I’m no newbie when it comes to Hippo Campus shows. I saw them a couple of years ago for the first time and was immediately struck by their energy. I met my incredible boyfriend at that show, so their live performances have become special to us and we make it a point to catch them when they roll through the Queen City. This was the biggest turnout I’ve seen thus far, only proving the success Hippo Campus has achieved since the release of their first solo album Landmark. Selling out 20th Century Theater, the band has made an impact on Cincinnati and gained quite the following.
Los Angeles’s Sure Sure kicked things off, singing about “fast food taco place breakups,” and leading the crowd in choreography. The band brought an ‘80s vibe and paid tribute to the Talking Heads with “This Must Be the Place.” The majority of their set was comprised of songs from their self titled album that was released last month, and I immediately made a trip to their Spotify to remind myself to check it out later. Their sound was both new and nostalgic, the groovy “Hands Up Head Down” making the biggest impression. I was so drawn to their uniqueness and impressed by their showmanship, I almost couldn’t believe it when they announced that this was their first tour ever.
Hippo Campus took the stage shortly after Sure Sure and impressed even more than usual. I texted my friend after their first song saying “I can’t believe this is even the same band I’ve seen before.” I’ve never seen such an improvement in a band in such a short time. The energy in the room was tangible, and the crowd was jumping and dancing the second the music started. The band opened with their song “Poems,” one of the most noteworthy tracks on Landmark, and I was mesmerized from the start. The dynamic between the band members demonstrated the friendship they share off stage, but portrayed a musical synchrony that made for a flawless show. One of the highlights of the night was a new track featuring the band’s lead guitarist, Nathan, on vocals. It’s more rock driven than their other tunes, and carries a sense of maturity with it. They revisited some older songs like “Suicide Saturday,” the band’s biggest hit, “South,” and “Violet,” the encore of the night. Their newer songs were brought to life by an incredible light show and a very enthusiastic crowd, and I fell even more in love with the songs on Landmark. The vocals were flawless (I could go on and on about this if I wanted to, but I’ll try and keep it short and sweet) and I found myself entranced by lead vocalist, Jake’s, talent. The enthusiasm in his voice makes for a very exciting show, which has only improved since I saw them for the first time a few short years ago.
If I noticed anything about this show it was that Hippo Campus has discovered who they are as musicians and exudes confidence in showing it off. If I can offer any advice, it would be this: Go see them. As soon as you can. You are in store for something amazing.