Friday, May 19, 2017

SHOW REVIEW: Hippo Campus - Majestic Theatre 5/18/17 (with Remo Drive)

I was not quite sure what I was walking into Thursday night at The Majestic.  With no prior knowledge of Hippo Campus, I signed on to work the show based on the punny name and their descendence from a Twin Cities scene that has bred so many of my favorite bands.  What I didn't expect was a scene straight out of Beatlemania.  Hippo Campus drew a sold-out crowd of 600 predominantly high school and college-aged girls.  Many of them had been waiting outside the venue since before noon (some of those die-hards are in the picture above - taken that morning while I was hanging flyers).  While not the crowd I am accustomed to, there is no vibe quite like a sold-out show and the energy was almost tangible.

Fellow Twin Cities act Remo Drive opened the show shortly after 9:00.  They were well-received by a crowd that was ready to explode had it been Ronald McDonald taking the stage.  With a deafening burst of feedback, Remo Drive asserted themselves as no clowns.  A band that is gaining traction in punk circles, they flaunt a big sound for a trio.  They came out firing with a sound that is equal parts a throwback to classic emo and a genre-savvy, forward-thinking take on pop-punk.  Volatile bursts of noise were offset by calculated breakdowns and non-subtle emoish reflection.  I would have loved to see them ride on the chaos more without getting bogged down by borderline corniness, but the band burned hot throughout and they delivered it well.  Looking barely out of high school, their enthusiasm was contagious as they led the audience through a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for their friend Michael, asked if anybody in the crowd had heard of them before (and seemed genuinely blown away by the positive response), and made sure everyone got the irony of them naming their brand new debut album "Greatest Hits".

While the collective screech and eruption of cellphone glow upon their entrance suggested otherwise, Hippo Campus proved to be more indie rock than boy band.  They displayed a polished and energetic version of hipster-pop, using unfamiliar time signatures and instrumental timbres to evoke world music in a way similar to bands such as Vampire Weekend, as well as the literacy and sophistocation of Car Seat Headrest.  While this may sound like the formula for a contrived and pretentious sound, their accessible stage presense and humble delivery made it nothing but positive and fun.  Barefooted singer Jake Luppen in particular took remarkable command of the stage without needing to say much to the audince.  He instead opted to let the bouncy, danceable tunes speak for themselves.  Rather than the typical tired onstage banter and posturing, he engaged the crowd in a lot of clapping and singing-along, while letting the atmosphere settle in between songs before stirring it back up again.  The setlist was spot on, balancing its more somber moments with the beach-party aura of its peaks.  This combined with an impressive light show to make it seem like a much bigger concert.

I consider myself won over by both of these young bands.  I don't know if they'll make their way into my listening rotation, but they are certainly on my "keep an eye on" list and I would not hesitate to catch either of them the next time they're in town.  In a locale as nurturing as the Twin Cities there is no limit to their impending success.

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