The Garage – November 3rd
It’s a well-documented group dynamic in rock music; the competent backing band sitting in the shadow of the larger-than-life talent at the front of the stage. Hop Along are such a band and Francis Quinlan is such a talent. Tonight’s set is consistently powerful, leaning on material from 2015’s exceptional Painted Shut. And like that album, the potential of their sound only reaches its peaks when Francis is given enough space to explore her full range.
‘Waitress’ is a gutsy opener, spangled in melancholy Americana. It’s a challenging vocal performance, and witnessing the notes stream from Francis’s unassuming frame, the delivery as flawless as a studio-polished take, never loses its novelty. ‘Buddy In The Parade’ is more subdued with introspective verses propelling towards the song’s revelatory conclusion. While their music presents simple narratives of Northwestern American life there has always been a sense of a deeper, darker mythos to tracks like ‘Powerful Man’ and ‘Sister Cities’, and Francis’s brief and sweet introductions to these tracks further hint at this.
For all the searing soul-searching on-stage the atmosphere inside the Garage feels sleepy. Hop Along are playing like it’s a Friday night but the crowd are well aware of the show’s drizzly Tuesday credentials. They battle against the midweek apathy at every turn, with a poignant rendition of ‘Texas Funeral’ arriving as a late-set saviour, while fan favourite ‘Laments’ is more brawling and rambunctious than its recorded counterpart. The night closes out on a disarming ‘Some Grace’, Francis alone in the spotlight. It’s a subdued end that sees Hop Along’s appeal stripped to its core components; earnest, human stories delivered by one of the fiercest voices in folk-rock.