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Live: HIPPO CAMPUS // Omeara, London

Ahead of Reading & Leeds Festival appearances, the St. Paul, Minnesota-bred outfit Hippo Campus graced London crowds with two intimate warm-up shows at Omeara.

It is always a treat when Hippo Campus visit this side of the Atlantic. As the band took to the stage at London’s Omeara last Wednesday night, they delivered yet another memorable set filled with thrilling energy and blissful melodies.

Having just announced their sophomore album, Bambi, seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase some new songs. With a tangible feeling of excitement hanging in the air, the mellow opening of Passenger put us in a trance instantly. Led by Jake Luppen’s gentle vocals, the track gracefully channelled the more complex lyrical content captured within a dreamy soundscape, a musical arrangement the band is known for.

Strongly resonating with the crowd, Hippo Campus have quickly built a solid following making their live shows that more impactful. Socially and politically-aware, they dress heavier themes in a sparkling blend of exuberant guitars, passionate vocal layers and bouncy textures. Intertwining their earlier material with the songs from their last year’s debut album, landmark, alongside some brand new material was a success with the audience.

With a flair for euphoric indie anthems, one of the live favourites – way it goes was a joyous singalong moment accompanied by some brave dance moves and a brilliant guitar jam crescendo. “Summer is almost over but we can pretend it’s not”, we heard from Nathan Stocker next, as the buoyant guitars of simple season took over. The dynamic patterns merging with Jake’s falsetto in this track are truly reminiscent of what sunshine may sound like.

Reflecting on modern society, western kids struck with a sensational trumpet section, whilst chilled melodies and choir-like moments of poems were ideal for “lighting up a joint”, as the band explained. Elsewhere in the set, Suicide Saturday and South were a pure blast from the past hitting us with electrifying wall of sounds. Slowing down just for a second, monsoon shaped into a harmonic delight that sent shivers down your spine.

A mysterious song titled No Pomegranates was quite a surprise during the band’s set. Showing a complete change in their musical direction, the track featured Stocker on lead vocals serving us some proper punk vibes with its raw and uptempo structure. Sadly, this track does not appear on the tracklisting of their recently announced new album.

Played live for the first time, Bambi was left for the encore. Cultivating self-awareness with a deep introspection, Hippo Campus tackle mental health issues on this single. Although, the track sees them explore darker sonic terrain, it still soars on euphoric beat and Luppen’s warm vocals showing true growth in their songwriting. Typical for the band juxtaposition of upbeat soundscape with challenging lyrics is a mirror to the human fragility and the emotional experiences they go through. It is a real beauty as much in a live setting as it is on the record.

Always pushing themselves to new heights without ever forgetting where they came from, Hippo Campus have effortlessly combined carefree attitude with solemnity. They have never shied away from musical exploration and experimentation, and their journey to date reflects that perfectly. From sun-drenched upbeat melodies to darker heavier notes, they’ve always looked for the right way to express the trends modern society experience in the digital age. And watching them round off with the absolute banger Violet once again only proved that Hippo Campus are one of those bands who are always there for you, whether you want to laugh or cry, or both.

Photos: Kasia Osowiecka