By Jaclyn Jermyn
The first time I saw Hop Along play, I didn’t really see them at all. It was my first summer in Chicago and they played Wicker Park Fest right before my (arguably) one true love, Laura Stevenson. I maybe heard the end of a song or two as I pushed and elbowed my way to the font barriers. Hey, we all sometimes do some dumb things for those we love. I don’t remember any of their set but I remembered their name.
Later that summer, I found myself with a hell of a crush on a boy that mentioned Hop Along once as we walked through the gardens in Millennium Park. Dropping a half-lie that of course I knew who they were—I had been to one of their shows before, I found myself at home that night, listening to their album “Get Disowned,” with the kind of fervor that’s specific to crushes. The music stuck with me much longer than the boy did.
I encouraged everyone I knew to listen to those songs with me. I took it as a personal affront when my best friend told me that it just wasn’t his thing. It was hard not to get attached to Frances Quinlan’s voice. Her voice both grated and soothed at a time where I felt unbelievably angry at the hand the universe had dealt me. I locked myself in my bedroom and learned all of the words with clenched fists. And the summer ended and I put the relief that these songs had given me, on the shelf.
The next summer they released “Painted Shut,” and I felt the same sense of relief wash over me after the hardest year of my life. I was tired and homesick but here were new words to love and listen to in a new apartment in a new neighborhood. You know that scene in the manic pixie dream girl classic, 500 Days of Summer where Joseph Gordon-Levitt dances through the streets? Yeah, that’s how I feel whenever I listen to Sister Cities.
I think I saw a Facebook event for their show at Thalia Hall way back in the dead of winter. Ever the planner, it was hard not to instantly file the show away for later reference. It was the day after my 21st birthday and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with a band that helped ensure that you made it that far? Just try listening to the lyrics “nobody loves you half as much as I am trying to,” and not feeling emotionally overwhelmed and eager to reflect. You know, good birthday emotions.
Being at Thalia Hall sort of feels like watching a band play in the ballroom of an abandoned mansion—you know that it was magnificent in its heyday but now it has shadows and corners and strangers wandering around like ghosts.
Once again, I pushed and elbowed myself to the front of the barriers and sat though bands I don’t remember much about. The second Hop Along took the stage, I felt a hopeful swelling in my chest like I was having a really pleasant allergic reaction or seeing an old friend for the first time in years. When Frances announced that they were going to play a song that they hadn’t played in Chicago in “a hot second,” I had my fingers crossed.
It’s hard not to hope that everyone will somehow read your mind and play your favorite songs—remarkably I actually got my wish that time. They played Sally II and I yelled along. In fact, I yelled along to everything. I left with sore legs, not much of a voice, and a smile so big, cheeks ached. I have listened to Hop Along every day since, showing these songs off to new friends like they’re my children and I’m a proud parent.
These are the songs that I have applied to every happy thought and crisis situation. They have been sung to many people, both drunkenly and sober, but every time the words leave my lips, I am reassured that these moments are for myself, despite who else may be watching.