Hop Along Dance Cave, Toronto ON, June 7

Hop Along Dance Cave, Toronto ON, June 7
Photo: Katrina Thorn
Unless you were near the front of the crowd for the last show on Hop Along's tour, there was no way you were going to see lead singer Frances Quinlan. The sunburst semi-hollow body six-string she was hammering away at was almost the same size as her. But her voice — switching most of the time between a tender whisper and a guttural, heart-wrenching scream that would fill any room it's trapped in — guaranteed she was there, in hurricane force.
The band's banter between tunes offset Quinlan's often-heavy subject matter, opting for an (almost) aloof attitude and a welcome penchant for goofing around. Bassist Joe Reinhart expressed surprise that anyone would want to leave their home on a Sunday night when Adult Swim was on, to which Quinlan responded, "Nothing is better than TV. Have you guys ever watched the Food Network? It's sick." Most of the set's first half was exclusively dedicated to songs from the band's stunning sophomore effort Painted Shut, with the four-piece (along with help from opener Field Mouse's Tim McCoy and Rachel Browne) knocking out "Waitress," "Buddy In The Parade," and "The Knock" before stopping for an important question. "Where's the best ever poutine, Canada?" Quinland asked. To which the audience, erroneously and in a stupefying display of poor judgement, answered "Smoke's!"
After a vicious rendition of "Texas Funeral," Reinhart, mentioning that it was the last night of the tour, revealed some post-show plans. "If you guys wanna stick around, we're all gonna throw our guitars off the balcony later." After that, the band treated the crowd to a couple older songs, starting with "Laments" and continuing on into one of their best, "Tibetan Pop Stars," to which the 25 or so diehard fans at the front of the stage screamed along to the lines, "They meet their fiancés cherry picking out in Canada," and the devastating "nobody deserves you the way that I do."
Hop Along have an everyman charm as people that helps balance the raw intensity of their songs. One second, Quinlan is belting out a song, eyes to the sky with an almost deranged focus, and the next, the band are making fun of each other for having to use the washroom so much because they keep drinking "pee fuel" (beer). It's a welcome break to have that duality, and it endears them to their audience: it feels just as much like you're joking around with your boozy pals as it does watching in awe as the group of people standing in front of you harness something vicious and beautiful. Sometimes it gets a bit too relaxed (some prolonged waits between songs looking for Tim from Field Mouse), but they handle those moments with an attitude that keeps the crowd relaxed.
After rollicking through some favourites from Painted Shut, including the blistering "Powerful Man", Quinlan had to replace a guitar string, and took the opportunity to tell her own take on Norm McDonald's infamous "moth joke," which killed, of course. They ended, completely spent, with the ferocious "Sister Cities," and despite a hearty (and long) chant from the crowd for an encore, that was goodnight. And a well-deserved one at that.