Hippo Campus energizes in virtual concert

Tucker Allen, Contributing Writer

hippo campus performs on screen with host lucy sartor
Popular indie band Hippo Campus came virtually to Tulane’s campus on Thursday. (Lucy Sartor)

Last Thursday, from the historic First Avenue of Minneapolis in their home state of Minnesota, the persistently popular indie rock band Hippo Campus gave online audiences the second night of “Dream Streams” —  an efficient 36-minute showcase of their signature live sound. Known to not waste their words on stage, as soon as the stream began the group opened with one of their latest works, which fans online have unofficially titled “Back it Up,” after its catchy hook.  

Transitioning into two tracks from their 2018 album “Bambi,” “Doubt” and “Golden” featured two stellar trumpet solos from DeCarlo Jackson. In “Golden,” Jackson masterfully transitioned between his trumpet and accompanying Whistler Allen on the drums, as the band was bathed in appropriately golden light.

By this point in the show, it was abundantly clear that this is a band that relishes live performances. Even as someone who is personally unfamiliar with much of their work, it was hard not to recognize the undeniable bop that is one of their most popular tracks, “Suicide Saturday.” Allen then confidently sang “Chapstick,” which he revealed was dedicated to his father at a live performance last year in St. Paul. One of the most uplifting performances of the night came from their 2017 single, “Warm Glow,” with its final lyrics of “Peace sign, getting by / People, we’ll be alright,” an apt message in a year marked by tragedies and the seemingly never-ending nature of the pandemic.  

As promised, later in the show another new piece titled “Listerine” was unveiled, marked by some notably deeper and darker vocals from lead singer Jake Luppen. It was a definitive break from their sunnier sound and otherwise brightly lit stage, while the lyrics recount an unsettling and exploitative sexual encounter brought to you by the titular mouthwash. This unveiling of new material is a promising sign that, despite the world quite literally coming to a halt this year, their artistic process has largely been able to continue uninterrupted.  

Appropriately decked in a Minnesota Twins baseball jacket, Luppen was inevitably sweating hard by the end of the night due to the humbling intensity he brought to the stage. Fellow lead guitarist and vocalist Nathan Stocker also stood out with his simple attire of a bright red jacket with matching jogging pants. All members were fully committed to bringing their best live performance with deceiving ease and a sense of presence that made it remarkably easy to forget that there was no real audience in front of them.  

As the concert ended, Hippo Campus topped off their second night of “Dream Streams” with “Buttercup.” By the end of the song, the group was going so hard that I forgot the concert had to end. In a 2017 interview with Alli Lorrain for “Highlark,” bassist Zach Sutton said this was his favorite song to perform live precisely for that reason. They set down their instruments with a calm that betrayed the ferocity they played with, as a message thanking online audiences for joining and reminding everyone to get out to vote appeared on the screen.