It’s been a year of new experiences for Hop Along. In April, the Philadelphia quartet released Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band’s most anticipated album to date. The newfound attention—first set into motion by 2016’s breakout album, Painted Shut—has brought increased opportunity for Hop Along to play larger venues than ever, many of which are in places the band has never visited before. Tuesday night, while in the midst of their biggest headlining tour to date, Hop Along made its Milwaukee debut before a modest-yet-mesmerized mid-week crowd at Turner Hall Ballroom.
Though new to town and to the expectations that come with being one of indie rock’s most up-and-coming acts of the moment, Hop Along quickly captivated its host city and showed they live up to—no, exceed—every last ounce of hype over the course of an endearing, catalog-traversing 75-minute set.
Following a short and sweet set of newfangled glam rock ditties by Bat Fangs, the guest of honor took the stage and kicked off a 14-song set with Bark Your Head Off, Dog‘s lead single, “How Simple,” which got the attentive and altogether upbeat audience’s toes tapping and heads bopping. They followed the energetic opener with “Kids On The Boradwalk,” one of just two cameos from 2012’s Get Disowned. The rousing new track, “The Fox In Motion,” returned Hop Along to new material. Beyond a few choice Painted Shut cuts, the band would spend much of their performance supporting the latest release.
About midway into the set, singer Frances Quinlan finally spoke between songs to compliment the “incredible” and “old AF” ballroom, then commented on the collective Midwestern politeness of the couple hundred folks who came out to the show. While her banter was limited, Quinlan commanded the crowd with her astounding vocal chops. She hit every impossible note on each song, altering from powerful and raw growls to dreamy and delicate aural acrobatics. Every emotional scream or jaw-dropping falsetto twist matched (and overtook, in some cases) its recorded counterpart.
Meanwhile, the band as a whole did a masterful job adapting the “textured” and “full” instrumentation employed on its new album in the live format. They all smiled while they played and joked between songs the way young bands on their first major headlining tour should. They beamed about Milwaukee’s beer and the backstage espresso they were treated to, then recalled their only other Wisconsin show that took place nine years ago at a house in Appleton called B.F.G. Between the laughter and positivity, Hop Along—with Quinlan’s incredible and inimitable voice at the helm—sounded perfect.
Songs like “Look Of Love” and “Not Abel,” which could be construed as one of the more average offerings on a well above average record, took on refreshing new life in the live show setting. All the while, the bandleader’s voice never broke, quivered, or faltered. In fact, the band saved some of the most vocally challenging songs—”Well-dressed” and “The Knock” among them—for its encore. By show’s end, some notable songs were omitted from the setlist (no “Powerful Man”?!), but with such a strong catalog that spans four releases, that’s expected. It seemed as if everyone left happy. And apparently there will be time for Hop Along to make up for what they missed.
Once again voicing her love and appreciation for Milwaukee near the end of the set, Quinlan told Turner Hall, “This was our first time here, but it shan’t be our last.” Thank goodness for that.
Kids On The Boardwalk
The Fox In Motion
Somewhere A Judge
I Saw My Twin
Look Of Love
What The Writer Meant
Tibetan Pop Stars