Outside the 9:30 Club milled a large group of middle-aged men and women sporting an eclectic mix of flannel and old Built to Spill shirts. The mood was upbeat and I could feel the excitement in the air. From the outside of the building, I could hear the faint vibrations of a guitar riff and the accompanying drums, so I knew that the show was in full swing. Upon entering the building, I was immediately hit by the guitar-driven folk-rock that is Hop Along. Frances Quinlan’s haunting, raspy voice rose above the deep thrumming of the bass and drew me in. I maneuvered my way through the crowd until I was front and center, and joined the jumping happy people around me.
Hop Along delivered in full that Sunday night. They played both new and old material, performing both with noticeable passion. Even though Quinlan jokingly mentioned that “Hop Along is the sad bologna between the wonder bread that is Alex G and Built to Spill”, she delivered an insanely good performance that made me a new and devoted fan.
As the set ended, the lights returned and the crowd began to mingle and head to the bar. One of the major factors at a show that I feel is often overlooked is the crowd and the vibe it gives off. Well, I have to give major props to the crowd that Sunday night because they brought good vibes from the moment I entered the building. The talking was loud and boisterous. The sea of dads around me showed a nervous excitement to see their favorite band, which first released an album when they were younger guys in the 1990s.
I was talking to some of those flannel-sporting dads around me when the lights suddenly dimmed and Built to Spill came on stage. The band’s frontman, Doug Martsch quickly walked up to the mic and launched into a song off his new album. I quickly lost myself in the higher pitched voice that so completely mismatched the older body that produced it. His voice carried over the indie rock that was blasting from the speakers, creating a vortex of high energy. The crowd around me was going nuts, and I was jumping up and down with them. The insanity that is raw 1990’s indie rock washed over the crowd and created an amazing atmosphere enjoyed by everyone.
Finally, after seven songs, Martsch thanked people for showing up, mentioned how much he loved D.C., and then continued to assault me with insanely good sounds. Playing a career-spanning set, Martsch managed to create a show that fans of any album would enjoy. My personal favorite song, “Carry the Zero” had a guitar riff that lasted for nearly eight minutes and had me questioning my sanity by the end. Yeah, the point I’m trying to make is that it was a great show, perhaps one of my favorites to date in D.C. This is a band that hopefully will be touring for a while, and I urge you not to miss them when they return.
— Dakota Morrow