After hibernating for way too long I took a break. A break from stressing about exams, pressing deadlines and serving Exeter’s drunks. It was the bank holiday, amazingly sunny and the Cavern was putting on an all day punk show. Emerging in the black pit which is the Cavern was truly disorientating. The light was eclipsed, and we were hit by power chords and battering drum lines.
That is to say we were there for Frances Quinlan’s mesmerising voice, but we got a lot more.
The first band we saw were the Sidekicks, Hop Along’s Ohio tourmates for their UK sojourn. Languidly bouncing to their brand of indie punk and smiling throughout they were fantastic. Whining, chanting, breakdowns and buildups sounds to me like the perfect combination for an indie show, and it was. Lead singer Steve Ciolek was left on an empty stage to start 1940’s Fighter Jet, and for a moment everything, went silent, like it always does in these situations. I’m sure you know the rest, here’s the track. Definitely go check out the rest of their album Awkward Breeds, but maybe don’t buy the tape. We made that mistake…
Outside the venue we made a lifelong friend. An Austrian punk, with sleeve tattoos, multiple cigarettes and all the accessories of an angry punk told us that all the music was shit and for posers, and that we were shit and posers too, which was considerate of him to point out. He then proceeded to call his friend to tell him how shit everything was, and popped back inside. Y’know, to check out the bands.
It was at that point that Hop Along did so and can only have made him more uncomfortable. Frances Quinlan’s voice is truly amazing. There’s a clip on youtube somewhere of a guest on Radio 3 attempting to explain the beauty of Jeff Mangum’s vocals to the presenter, who’s only really comfortable with ‘art’ music – he describes NMH as ‘your antichrist’. He discusses the fragility of Mangum’s voice which seeks empathy, and the earnestness which it produces. Quinlan totally has this sentiment nailed. Like a beginner’s violin it saws through melodies, oscillating and rasping, then she brings it back, hushed and whispered. And this is the beauty of Hop Along, the miscommunication between the timbres, the high-lo-fi, and switch between organised instrumentals and off-kilter breaks.