Photography by Amanda Silberling
On Friday night, R5 Productions‘s second annual OK Fest kicked off with a stunning show at PhilaMOCA. A weekend-long event that benefits The Attic Youth Center, OK Fest features three days of music from a wide variety of D.I.Y. bands, including Philadelphia-based favorites like Girlpool, Alex G, and Sheer Mag. By now, there shouldn’t be any doubt about the talent of artists in the D.I.Y. scenes of northeast American cities like Philadelphia and Brooklyn, but Eskimeaux, Told Slant, and Frances Quinlan of Hop Along delivered yet another reminder that the underground is booming with life.
A project fronted by Brooklyn’s Gabrielle Smith, Eskimeaux delivers vivid bedroom pop, sounding like a discordant, yet compelling fairy tale. Last Wednesday night, Eskimeaux played on the same PhilaMOCA stage with Elvis Depressedly and Mitski, a show that drew a similar crowd to OK Fest. Despite their very recent performance, Eskimeaux still captivated the audience with a set that stemmed predominately from O.K., their most recent album.
After Eskimeaux’s set, Gabrielle Smith and Eskimeaux’s drummer Felix Walworth remained on stage. “We look a lot like Eskimeaux, but we aren’t,” Walworth says – though Walworth tours and drums with Eskimeaux, their main artistic endeavor is Told Slant, where they are the lead singer, drummer, and writer. Similarly, Smith plays bass in Told Slant. Both Walworth and Smith are founding members of The Epoch, a Brooklyn-based collective of artists. At OK Fest, Told Slant offers a set of passionate lo-fi punk – in their final song, “Algae Bloom,” Walworth got so into the performance that one drumstick flung out into the crowd. Luckily, a fan handed the drumstick back to Walworth, who finished out the set on an overwhelmingly strong note.
Though Frances Quinlan is best known as the lead of Hop Along, a four-piece band from Philadelphia whose May release Painted Shut received wide acclaim from outlets like NPR and Rolling Stone, she is versatile enough that she can headline the first night of OK Fest with just a microphone and a guitar and blow the crowd away. It’s a rarity and a treat to watch Frances Quinlan perform a solo show – she played two never-before-heard songs, along with songs like “Bride and Groom Hot Air Balloon” from Freshman Year, an album that Quinlan released in 2005 under the name “Hop Along, Queen Ansleis.” Despite performing in a less-familiar setting without the rest of Hop Along, Quinlan seemed comfortable on stage. Between songs, she reminisced about a strange dream in which she drank beer with Neil Young, only to realize that the beer was actually soy sauce. The only song Quinlan played from Painted Shut was “Happy To See Me,” presenting newer Hop Along fans with a vastly unfamiliar set, but even for OK Fest attendees who weren’t familiar with any of Quinlan’s earlier work, the vocally-stunning storyteller managed to end the first night of OK Fest on a high note. Impressively, Quinlan performed at XPoNential Music Festival just twelve hours after her solo set came to a close – of course, she rocked that performance as well.
See more photos from OK Fest below!