art form is the main focus.
Philadelphia band Hop Along, fronted by vocalist Frances Quinlan, has perfected that art form. On their latest record, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band showcases a seamless blend of folk-rock and punk attitude, with hints of pop flavor to keep the album flowing through its 10 tracks. On record, the band sounds nearly flawless, and in concert, the sounds and personality come through with even more power.
Not only do Hop Along’s stylistic blends keep the record interesting and put the songwriting in focus, but their unique sound makes them appeal to a wide range of listeners. Such was evident at the Wonder Ballroom last Friday night.
At many shows held at the Wonder, specifically those that seem to be a perfect fit for bar venues such as the Doug Fir (the venue that hosted the band for their last Portland stop), the majority of the floor is roped off for the over-21 fans in attendance, the front row near the stage closed off from the all-ages crowd. But at Hop Along’s set, the dynamic was different. The bar for the venue had its place off to the side, and the front row was occupied by younger music fans.
As evidenced on their records, the songwriting that Hop Along offers is a major focus of their sound. The reflective aspects of their songs make for a perfect hook for the more songwriter-focused fans in the crowd, each hanging off every word Quinlan sang.
On set opener “How Simple,” the first track from the band’s latest record, Quinlan reflects on growing up, vulnerability and the fragility and uncertainty of relationships. The lyrical chops are in place, but it wouldn’t make a Hop Along song were it not for the strong vocals to deliver them.
For the punk fans in the crowd, Quinlan’s delivery is the gateway into the band’s discography. With her attitude and raw, growling voice, paired with the gritty upbeat instrumentals put down by the rest of the band, Hop Along give their reflective, emotionally vulnerable songwriting a perfect punk vessel to live within.
It was this perfect blend of punk and singer-songwriter that gave the Wonder Ballroom such a diverse crowd of fans. From the fans in the back, enjoying a drink or two, moshing about to the more upbeat rock tracks, to the younger fans, deep within the lyrics, hanging off every word of the band’s slower, vulnerable cuts, everyone in attendance was captivated by Hop Along’s presence.