5/8/16 – The Sinclair

Co-headlining shows always seem to have a bit of a competitive nature. Although the bands are typically just friends who enjoy sharing the stage with other talented musicians, the audience tends to spend the show comparing the sets and picking favorites. In this Sunday’s sold-out Speedy Ortiz/Hop Along show at The Sinclair, Hop Along emerged as the clear victor.

Riding a wave of success after the high accolades of their 2015 album Painted Shut, Philadelphia four-piece Hop Along is essentially on a victory lap this tour, bringing tremendous energy and exuding confidence. This weekend’s show was no exception.

Despite performing first, Hop Along truly felt like the headliner. Frances Quinlan’s shrieking and soaring vocals, the defining element of Hop Along’s folk-infused punk sound, was often difficult to hear over the mob of fans howling the lyrics to both recent hits and deeper cuts, such as the rarely-played ballad “Laments” off of 2012 debut Get Disowned. While it is often difficult to pull one’s attention away from Quinlan and the endless catharsis of her straining vocal melodies, guitarist Joe Reinhardt ensured that there was never a dull moment for the audience, swinging across the stage as if he was being whipped about by his wailing guitar.

However, the audience was least energized during Hop Along’s fiery cover of Nirvana’s “Sappy;” the preference of the crowd for every song in the Hop Along catalogue over this grunge classic is an amazing testament to the strength of the music by Quinlan and company.

Whether or not the concertgoers had come into the show as Hop Along fans, they certainly left that way. Yet, some left sooner than others. During the downtime between the co-headliners’ sets, the crowd thinned out significantly, leaving behind one of the smallest crowds I’ve ever seen at The Sinclair. If someone had come into the venue just in time to see Speedy Ortiz, they never would have guessed that this show had sold out almost immediately. Perhaps this exodus occurred because hometown heroes Speedy Ortiz frequently perform in Boston, whereas a Hop Along show is more of a rarity. Nevertheless, the smaller crowd made for a more intimate, casual set than its predecessor.

The Northampton natives were very comfortable on stage, frequently joking with the audience during what felt more like a private dress rehearsal than a headlining show. From the outset, vocalist and guitarist Sadie Dupuis set the tone by warning the crowd that some of the band’s equipment was broken and quipped that they had decided to get drunk rather than fix their malfunctioning gear. Dupuis, clad in multi-colored, light-up sneakers and a cutesy floral dress, acknowledged New England’s importance to the band by noting that she always dresses like it’s her prom when she’s in Boston, and called attention to her actual high school prom date who was in the audience.

The band used their home turf advantage to try some untested material, playing new material, like this month’s punky “Death Note,” as well as songs that they hadn’t performed in years. While this may have been a dream-come-true for a die-hard Speedy Ortiz fan, to the more casual listener the performance felt a bit haphazard, especially after the tight, precisely executed set from Hop Along. The vocals were often drowned out, not by enthusiastic fans, but by spotty sound mixing that allowed the guitars to overpower everything else.

Before attempting an older song, Dupuis poked fun at her tourmates, joking with the crowd that, if the song did not sound great, it was because it was actually a Hop Along song. Speedy Ortiz’s casual nature was charming and felt like a glimpse into the band’s pre-success past. While Hop Along may have put on a more energetic show, the hilarious banter and vulnerability of Speedy Ortiz’s set felt like an intimate welcome into the band’s inner circle.

Sister Cities: Speedy Ortiz & Hop Along
Pros
  • Hop Along: Frances Quinlan's unparalleled vocals
  • Hop Along: Impressive Energy
  • Speedy Ortiz: Intimate Connection with the Audience
Cons
  • Speedy Ortiz: Slightly Messy on Untested Material
7Overall Score

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