Is it too early to talk album of the year? Hippo Campus have recorded a masterpiece and it's in my Top 5 of 2018. The only worry for me was, could they pull this new sound off live?
Before the show starts I turn to the two teen girls on my left and ask," What do you think about the new album?" The first says she "liked it," while the second says, "It's not as good as Landmark." So I delve further into Number 2's negative response, and she says "they tried too many weird things on this record."
Indeed, Hippo Campus took some risks on their latest release, Bambi. I explained to the girls that I did like the new album, but wasn't sure how it would translate to their live show, and they both agreed.
Minutes later they take the stage and open with their first single "Bambi." On record, this song feels like a foray into hip-hop, complete with DJ scratches. But, live, it sounds more like hip...pop. It's upbeat, and funky, with hair-raising falsetto reminiscent of Prince.
The Hippo Campus vs Hip-Hop experiment was brief, now back to your regularly scheduled program, "Honestly." A song that stuck out on first listen through. I love how they left in Jake Luppen's false start, which they could have easily done away with. But the mistake is endearing and makes repeat listens fun. Did I mention it sounds great live?
"Golden" is my favorite song off of Bambi, though each song has taken a turn moonlighting as such. I love the rap part in the intro, that gives way to the rapid-fire drum beat. "I should've said it better/I should've set fire to a letter." DeCarlo Jackson's trumpet leads us into, what feels like an ode to Death Cab For Cutie, "Why Even Try." A beautiful version of the "Way It Goes," follows it up, accented by more trumpet, that ends in a singalong.
See how the "Western Kids," rock their new song "Bubbles" out? YES! It sounds better live than on record. Lyrics from the chorus shine through, and this idea makes more sense outside of the record.
Zach Sutton puts down the bass for a moment to play the keyboards and fingers that majestic opening from "Monsoon." It's a gorgeous moment, and a highlight of the night, before we break down "South." Now the crowd is chanting.
"Mistakes" is turned into a proper song, live, which was cool, while guitar player Nathan Stocker takes a shot at lead vocals on "No Pomegranates." Incidentally, Lupen misses a great opportunity to play a cool lead or guitar melody over Stocker's rocker. "Buttercup" is always a treat, and the encore is the anthemic "Violet," with her "fucked up eyes." They had to start it over so Lumpen could do some jumpin' on cue.
It seems they ditched most of the beat-driven influence of the new record, for that genuine pop sensitivity we've all come to love.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: don't miss another chance to see these guys live. Also, because I never mentioned his name, and it's a pretty dope name, Whistler Isaiah Allen is one of the best drummers around. He holds this SHIT DOWN!
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