Union Transfer was busting at the seams Saturday night for hometown heroes Hop Along, whose superb third record Bark Your Head Off, Dog, was released in April. It was a night that won’t soon be forgotten, as the pure love was felt between band and fan until the final note.
1. Bathed in red light, vocal powerhouse Frances Quinlan took the stage and started with a stunning solo rendition of “How You Got Your Limp” a breathy favorite from the new record. The rest of the band was along soon after, including drummer Mark Quinlan; this year marks ten years sister and brother have being playing music together. There’s also guitarist Joe Reinhart, rock steady bassist Tyler Long, and the band’s newest secret weapon, Chrissy Tashjian of the band Thin Lips on keys and guitar. Hop Along crushed it all night, and the eager crowd ate it up, from the anthemic “How Simple” (“How simple my heart can be / frightens me”) to set closer “Prior Things” and its powerful discussion of what could have been (“Why don’t I try to make you mine? / Why is a lack of imagination the crime?”).
2. The height of this in Bark Your Head Off, Dog is “What the Writer Meant,” and searching for meaning in Quinlan’s riddling lyrics and emotional lyrics brings the band and it audience closer. The refrain of “God is the one who changed” echoed in our ears and around the building.
3. The other bands on the bill were tight. Philly punk trio Eight led by vocalists Mimi Gallagher and Cat Park, opened the show. New York-based fourpiece Nervous Dater came next, offering catchy rock riffs familiar from their 2017 record Don’t Be A Stranger. Lead singer Rachel Lightner revealed the band’s origins, having been formed after she and some friends watched Hop Along rock the Bowery Ballroom. They filled the room with crunchy earworms in the vein of their indie rock heroes/friends.