Live Review: Hop Along, AnnonXL, Lunch, Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 7, 2021

At Johnny Brenda’s for the second night of the Philly Music Fest, headliner Hop Along did what it does so well: pounding out one monster song after another—including “Waitress, “How Simple,” “The Knock” and a cover of Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”—with high energy and maximum dexterity. Extra oomph came courtesy of Lucy Stone on third guitar and a crowd hanging on Frances Quinlan’s every word.

Reminiscing about being hired at Johnny Brenda’s nine years ago, they (Quinlan’s pronouns are they/them) wore the big wins and losses of the past decade like a badge of honor, its glory both gleaming and ragged. Quinlan may not have howled with the full force they brought in the band’s earlier days, when we wondered how long that voice could hold up, but still sounded mighty if more sustainable—and when they let loose, it was as goosebump-inducing as ever. However flooded with regret we are, we’re still standing, and that’s not nothing.

Joined by an onstage cheering squad, AnnonXL struck a lot of poses, played a little guitar and sang the hell out of songs and self-affirmations set to electropop beats an assistant played off a phone. The mask-muffled audience did its best to sing along, but tracks like “Baby’s First Time” (from the peak-pandemic album Stupid Cupid) proved that AnnonXL didn’t really need anyone’s help.

Lunch opened with a handful of fun pop/punk tunes, including “Quit Smoking Hot.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich