Article by: Milo Keranen
After a music-filled Saturday in Union Park, Varsity and Hop Along brought their lively performances to the Metro in Wrigleyville. Many of the concert go-ers were coming directly from Pitchfork, others just to see the bands for the evening. Many exhausted and few well-rested fans filled both the balcony and the main floor of the spectacular concert hall, anticipating a few more shows for the day.
The Chicago indie band, Varsity, entered the stage after a tremendous performance by Slow Mass, who set the tone for the late yet energetic night. Lead singer, Stephanie Smith, rocked her black booties with a microphone in front of her and a synthesizer to her right. The other members joined her ー Dylan Weschler and Patrick Stanton on guitar, and the brother duo, Paul Stolz and Jake Stolz on bass and drums, respectively. They started playing right away, full of energy, but also focused. They did what they came there for and did it well.
Varsity started out the show with one of their songs released last May 2021, Runaway, which left the crowd jumping and dancing along to the catchy beat. About halfway through the song, an unexpected saxophone solo comes from the right of the stage, replacing Stef Smith’s voice, making the audience run away with the mesmerizing saxophone that filled the vast concert hall and up to the second floor balcony.
Following the song “Sicko World” from Varisty’s 2020 album, Fine Forever, Stef Smith made the point to add “I kind of regret writing the lyrics ‘Quarantine is what I need’”, signaling laughter on both floors of the concert hall.
Varsity was able to play their 2020 album in their home city after a year with no performances, reintroducing their relaxing yet textured sound to the beloved and iconic Chicago venue in the heart of Wrigleyville. Live music almost feels the same as it did pre-pandemic, except there is an extra step of requiring proof of vaccination along with the bag-check before entering the venue. The crowd in the venue also feels similar, except everyone is wearing masks. It no longer matters who is singing along and who isn’t.
Varsity’s music offered the crowd a sense of nostalgia, hence the name Varsity; The top level of athletics in high school. Varsity brought out their catchy tunes and storytelling to bring us back into all of the good feels of high school. They also carried us right back into the live music scene of the city we all know and love.
After an upbeat and spirited performance by Varsity, Hop Along entered the stage on their simple yet tasteful set. Lead singer, guitarist and the head of Hop Along, Frances Quinlan, was joined by her band members Joe Reinhart, Tyler Long, and her brother, Mark Quinlan.
As the clock struck midnight, the performance started out strong. The pop-punk band dug deep and filled the room of tired show go-ers with loads of energy yet again. Frances Quinlan’s unique and adventurous voice paired with the energy of the pop-punk songs made the crowd stunned and excited all at once.
Throughout the show, Frances Quinlan exemplified her wide vocal range alternating between tenacious pop-punk and down-tempo singer-songwriter stuff. During the song “Tibetan Pop Stars” there was a heavy punk jam session that prompted headbanging and moshing in the crowd, who were reveling in the sonic celebration which has been mostly outlawed for the past 18 months.
“Who’s up past their bedtime to see us?” Quinlan joked. Many laughed and raised their hands, as the next song started and everyone began jumping again.
About halfway through the set, Quinlan switched to her fully acoustic guitar and the show slowed down a bit, perhaps because the clock was inching toward 1:00 AM. With the slower songs, the energy in the crowd mellowed out some more. Quinlan’s unique voice filled the concert hall yet again, with less heavy punk as she tapped into her more indie rock side.
Both bands brought their liveliness to an otherwise drained crowd from Pitchfork, and replenished the vast room with their effervescence. Varsity — the hometown band — brought catchiness and nostalgia, while Hop Along offered a sense of renewal and energetic punk.
As the show ended, the crowd began to funnel out of the theatre and into the streets of lively Wrigleyville. Most left feeling inspired, refreshed, and some ready for another music-filled day at Pitchfork.