Hop Along @ The Rex Theater (July 9, 2019)

Am I blogging about this show well over a month after it actually occurred? Yes. 43 days after, if we want to get nit-picky about it.

Am I sorry about that? Also yes, a little, but better late than never.

June was a dry spell for me, at least as far as live music is concerned. There wasn’t a whole lot going on in Pittsburgh that I was excited about, and work obligations kept me from attending the few shows I did want to shoot. (Like when I missed a FREE downtown performance by Tank & The Bangas… yay, day jobs!)

Then July came, and so did Hop Along.

I remember precisely where I was when I first fell in love with Hop Along: at the back of a classroom in Penn State’s Visual Arts building, watching in awe as Frances Quinlan serenaded the crowd with an unplugged rendition of ”Some Grace.”

Quinlan, for the uninformed, is a vocalist without equal—not just in the indie rock scene, but in music period. She can growl, bark, croon, scream, often within the same song (hell, the same line), remaining always one step ahead of your expectations. Strip these songs of her vocals and they’d still be good… it just wouldn’t be Hop Along.

There is no describing Frances Quinlan’s voice. There just isn’t. It’s something that demands to be experienced.

Several years have passed since my first Hop Along show, but as the band (Quinlan, her brother Mark, Tyler Long, and Joe Reinhart) have grown as musicians so too has that original sense of awe. Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band’s third Saddle Creek release, is Hop Along at their very best: full of the richly empathetic narratives, peerless vocals, and intricate, unpredictable compositions the band is known for, delivered in a more meticulously measured, artful package. 

That said, though, Hop Along is a rock band at heart, a fact most clear whenever they’re performing live. There will be shredding, headbanging, perhaps even a mosh pit when they close their set with ”Tibetan Pop Stars.” Mark Quinlan will banter with just about everyone. It will be a damn good time.

This show was particularly exciting for me in that it doubled as my first show for Pittsburgh City Paper, a gig which high school Erin would’ve shit her pants over. Pretty incredible to think that my first “official” photo pass was my favorite band, shot for my favorite local publication, in my favorite city in the world.

Not a bad deal at all.

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