Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH
Photos by Sophie Minello
Review by Sophia DiPierro
Where do I even start? I have seen Hippo Campus live three times now, each with an obvious exponential growth in quality. Touring their album Landmark, released in February, Hippo Campus has consistently been nothing short of breath taking. I’ll go song by song through their entire set, recounting the experience as I saw it, and sharing the emotions that rushed through me with each passing moment.
Before I jump in, let me just give you a little background to portray exactly how much this show meant to me. I have seen Hippo Campus in 2015, 2016, and now 2017, so they have been a big part of my life for about two or three years now. My life has been extremely different each time I’ve seen them, so hearing their songs brings back many different floods of emotions and memories of significant value to me.
Hippo Campus, consisting of Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (guitar), Zach Sutton (bass), and Whistler Allen (drums), began the show by playing “Way It Goes” from Landmark, their newest album. The excitement of the crowd was bursting through the roof at this point; the anticipation had been escalating for about 20 of the longest minutes known to man as Hippo Campus’s stage was being prepared. When they finally walked on, the audience went wild, everyone screamed and welcomed them to the stage. As “Way It Goes” was played, almost every single person around me was singing along. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic, and there was an invisible, yet very present booming energy in the venue.
The second song that they played was “Little Grace,” from their first album Bashful Creatures. Despite this song being an older one, the crowd was just as enthusiastic, if not more so, about the music. My favorite part during this song is the pre-chorus, where it sounds kind of tropical. This particular piece of the song is so light and airy, the crowd was almost in sync as it played. This song always reminds me of summer drives and going to the beach, and all of these feelings were brought back to me in the moment. Even though this is one of their first songs, it’s a classic.
The third song was “Simple Season” from Landmark. This was a good song to play after “Little Grace” because it keeps up with the cool and airy theme. The crowd’s energy has not died down one bit yet, and they kept getting more and more excited with each note played. The energy that was in the room during the show is truly indescribable. After “Simple Season” was done, or a little towards the end of the song, something happened with the power of the venue. It went completely dark in the room and none of the band’s mics were working. This just goes to show how personable the members of Hippo Campus are; Nathan yelled out to the crowd, “This might just be happening right now! How are you guys doing?” The audience’s energy was still booming, and the screams of excitement and joy were as loud as ever, if not moreso, despite the short power outage. The lights and mics finally came back on, and the members of the band were all in good spirits, likewise to the crowd.
For the fourth song, Hippo Campus returned to their roots once again, playing “Souls” from Bashful Creatures. One of my friends in attendance of the concert with me turned to me saying, “All of the memories are coming back!” This song definitely made me feel nostalgic. Hearing the songs played live after listening to them for months on end is such a powerful feeling and you can only know what that feeling is like if you experience it yourself. “Souls,” just like “Little Grace,” is an oldie, but a goodie.
The next song they played, sticking with Bashful Creatures for a moment, was “Suicide Saturday.” This is one of Hippo Campus’s bigger hits, so the audience went wild when they heard the signature opening riff of the song. During this part of the song, Jake and Zach got closer to each other, playing their instruments face to face, as if they were just jamming out together. I loved that they did this because in a way it unified the room by reminding everyone that they’re just four guys in a band. It was a small gesture, but it made them all that more personable nevertheless. Something done in many of their songs when live in concert, but especially “Suicide Saturday” is the addition of different riffs and solos that aren’t the same as the ones on the recording, yet still as good, if not better. I love that they do this because it really showcases their skills and talents as musicians.
I should back up to the beginning of the night for a moment and mention what happened before my friends and I entered the venue. It was a very cold night with a pretty good amount of rain falling. I arrived and began waiting in line at around six o’clock, but some people had been waiting there as early as two o’clock to my knowledge. I should mention that doors were at eight o’clock, and the show began at nine o’clock, so we had a pretty hefty wait ahead of us. Of course, it was, without a doubt in my mind, worth it. When VIP flooded into the venue, for some reason those without VIP also flooded in, trying to get warm. We all waited in the bar area of the venue for about a good hour until it was time to get our tickets checked and enter the main room of the venue. I bring all of this up because between “Suicide Saturday” and the next song, Zack yelled out, “Thanks so much for coming everybody! Especially those who waited in the rain, I would never do that for a band, so thank you!” The crowd screamed in thanks, and Jake went on to remark in transition, “Power’s on, feeling great…this song goes out to Remo Drive [the openers].” I feel the need to bring up these small comments because they are what makes me fall in love with Hippo Campus all over again every time I see them.
The next song they played was one of their new ones, “Western Kids,” from Landmark. Just like “Little Grace,” this song brought back a lot of summer, feel good memories. The chorus of the song is very playful, and makes you feel almost carefree like you are a child again while listening to the song. Everyone in the audience was bouncing and bumping off and into each other, but no one seemed to mind because they were just enjoying the music and simply having a good time. I should mention that Hippo Campus added a fifth member for this tour, I apologize that I do not know his name, but he played the trumpet on some of their new songs, including this one. He is an outstanding trumpeter, and his unique spins on all of their songs were incredible to listen to.
This next part of the concert was definitely its climax. It is the most meaningful part to me, and I’m sure that goes for a lot of the people in the crowd. The next three songs played, in order, were “Poems,” “Interlude,” and “Monsoon,” all from Landmark. I’m going to talk about all three of them together here because from the moment that “Poems” began and “Monsoon” ended, there was not one break in the music. They all gracefully transitioned into each other, which made them all the more unforgettable. The crowd quieted down for these songs, perhaps because everyone’s ears were just trying to take everything in. Don’t get me wrong, the energy in the room was still just as present as it was at the beginning of the show, but these songs are just so powerful that sometimes it’s better to just stand there, close your eyes, and listen. When “Poems” came on, the angelic beginning riff made me feel like I was floating. The entire song is euphoric, making one feel completely weightless and free of worry. The song’s bassline is so powerful that when seeing them live you can actually feel the bass vibrating throughout your body. I love when this happens because then I can physically feel the music, making it all the more personal and connecting me deeper to the song. Then, with utmost grace, “Poems” transitioned into “Interlude.” When this happened, I found myself in a dream sequence. The first note of “Interlude,” or the whole song for that matter, is perhaps the most potent of the entire album. It immediately flooded my mind with all of the memories that I associate it with. I stood still for a second so I could truly take in the moment as it was happening. The utter bliss that came over me in that instant is something that can’t be put into words. The trumpeter’s role was prominent during this song, and the fact that the song live was not exactly as it is on the recording made it so much more real and special. It was an unexpected treat to hear “Interlude” performed. Lastly in this part, “Monsoon” was played. There was a long and heavenly transition between “Interlude” and “Monsoon,” which really kept the crowd in a certain mood. For those who have heard “Monsoon,” you know just how slow and significant this song is. Not much more can be said about it other than the fact that tears were shed amongst the audience.
After “Monsoon” ended, Jake asked us, “How we doing, are you guys still with us, you good?” The crowd cheered, and somebody yelled out that they were dehydrated. Jake responded, “You’re dehydrated? Who’s dehydrated? You are?” Pointing to the fan, he said “Apparently everyone’s dehydrated, but you’re the most vocal about it, so I’m going to give you this water. Make sure this water gets to her, okay? Here we go!” He then proceeded to throw his water out to the fan, and I found this important to mention because it shows a lot of character. He then said, “Yeah, alright. This one goes out to fucking hydration.” They began to play “South,” a song from a previous single, South. I liked that they followed “Monsoon” with this song because it gradually brought the crowd out of a slower mood and back into a more energetic one.
Next, they played “baseball” off of their most recent single, warm glow. This song has a very refreshing and bouncy sound to it, and the crowd immediately began dancing to it as it was played. Something specific that strikes me in this song is the bridge: “Fill the rafters / Right field dances / Baseball diamonds / Take our chances out.” This part truly breaks down the song and gives me that same powerful feeling that I’ve mentioned a few times earlier. “baseball” is an instant classic to say the least.
After “baseball,” “traveler” was played, another song off of the new EP warm glow. Going into the concert, this song was one of my favorites, and still is. On each of their releases, Hippo Campus is able to keep with their sound, while still bringing refreshing new melodies to our ears. “traveler” is exactly this: a refreshing melody that one can really let themselves loose to. I can’t wait to roll my windows down and listen to this on summer drives.
“warm glow,” another song off of their new single warm glow, can in some ways be compared to “Monsoon.” The crowd slowed down a bit to truly listen to this song, just as they did when “Monsoon” was played. Despite the fact that this song is so fresh, it still struck a chord with me during the concert. My favorite part of this song is when the band sings, “Arm's length, shoulders wide / Looking for a fight / Peace sign, getting by / People, we'll be alright.” These particular lyrics are so impactful, and they are a big part of what makes this song oh so good.
At this moment in time, “Buttercup” from Landmark is undeniably my favorite song on their album. Before seeing them last week, I completely overlooked this song, however, I found a new love for it as it was played. I can’t describe exactly how this happened, but this is a prime example of how seeing the music performed right in front of you is a completely different experience from simply listening to the tracks.
Although it seemed like “Buttercup” was the last song of the night, “Violet” from the single South truly was. Hippo Campus walked out after “Buttercup,” and the lights went out, however, the audience screamed and screamed until Hippo Campus returned to the stage. When they did this, the room was obviously chaotic, and everyone began to throw themselves around as the first notes of “Violet” played. It was, without a doubt, a great song to end the show to.
Just as I struggled to pick a place to begin this piece, I’m having trouble finding a place to end it. Writing this–trying to condense an entire night into one article–was indisputably a hard task, but an enjoyable one nevertheless. This concert is one that I will carry with me throughout the years, and I can now only look forward to the day I meet with Hippo Campus again. Thank you.