It was another cold winter day in Chicago, but rising rock band Hippo Campus would have convinced someone at its concert otherwise. Inside the sold out show on Feb. 16 at The Vic Theatre (3145 N. Sheffield Ave.), it felt like it was the middle of summer with the fun, light guitar riffs and the receptive energy of the crowd. This was the second to last show on Hippo Campus’ 2018 Winter Tour in support of its newest 2017 EP, “Warm Glow.”
Los Angeles pop band Sure Sure was the supporting act for Hippo Campus and certainly warmed up the crowd. With both mellow and cheery songs, the band was able to give the crowd an idea of what to expect from the main act. Both groups have similar upbeat, indie music styles, so Sure Sure was a great choice for Hippo Campus to bring along on its tour.
Soon after Sure Sure’s set, the lights dimmed and the crowd was ready for Hippo Campus. The band opened with its 2017 song “Poems.” Although not a particularly well-known song for the band, it set the tone for the rest of the show as it started slowly and built to a simple, melodic and dramatic chorus.
The excitement in the room was undeniable as the crowd swayed and cheered for song after song.
Vocalist and guitarist Jake Luppen fronts the indie rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota and his vocals didn’t disappoint; the high notes he’s able to reach in the studio perfectly translated in the live performance. Nathan Stocker and Whistler Allen took their turns on vocals at points throughout the concert, playing guitar and drums, respectively. Stocker’s guitar riffs were essential to the positive energy of the show and complemented Zach Sutton’s bass lines.
The arrangement of stage lights behind the band added to the warmth of the show’s atmosphere. There was nothing particularly elaborate or flashy about the stage setup and production. It was simple, beautiful and effective—much like the music of Hippo Campus.
An outsider looking in might have thought every song Hippo Campus performed was its most popular based on the enthusiastic response of the crowd. The dedicated fan base, consisting of mainly people in their teens and early 20s, was out in force. Hippo Campus’ “Little Grace” got an especially notable response as nearly everyone in the room jumped and moved to the lively, danceable chorus.
The band went on to perform two unreleased songs throughout the set.
Hippo Campus slowed it down a bit during its set with songs such as “Monsoon” and “Warm Glow,” but that didn’t mean the crowd was any less energized.
Before the encore, the band’s last two songs were two of its most popular: “Way It Goes” and “Buttercup” off its 2017 debut album, “Landmark.” The crowd gave everything it had, as per Luppen’s request, as it screamed the lyrics, “I’ll be fine, I’m alright, it’s my body / Gonna stick to my guns, like you taught me” from “Buttercup.”
The members returned to the stage for an encore after a rigorous chanting of “one more song” from the crowd. “Violet” was an ideal choice for the encore as it got the crowd moving and dancing like “Little Grace” did and had it screaming the lyrics like with “Buttercup.”
The crowd thanked the band for their energetic performance with applause, cheering and peace signs. Hippo Campus thanked the fans in return for their support as they left the stage.
As people were walking out into the cold, the feeling in the building was still warm as they chatted and laughed about how wonderful they thought the show was.
Hippo Campus continues to grow in popularity and based on the kind of show they put on to the sold out crowd of 1,400 people, it’s no surprise why. The positive energy and overall pleasant nature of its music is infectious. Hippo Campus has already played festivals such as Lollapalooza and is only expected to gather an even larger following.
Hippo Campus’ new EP “Warm Glow” is available to stream and purchase on Spotify and iTunes.