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Hop Along | Photo by John Vettese

To say that Johnny Brenda’s has been crushing its New Year’s Eve game in recent years would be an understatement. After an epic 2012 with War on Drugs and a blazing 2013 with Screaming Females, last night the Fishtown venue had Hop Along bid farewell to 2014 with an explosive performance for a sold-out crowd. There was champagne, a 50s pop cover, an onstage engagement ceremony, the debut of two new songs and a whole lot of cathartic singing along. 

And that was just the headliners. The openers struck a variety of moods as well. Beginning on a quiet and contemplative note, Roses – the solo project of Matt Scheuermann, formerly of The Sidekicks – played a set of mellow acoustic indie pop in the vein of Elliott Smith and early Death Cab for Cutie (hear his debut EP here). The lights stayed low and he said some shy hellos in between songs, but mostly stuck to playing a short but promising set.

Thin Lips | Photo by John Vettese

Thin Lips | Photo by John Vettese

Conversely, the lights were cranked for Thin Lips, who swiftly burned up a half dozen or so punky power trio jams. After several years fronting the carnivalesque pop band Dangerous Ponies, frontwoman Chrissy Tashjian is charged and focused in this new band; “Gemini Moon” was a rager (download the Key Studio Sessions version of it here), and their cover of “Lounge Act” by Nirvana – my favorite song on Nevermind – was a welcome treat.

The best thing a band can do when they’re playing into midnight on New Years’ Eve is not treat it hugely differently from any other show. Sure, a bottle of champagne was popped and cheers were cheersed, but Hop Along for the most part did what it does best – playing fantastic arty indie rock with a punk edge. Most of the material came from 2012’s Get Disowned – “Young and Happy” as an opener sounded massive, “Tibetian Pop Stars” was a full room singalong, the intensity of the title track was unreal.

Where they ventured elsewhere, it was with the live debut of two songs from the album the band is releasing on Saddle Creek Records in the spring. Both were hooky with driving, and felt a bit less experimental / exploratory than Disowned and more like straightahead rockers a la their 2013 Shaking Through hit “Sister Cities” (which closed the show). This is undeniably a good thing, since the band does hooky rock incredibly well – evidenced by their midnight cover of “Do You Wanna Dance” by Bobby Freeman (done in the style of The Ramones), which brought down the house.

To make the evening even more special, frontwoman Frances Quinlan brought a friend named Julie onstage – who in turn called up her girlfriend Jess, said “will you marry me?” into the microphone and got down on one knee. The answer was yes, the venue erupted in cheers, and guitarist Joe Reinhart deadpanned “Now that’s how you start a year!” On so many levels, I could not agree more. Check out a gallery of photos from the show (and a couple videos) below.

“Do You Wanna Dance”:

From a different angle:

A video posted by Jay Breslin (@jaybres) on

“Lounge Act”:

A video posted by Jay Breslin (@jaybres) on

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