by Ashley Murphy
- Take shit out
- Put shit back in
Check, check, check. According to their Instagram, this was indie folk-rock band, Hop Along’s to-do list for their Austin tour stop June 19th at Barracuda. However, a passionate audience would argue they did much more than simply “take shit out” and play a show.
At promptly 9 pm the lights dimmed in familiar fashion and a chorus of “woo’s” welcomed openers, Bat Fangs. The band emanated energy via choppy guitar riffs that paid homage to late ’70s power rock.
With the majority of their songs hosting lengthy guitar solos and powerful drums, the band’s energetic strike remained all the way through the end of their set with their self-proclaimed theme song, “Fangs Out.” The song played out like a punk anthem – in true Bat Fangs fashion – as they yelled “fangs out!” with all the power and force of “cherry bomb!”
Bat Fangs left the stage and a fan near the front of the room clutched tightly onto a vinyl record wrapped in plastic. Leafy tree-branch artwork revealed the vinyl to be Hop Along’s newest album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog.
Finally, the lights dimmed once again and conversations stopped mid-sentence, mid-burning question to watch as the empty stage welcomed each band member one by one. Without any fancy introduction, Hop Along stood on the stage in a brief moment of silence before excited cheers took over, as if their presence was enough for the audience. With grateful smiles on their faces, Hop Along broke into the lead single “How Simple,” from their 2018 release.
Frances Quinlan’s vocals immediately reached all the way to the back of the room, switching between loud and raspy and smooth and crisp with careful deliberation… as if Quinlan chose when she wanted you to feel the headstrong energy of the band and when she wanted you to drift away within the sound.
Throughout their set, Hop Along was as light-hearted and happy as their name implies, and if you let yourself drift at Frances’s silky request, you may just miss the astute and glaringly poignant lyrics about the nature of relationships, life and death.
“Notification: 8 executions by drug /To beat the expiration/A shelf life of reason, is that what this was/Oh, Arkansas?/Somewhere a judge stretches himself out/On fine tropical sand/I went back to work then took the train home/I saw a fire in the distance”
This particular lament to the fans came from “Somewhere A Judge,” which explores the peculiar aspect of death’s inevitability and how time is spent in the face of that while prompting listeners to dance along to catchy guitars.
The banter in between songs, however, took on a much brighter tone than Frances’s lyrics. Guitarist Joe Reinhart spontaneously played a mini solo during one of Hop Along’s brief intermissions, causing a fan to request the band play a Santana song, making them all erupt in playful laughter.
“We’ll get you next time,” bassist Tyler Long promised with a smile.
“We will not get you next time,” Frances added as the crowd laughed, enjoying the friendly presence the band brought to the stage. Hop Along put forth a comfort that spread over the crowd and knocked down the pedestal, eradicating any idea of an untouchable artist.
This comfort was further emitted from the music, in the way each song seamlessly led into the next, as the band only paused to ensure that the fans were having a good time and to thank a few fans who came from Houston just to see them… and, rightfully so, to complain about the relentless Texas heat.
“I got a quarter cup of sweat out of my shirt [when we played] in Toronto. I bet I could get half a cup tonight,” Long joked. With another swift transition, the band picked back up into another new track, “Prior Things.” Almost as if awoken from a blissful trance, Frances hurriedly informed the audience “this is our last song” before the band played the final chorus and left the stage.
And despite it being 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the crowd didn’t dare dissipate. As Hop Along reentered for their encore, the pit rallied and the dangling legs of crowd surfers declared that the show would continue for as long as the band kept playing. After three more songs, all energy was enthusiastically abandoned at the feet of Hop Along and a sacred tree branch-covered record reemerged unscathed.