Alvvays, Snail Mail, and Hatchie at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA, September 29, 2018 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Alvvays, Snail Mail, and Hatchie at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA, September 29, 2018,

Oct 10, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Putting Alvvays, Snail Mail, and Hatchie on the same bill is like asking that Twitter-viral bot (okay, it’s clearly not a bot) that keeps pumping out the world’s most hilarious scripts for Olive Garden commercials and Donald Trump rallies to spend 10,000 hours in the college rock sphere and create a dream lineup of its own. Alvvays is one of the most beloved indie rock bands of the past half-decade, Snail Mail is one of 2018’s most written-about and acclaimed newcomers, and Hatchie is already incredibly popular for an artist who’s released solely an EP and feels no rush to release a full album. That this lineup existed for three days in Brooklyn and two days in Philly almost feels like a sick joke played by someone trying to parody music blog and streaming culture.

These artists aren’t popular just because of some big machine or other unseen force that’s marketing them as though they’re the only thing people should be paying attention to right now. They happen to all make great music that more than deserves the acclaim and fanfare it consistently receives. Hatchie’s opening set at Union Transfer, one of Philly’s most esteemed venues, during the first of the three bands’ two nights appearing there was a solid reminder of her promise. On a stage that artists as massive as Lykke Li and Liz Phair will be gracing in coming weeks, Harriette Pilbeam’s dream popbig emphasis on pop, as her charm is that she pours accessibility and undeniable charm over the sounds that have given bands like Cocteau Twins decades of acclaim while at most rarely drawing them mainstream attentionsounded as delightful and pristine as music by a band that’s got years more experience playing rooms this size. Hits from her Sugar and Spice EP such as “Sleep” and especially “Try” engulfed the room with a rock pummel not as prevalent on her recordings. Although the crowd was small, it was captivated; the common problem of audience members not paying attention to the opener wasn’t an issue.

Towards the end of Hatchie’s set, she asked the crowd to cheer for Snail Mail coming on next, and she received a surprisingly muted response. Although this didn’t bode well for Snail Mail’s set, as soon as she took the stage, the crowd’s lack of excitement made absolutely no sense. Audience members immediately sang along to opener “Heat Wave,” one of the year’s best rock songs, as though Snail Mail were the night’s headliner. Other key cuts including “Thinning” and “Pristine” received a similarly rambunctious response thanks to the searing contrast between frontperson Lindsay Jordan’s devilish guitar work and engrossing rasp. Her strongest moment of the night came with “Speaking Terms,” which, on her debut album Lush, is sandwiched between “Pristine” and “Heat Wave” and therefore rather easy to overlook. Live, it was perhaps her jumpiest number and certainly unignorable. She ended with a remarkable solo cover of her favorite song, Courtney Love’s “Second Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” before ceding to Alvvays.

When Alvvays gets on stage, Molly Rankin transforms from a spunky, flexible vocalist, and energetic, rattling guitarist into a frontperson whose voice leaps off walls and ceilings like Spider-Man and whose guitars pack so much force they strike with the impact of Rocky’s fists. Her band is just as tight, a dynamic unit that unpacks a magnetic wallop to Alvvays’ songs that their recordings can bury a bit. Drummer Sheridan Riley deserves extra praise; her handiwork (and footwork, because Alvvays’ kick drums go live) makes the band just knock on stage. The effect was flooring when Alvvays toured its 2014 self-titled debut, which was shrouded in layers of echo and reverb despite its clarity, and it remains jarring even during the era of 2017’s Antisocialites, which is a much more lucid release despite still loving those studio effects.

“Not My Baby” was the night’s best example of what the stage can do for an Alvvays song: A pretty, drifting number on Antisocialites, at Union Transfer, it had the most bite of anything Alvvays played that night. The splashing drumbeat that defines the recorded version is mountainous on stage, and Rankin’s voice carried its highest notes to heavenly heights even though she warned the audience that she was quite sick (“I would be honored to squawk through this set if you’ll have me” drew plenty of laughs, as did this later admission: “I feel like a husky lady. I don’t know what that means. I’m feeling a little bit weird.”). Rankin’s illness hampered the band in absolutely no way: “Plimsoll Punks,” “Hey,” and “Lollipop (Ode to Jim),” which are all among the album’s most stomping tracks, sounded Madison Square Garden-ready.

It helped that she had audience members to back up her singing. “Archie, Marry Me” is still a room-wide sing-along; the song that in many ways elevated Alvvays to its indie royalty status, it contains a melancholic magic that is as uniting as it is plain sad live. It turns out the Antisocialites equivalent sing-along is “Dreams Tonite,” and this fact at first feels weird but then makes sense. “Dreams” contains an incense-burning, heartbroken drift not dissimilar to “Archie,” and both songs are their albums’ second tracks following enticing openers that seem to lead towards something bigger approaching.

The night ended with the sort of giant moment those introductory album tracks seem to imply. Jordan and Pilbeam returned to the stage during Alvvays’ encore for a joint cover of The Hummingbirds’ “Alimony,” chosen to honor Hatchie’s Australian heritage. It was the night’s most communal moment, and this after three unforgettable hours of unity built with an eager, attentive audience that loved every moment. Bots be damned: This lineup was what the people wanted.

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