Hippo Campus With Now Now At The Novo, Friday February 1st 2019
Last night, Downtown LA had a very Minnesota night, with a winter storm in preparation and two bands from Minneapolis playing the Novo by Microsoft. Despite the rainy weather, the crowd that was lining up in front of the modern venue was impressive, young and mostly female.
Now Now, the opening band was fronted by KC Dalager, a charming pink-hair-and-hiking-boots young woman, who was walking the stage with real confidence and emotional vocals. There was a lot of passion in their moody electro-synth-pop songs, and the energy was especially embodied by KC who was jumping and bouncing from left to back when she was not kneeling down to reach the stretching arms of the first rows. With plenty of poppy hooks and modern electro textures, their music was received very well by all the Hippo Campus’ fans, who were dancing and clapping along. The band who was founded by KC and her longtime friend, drummer Brad Hale, played their most famous and enigmatic songs such as MJ (Michael Jackson?), ‘SGL’, ‘AZ’, ‘Yours’, giving us a series of eerie and percussive pop tunes, who knew to express a melancholy intertwined with a youthful fervor, a feeling which has already drawn comparisons to Paramore’s emo drama or even Carly Rae Jepsen’s sweetness. Last year, Now Now released a new album ‘Saved’, after a gap of more than 5 years – their previous album ‘Threads’ was released in 2012 – but I obviously didn’t notice in their performance anything that could have revealed such a long absence from the stage.
If I knew very little about the Minnesota band Hippo Campus, I realize very fast that I was apparently the only one in the room in this situation. The crowd knew all the lyrics of the songs, and the entire set was an enthusiastic sing-along with girls screaming at the sight of frontman Jake Luppen taking the stage, and jumping of joy as soon as they would recognize the first notes of a song, When you are witnessing that level of excitement, you know you are facing a sort of phenomenon.
And even though they started with the self-titled song ‘Bambi’ of their recently released album, the sing-along debuted right away, at the first line of the song, ‘I swear to God, I wasn’t born to fight’…. Despite the great excitation of the crowd, the music was sweet and hooky with layers of trumpets by DeCarlo Jackson standing in the back. For a band that hasn’t been around for very long – they have only 2 albums, ‘Landmark’ and ‘Bambi’, respectively released in 2017 and 2018, plus a few singles and EPs – it was an impressive crowd participation, and you could barely hear Jake Luppen’s voice during the warm chorus of ‘Way It Goes’. Passed the constant crowd choir, the music was offering plenty of subtle instrumentation with jazzy guitar lines escapees, and indie melodies sung softly by Luppen.
At times they were slightly reminiscent of Death Cab for Cuties, while some of their songs had the delicate and bouncy arrangements of a Vampire Weekend tune (‘Simple Season’ or ‘Chapstick’ for example), although they didn’t seem to have anything as catching as a VW hit,… but to be fair it was my first time hearing most of the songs. However, I have to say that they lost me a few times during some of their most eerie songs like ‘Monsoon’, which cut down any danceable beats for a while and stretched into a slow-mo soundscape.
Surrounded by Nathan Stocker on guitar, Zach Sutton on bass, Whistler Allen on drums and DeCarlo Jackson on trumpet and additional drums, Jake Luppen was obviously the focus of the attention most of the time, although the lights switched to the drummer who took the lead on vocals for a few songs (‘Chapstick’), or on Jackson who performed a few luminous trumpet solos.
The fervor coming from the crowd never decreased for a minute, even getting crescendo during a poignant ‘Why Even Try’, whereas the mood on stage was alternating between passionate effervescence and reflective, calmer moments. With such crowd participation, each song looked like a wannabe youthful anthem and even with a depressing title like ‘Suicide Saturday’, which was easily embodying a lifetime of teenage angst, the song couldn’t have sounded more upbeat. After the buoyant and bombastic ‘Violet’, they came back for an encore for the beloved and delicate ‘Buttercup’, but there actually was not one single song that was not beloved by the crowd.
Hippo Campus, hippocampus,… whether you think about the curious little seahorse, or a hip school campus where the four men met, or that seahorse-shaped part of the brain that processes memory – they are said to write brainy lyrics – the quintet have declared their last album ‘Bambi’ was about the present… The present and this mixed bag of feelings that it can bring, from love to fear, while ‘embracing fully the things that we feel, even if that feeling is confusing or challenging’, as they explained. And that genuine feeling was fully shared by the young crowd in an overwhelming impulse of youth rapture.
Way It Goes
Why Even Try
Think It Over