Chicago – A little after three in the afternoon girls began lining up outside Subterranean. No, they weren’t there for the six o’clock show with Foxing and TWIABP. (Though Best New Bands was. Stay tuned for the review!) They were waiting anxiously to see the evening show with Hippo Campus. Yeah, the one that was set to start at eleven that evening. Hippo Campus’ fans are Hardcore! Those dedicated fan girls are right up their with 1D fans. Pretty impressive for four indie rockers from Saint Paul, Minnesota!
Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (guitar), Zach Sutton (bass), and Whistler Allen (drums) met at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts and formed Hippo Campus. There the foursome studied the business of music, Stocker, Sutton, and Allen took jazz lessons, and Luppen immersed himself in the study of classical music and sang opera. After graduating high school in 2013, the four friends decided to skip college and focus on music. By 2014, they had released their first EP Bashful Creatures and signed with Grand Jury Records. 2015 has been an even better year for Hippo Campus. After a successful SXSW run, the guys landed themselves a spot on Conan, then a tour with The Mowgli’s, and opening slots for Walk The Moon, My Morning Jacket, and Modest Mouse. This summer Hippo Campus played Lollapalooza, Reading, and Leeds festivals, and before heading off on their own headlining tour, in support of their recent EP South, the band supported JR JR on the West Coast leg of their tour.
This tour is a chance for Hippo Campus to prove they’re ready for the bigger venues and a full-length release. Though the tour has just begun, given the outpouring of support by fans, it’s safe to say they’re succeeding. Two young ladies at the SubT show had been following Hippo Campus around since they played Wisconsin, attending the Maddison and Milwaukee shows, before making their way to Chicago, which proved the third time’s a charm, as they found themselves front row. They giggled in excitement, telling of their adventures with Hippo Campus. When the guys came out on stage, they screamed and clapped, as did pretty much every other girl packed in at the sold-out show. The guys smiled, somewhat shocked; a sign they’re still getting use to having such adoring fans. They best get used to it because chances are the fanfare will only increase. Once they finished sound-checking, Hippo Campus broke into “Bashful Creatures.” Immediately girls began singing along word for word. In fact, there wasn’t a song played that didn’t have a joined chorus of fans! See, that’s some 1D shit right there. Perhaps 1D fans are just growing up and discovering rock? Whatever the case, Hippo Campus are worthy of the praise.
Hippo Campus mixes indie rock with infectious pop hooks, lustrous guitars, and occasional hints of reggae and calypso, in songs like “Opportunistic” and “Dollar Bill.” Luppen showcased his wonderful vocal range, most so with “The Halocline,” all while frantically jumping around stage. “South” showed off more grit from Luppen and the rest of the gang. “Violet” demonstrated the band’s knack for harmonizing. At times the guys sounded like Death Cab For Cutie and at other times much like Priory, Vampire Weekend, and KOL. That’s the beauty of Hippo Campus; their musical scope is phenomenal.
Hippo Campus played their catchy single “Suicide Saturday” and other oldies from their debut EP, like “Souls” and “Sophie So.” They also played every song off their recent release South, but it was “Little Grace” that especially got the crowd in a tizzy. A rumbling erupted. The floor began to shake. Fans jumped wildly, screaming, and waving hands. Hippo Campus also played some unreleased tracks. One of which was “Saint Paul Roofs.” It slowed things down and got the Minnesota folks in the room feeling good. People swayed back and forth, all smiles. They dedicated a few songs out to Minnesota friends and Chicagoans, giving a shout out to Chance the Rapper and thanks to the neighbor who put up with lots of noise during long practice sessions. Applause followed every song, joke, and bit of banter. More importantly an air of happiness drifted throughout Subterranean thanks to Hippo Campus’ splendid music and bubbling personalities. Watch out because Hippo Campus are set to be the next big break out indie act!
Hippo Campus is currently tour and will be playing throughout the U.K. in February. A list of dates is available on the band Facebook page. South can be purchased on iTunes.
Photo of Hippo Campus by Sarah Hess for BestNewBands.com
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.