There are few bands worth traveling for, and Hippo Campus is one of the bands that makes the cut. When Hippo Campus is backed by support from fellow Minnesota natives, Remo Drive, there’s no doubt my decision to abandon school for a day, hop on a plane, and fly from Boston to D.C. was an easy one; Was it a smart decision? Probably not. But yeah it was an easy one.
After a quick (and free, thanks Jetblue #notsponsored) plane ride, my friend Liv, who impulsively decided to join me, and I toured a few museums, before heading over to the venue. To our surprise there was already a small line forming started by a handful of girls who got there at 8 am despite having VIP and early entry. Suffice it to say, for a band that’s still in its early stages of growing Hippo Campus’s fans show an incredible devotion.
Liv and I talked briefly to the other girls then got up to grab food only to run into Zach. With an unexpected edge he questioned why I was in D.C. when I was going to the Brooklyn show that winter. From there the talk turned almost disciplinary, with Zach assuring us that they’re not good enough for us to be traveling for them. But Liv and I countered that we’re young and it’s better to be reckless now in our youth then when we’re older and can’t afford the time. To be completely cheesy, you could even say that Hippo Campus even exemplify this message in “Way It Goes,” an indie-pop song that’s optimistic to the core. It encapsulates the whimsy of being young and running rampant with your friends. As long as you’re enjoying the moment, not trying too hard to cling to the past of 90s records and Doc Martens, when you somehow meander your way into adulthood you’ll be grateful for those golden days.
As the line grew, a few of my friends showed up who I hadn’t seen since our last Hippo Campus concert together in Brooklyn. It’s astonishing really to be able to travel to another state for a concert and befriend people that you meet up with several times over. That’s one of the special things about this band, you never feel alone when you’re at one of their shows.
Remo Drive jumpstarted the night with “Art School” from their debut album Greatest Hits, which, although a sarcastic jab at the music industry, really deserves to be up there with some of the greatest albums of their genre of emo-punk. The crowd quickly degenerated into a fun and sloppy mosh pit that some Hippo Campus fans weren’t quite prepared for. Workers at the 9:30 Club quickly came around passing out bottles of water and pouring water directly into mouths of fans dancing on the barricade. Limbs continued to flail especially during the traditional-tempo-challenging “Strawberita” and “Eat Shit,” the angst-ridden anthem that Erik and Stephen somehow always impressively kick in sync during. The final song of Remo’s brief set, “Yer Killin’ Me,” amplified the energy of the crowd as everyone belted the lyrics with a cynical passion.
Finally, ironically at 9:30 in the 9:30 Club, Hippo Campus took the stage opening their set with a brief instrumental before jumping into “Way It Goes.” Immediately the crowd was swept up in the music, bouncing in waves – nearly moshing – to the infectious rhythm. The rest of the set featured some hits from their earlier EPs like “Souls” with its catchy ballad and frontman Jake beckoning the crowd to sing along with him.
The most cathartic part of the evening was during “Monsoon” a slow, aching song whose heaviness matches the dismal emotion of love and loss its lyrics croon. The crowd quickly simmered down. Shoulders tensed up. No one sang along. Everyone truly gave “Monsoon” the respect and breathing space it deserves. Jake’s vocals rang out, distorted and full of tenderness. It was a truly touching moment of quiet and understanding throughout.
Not hesitating to continue with the more emotional songs, Hippo Campus quickly segued into “Vacation” one of the more personally moving songs of the evening. I glanced over to my friend Carmela to see she had quickly dissolved into tears hearing her favorite song, and it got me just as emotional. With a beautiful chorus “Your friends are all waiting / your friends are all waiting for you love” standing there among all my friends – Liv, Asha, Sarah, Carmela, Ashley, Melissa – who I met because of this band, I couldn’t help but feel deeply moved in that moment.
To the crowd’s pleasure, Hippo Campus also played their new EP warm glow, a trio of songs that despite having only been released a brief two months before the show, everyone knew the words to. While the two groovier tracks “baseball” and “traveler” are great in their own right, it’s the title track “warm glow” that really stands out. Guitarist Nathan Stocker’s vocals are something special in this song, as his solo reassures “people we’ll be alright.” It’s a much needed message in a year as chaotic as this one, and as simple as that message may be, with their clean-cut backing instrumentals Hippo Campus make it a strong message and make it stand out.
After the show, fans found their way outside and to the bus to wait for the guys. Jake and Nathan briefly took photos, while Zach formed a relaxed line to get everyone sorted out. The line broke away to be replaced by a group of guys who seemed to be lowkey fans. Liv and I, sitting down, joined in on the big circle conversation with them and Zach, and even Nathan for a bit, discussing music and unanimously agreeing that Portugal. The Man are sellouts while John Mayer indeed does not blow. It was a refreshing situation, so laid back, that it makes you really realize you need to treat musicians as the people that they are. At the end of the day they’re just ordinary dudes, doing their job, and it’s not about getting a picture with them that counts but the conversations you have. By nearly 3 a.m. we told Zach we had to be at the airport by 4 a.m. to his immediate disapproval. We all hugged goodbye quickly after that, knowing that in just a couple months there would be another road trip in our future for the next Hippo Campus show.
By: Samantha Schraub