This Hop Along article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Barrett.
Birmingham’s compact Sunflower Lounge is a great venue for an intimate gig. On November 2nd, its stage was graced by Pennsylvanian alternative rock act Hop Along. The band have been touring their newest album ‘Painted Shut’ which was released earlier this year, and has been receiving very positive reviews ever since. The album contains a really unique blend of raw hard rock with folk, alongside unusual, detailed lyrics, presented amazingly by vocalist Frances Quinlan. So, on a cold, foggy November night; it was time to cram into the Sunflower Lounge and see how well all of this translates into a live performance.
On first were support act, The Americas. White shirt-clad, all four members of the band impressed with their musicianship – razor sharp guitars, destructive percussion and the occasional keyboard solo. As with most small venues, it was hard to detect vocal melodies here-and-there, but compositionally their songs seemed great. They played a few near-straight forward rock tunes and got a good number of people moving; a fine way to start the evening.
Hop Along then took the stage and opened with their song ‘Buddy in the Parade’ – you could call it a really fitting opener as Frances Quinlan immediately shows off the two sides of her vocals as the song begins; very soft and sweet, then suddenly aggressive and powerful, whilst remaining tuneful. Following this was ‘Waitress’, a big fan favourite; and if the band’s opener didn’t get everybody’s attention, this sure did. The song was immaculately performed, especially the moments where the drums move into a worldbeat-style rhythm and the guitars get really hectic. Other big favourites like ‘Powerful Man’ and ‘Texas Funeral’ were played, and were very entertaining.
The band continued their set, with the occasional stab at onstage humour in between songs, and as the night moved along and song after song from ‘Painted Shut’ was played; the rest of the band members left the stage and Frances Quinlan performed the album’s slower song ‘Happy to See Me’ on her own. This was a really breath-taking performance, and those who had difficulty hearing how lovely her voice is through noisy instrumentals got a chance to listen a bit more clearly with this song. This performance of ‘Happy to See Me’ was really heartfelt, and alongside the small size of the room, made for a truly intimate experience; it was the kind of thing you could peacefully sit back and listen to for hours.
To answer my own question – yes, Hop Along’s style translates incredibly well to a live environment. Their sound is very quaint, as is their performance style, and I recommend them to anyone who likes their rock music raw and unique.