Photo by ALEX PATERSON-JONES
Philly loves their own. The crowd, crammed into a warehouse somewhere in Northern Liberties last night, went wild for the performances of three Philly-born artists’ Hop Along, Tierra Whack and Orion Sun, at the opening of the 4-day House of Vans event. Indie rock band Hop Along—which is comprised of two siblings, front-woman Frances Quinlan and her brother Mark on drums — opened for Tierra Whack. Live, Frances’ voice is an enigma— think a chain-smoking baby, crude and rustic, pulsing in its ragged rawness. That voice’s full-throatedness pierced the venue, making the audience empathize with the pain located in the fairy tales she sang about. Frances sang all the songs off 2018’s Bark Your Head off, Dog, along with some of their best-known tracks (including “Powerful Man” and “Tibetan Pop Stars”), but the most thrilling moment of Hop Along’s set was “Prior Things,” during which guitarist Joe Reinhardt erupted in a raging guitar solo, head-banging furiously.
Philadelphia-rapper Tierra Whack emerged from backstage looking like The Queen of Hearts—wearing a woven, cherry-red crewneck sweater, a Pepto-pink skirt patterned with big, red hearts, and her whole head of hair fully blown-out behind a striped, red headband. When she launched into “Only Child” (a single released earlier this year, which she sang along with all the tracks from her debut album, Whack’s World), the venue unanimously erupted into roaring in cheers, with everyone raising their arm or middle-finger. Then Whack shared the spotlight: first, she brought on a “special guest” (a live baby turtle she called “Bruce”); then her DJ—who bore a striking resemblance to Eminem—joined her onstage, energetically bouncing and rapping alongside her and, in one swift move, tearing his shirt off.
Later in the night, Whack even welcomed a couple audience members onstage to freestyle before the crowd. She offered to film the first guy’s freestyling with his phone and then told the audience to shut up and listen when the second guy choked, in a manner that was encouraging and unexpected coming from those no-bullshit vocals you get in her music. When the second guy rapped—the audience held their breath—he was talented, impressing Whack, and they embraced at the end. She proceeded to hurl free pairs of Vans and T-shirts into the audience. I was initially skeptical how the 1-minute tracks from the 15-minute-album Whack’s World would translate into a live performance, but I was won over by end. — JASMIN ALVAREZ