Fans of Philly’s own Hop Along were treated to a special intimate homecoming show from the band at Johnny Brenda’s Thursday night as a part of this year’s Philly Music Fest. It was the band’s first Philly performance in two years.
Heading up the stairs to the venue from the lower tavern, the sold out crowd packed in tightly with vaccinated fans wearing masks that barely dampened their excitement for what they were about to see. Opening the show were local punks Lunch and futuristic R&B from Annonxl, whose impressive vocal range left the fans new to their music stunned.
With the house lights on in the venue, it was easy to mistake the coming and going of all five members of Hop Along from Johnny Brenda’s green room to it’s tiny stage to set up their gear. But with a brief break after Annonxl’s set, singer Frances Quinlan appeared onstage. Clad in tight black leggings and a matching zip-up athletic trainer jacket, Quinlan began strumming out chords on their hollow-bodied Gibson electric guitar that dwarfed their compact stature. But as fans of their work know, there is nothing small about the visceral howls and croons they can emote from breath to breath. It’s one of the most unique instruments in all of indie-rock and truly something to behold when experiencing in such intimate quarters.
The crowd quickly caught wind that the set was beginning as they performed a song solo before the band walked onstage launching into the “Get Disowned” cut “Kids on The Boardwalk.” Joining guitarist Joe Reinhart, bassist Tyler Long, Quinlan and their brother Mark on drums was musician Lucy Stone on guitar and backup vocals. It was a welcome addition, as she was able to replicate some of the layered textures and harmonies on Hop Along’s tremendous 2018 album “Bark Your Head Off,” Dog and extra power on the band’s more muscular and aggressive earlier material.
When they were given room to speak as the enthusiastic crowd settled down, Quinlan took the opportunity to comment on their history with the Fishtown corner tavern and venue. “It occurs to me now that I was employed here for two of these records,” Quinlan remarked, saying they were hired at the venue nearly nine years ago.
The crowd was rewarded with favorites like “Horseshoe Crabs” off of their 2015 album “Painted Shut,” and perhaps the night’s biggest singalong with the “BYHOD” single “How Simple.” The main set ended with a rousing rendition of “Well-Dressed,” which the band tagged with the chorus to The Cranberries’ classic “Zombie.”
When the band returned after a brief dip backstage for their encore, the love from onstage and off never wavered. Quinlan, sans guitar, picked up a tambourine that had been laying next to their mic stand and announced that the band would be treating the crowd to a cover of disco icon Thelma Huston’s anthemic “Don’t Leave Me This Way”—and mentioned that they shared the same birthday. Rather than rework the tune to give it a more “rock” angle to fit the band’s sound, they remained faithful to the song’s sweaty, rave-up glory pointing to how both disco and soul music may have creeped into the band’s DNA over the years.
After digging in with the “Painted Shut” banger “The Knock,” Quinlan thanked the crowd and got emotional about where the band was standing thanking the festival’s organizers and the venue for making them feel “not only accepted, but welcome.” To close out the night, they delivered a powerhouse performance of “Tibetan Pop Stars” from their 2012 breakthrough “Get Disowned.” As the small venue cleared, any air lost from singing along was regained from exiting the stairs down onto Girard Avenue.