May 10, 2019 at Fete Music Hall
Living in Boston, I often take the bustling music scene for granted. It seems as though each weekend a new act I’ve been listening too magically decides to appear in one of the local venues – all of which no more than an uber ride away. However, every now and then a band which I’ve grown to love decides to skip Beantown in favor of one of New England’s quieter settlements.
In the wake of their sophomore album Bambi, Minnesota born indie rock band has left the timid Midwest and are traveling across the country supporting their new repertoire of music. Hippo Campus quickly rose to fame slightly after the Radio-Friendly indie rock boom of the late 2000s. The group attracted fans with their vibrant melodies, bouncy instrumentals, and catchy lyrics that won’t seem to leave your head no matter how hard you try. With the release of their acclaimed debut album, Landmark, Hippo Campus had already secured the fan base and admiration many small bands could only dream of in their career. Their second album still contained the charm of their original songs, yet showed their growth as a band featuring tracks with dark themes and heavy, jarring production. Overall, the group dodged a sophomore slump, releasing another meticulously written sonically cohesive work.
A few hours south of Boston, Hippo Campus delivered an intimate set away from the noise of a big city and rather in a small venue in Providence. Filled with students from neighboring colleges, Hippo began their set with a string of hits like ‘Bambi” & “Way It Goes” that raised the energy in an otherwise indistinct part of town. The set was complimented by seemingly gothic chandeliers and grand windows that emitted a faint red light from back stage rather than the brisk night outside. The performance was consistently authentic to their subtle roots – emulating an intimate college band rather than a group currently on a world tour. The charm of the band was felt more so on their older hits like ‘Baseball’ & ‘Monsoon’ which showcased their musicianship and confidence as a live band. While most of the songs transitioned well on to the live stage, the heavier production on a few of their newer songs seemed less genuine when performed live due to the acoustic nature of their sound. Hippo made up for the loss of zeal by subtle rearrangements that allowed the group to showcase their strengths as a live band. The occasional trumpet or guitar solo reminded the audience that the strength in their musicianship stems from their gift in song writing.
Following an emotional display of their slower songs, the group finished off their set with another surge of energy. Tracks like ‘Suicide Saturday’ and ‘Buttercup’ breathed life and vibrancy into the crowd transporting the venue from a brisk Rhode Island night to a warm summer music festival. The band was summoned back on stage for the final jam of the night ‘Buttercup’ which contained another buzzing trumpet solo and a few more improvised guitar riffs.
Hippo Campus played to their strengths and ultimately delivered an understated complexity taking the small band from their Midwestern roots into a group learning the art of captivating a crowd. If you haven’t already added some Hippo Campus tracks to your summer playlist, you might want to add a few for your next day in the sun.