a few weeks ago i got to play a show with one of my very most favorite bands ever, Hop Along, while they were on tour from Philadelphia. it was probably the best show (best anything?) i’ve ever been a part of. Lane Barrington played drums with me on short notice and with short rehearsal (he is the best dude) and Duck. Little Brother, Duck! also played and were great—all the jammerz. it was a pardee. my friend kevin was kind enough (in exchange for a rather large beer) to tape my set, although he was tragically unable to tape the other bands. i did some work trying to clean up the audio a little bit, but it’s still pretty janky and dirty and taped on a field recorder from a corner of the room. anyway, here are my last three songs from the show: “Surrender To You”, “3am”, and “This Fool”.
i’ve been putting off posting about this night because i don’t really feel like i have the words to properly relay how important it was to me or how amazing it was, but whatever, it was a thing that happened and i’m all about it.
this is a picture taken by their drummer (and one of the all around best dudes i know) Mark while they were playing. people were scared the floor of the house was gonna collapse from the weight of everyone dancing around. this did not happen. i’m glad this did not happen, though i a) think that would have been awesome in a “fuck yeah punk rock” kind of way, and b) don’t think it’s possible for that to have happened anyway.
i’m slightly out of frame to the right, standing a foot away from his sister Frances, trying not to sing along so loudly to her songs that i distract her, but still incapable of not rocking the fuck out, and having just about the best time i’ve ever had doing anything. the mix was perfect from where i was, could hear every note and every syllable of every word (benefit of running the soundboard) and they were beautiful. they sounded SO good. like, seriously. so much of what i like about music is inside of this band. they’ve been a huge inspiration for me over the last 6 or so years and getting a chance to play with them blew my mind. i was so ridiculously nervous on the day of, and also for the month leading up to the day of, and even though trey and i drove up to seattle the night before to see them play there (which was also amazing) and hang out and we got beers and got silly and crashed their slumber party and stuff, i am sort of unable to not be totally intimidated by these guys.
their first album, Freshman Year, is filled with my fears and my crys and my hugs and my sighs. it’s textured in all of these moments and friends and rooms and ideas and excitements and it stays directed, always aware of the song that it’s inside of and building up this little world that reminds me of the important parts of the one that i usually live inside of. her voice stays immensely honest, and i’ve ended up in tears over it often.
this album is on some very short imaginary list of records that have been sort of “contemporaries”, or, really, more aptly “aspirations”, for the music i’ve been trying to make, along with albums like French Quarter’s self titled album, Manipulator Alligator’s “We Raised Them”, At Night’s “Sing Out To The Sun”, Andrew Jackson Jihad’s “Issue Problems”, A John Henry Memorial’s “La Bonita Comossion”, Paul Baribeau’s “Grand Ledge”, and (totally unrelated to any involvement i may have had with them) Shelby Sifers’ first two records. there was a lot of music that made, and continues to make, me want to make music, but during some really important moments, these were people making some seriously beautiful music in their bedrooms and in their basements and on passionate excited adventures that brought them into crazy places like my very own living room or sketch basement. they were real people, who were making the things they wanted to make and making those things themselves, without waiting around for someone to give them a bunch of guidance or money or acceptance or validation or fuck all anything. they just made fucking amazing records with their souls and their heartbreaks and their immense talent and their most vulnerable pieces and some tape recorders and shit. it’s the fucking best thing ever. like, sincere art being made by sincere dudes. who also happen to be really good at it. i know this is just me saying “DIY is really kewl, mang” but getting to watch that happen and getting to experience that process and getting to know those people, both as friends and as songwriters and artists, was (to borrow from shelley duvall’s character in annie hall) simply transplendid. there’s no other word for it. if i could make these records i would be making these records. in a lot of ways i’ve pretty much been trying to do that forever, although probably less specifically and a little less directly derivatively in the last few years—these days i’m too busy trying to rip off the more recent Hop Along records.
the followup to “Freshman Year”, “Is Something Wrong”, and also “Wretches” (which i think work really well as one record, by the way) was equally, if not more, influential for me. i’ve been fighting with this whole “singer/songwriter” thing for a long time, that is, there’s all of this baggage that goes along with being a boy (or girl) who wants to play a guitar and sing songs about love and death and stuff to people and ask that they focus on the words that you’re saying. a lot of people seem to have this sort of dismissive judgment thing that happens when they see a dude break out the ol’ geetar and get to ramblin’ about his ladyfriends. and about his ramblin’. i mean, i do it too (the dismissive thing, that is, not so much the ramblin’) it seems like every 3rd dude has “this machine kills something” scratched on his guitar and he wants to yell at me about some fucking train car or about some girl they met who likes a book that they like, and i pretty much stop giving a shit a few minutes before i’m made aware of their existence. which is a tad rash on my part, i feel. but it happens! Hop Along has managed to fucking destroy that nonsense (in my head, anyway) and that’s awesome.
anyway, trying to translate the music that i want to be making into a live setting has been a really rough process that i’m about 1/3 of the way through right now, but they’ve made me feel like it’s totally possible and totally worthwhile. there are other models (david bazan, julie doiron, mirah, etc) but, again, seeing Hop Along, little old Hop Along, do it, is somehow more impactful and exciting and inspiring. and they are keeping that shit up with the newest fuck yeah badass record “Get Disowned”. it’s not, like, magic or anything, i just really appreciate what they’re doing and what i feel like they’re trying to do and it gets me all happy and sad and stoked and emotional. if i ever get this shit together, there are going to be some very clear parallels (at least in my head) between the progression of that band’s sound and the sound of my own band. thanks, Hop Along dudes, you’re fucking rad.