Photography by Ainsley Basic
By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator
Artist: Hippo Campus
Venue: The House of Blues
When: Sunday, March 6th
Stepping foot into the House of Blues — or, rather, at the end of a very long line that sprawled the full length of Lansdowne Street — I didn’t know what I was in for. It was my first time going to the venue despite being a frequent Boston-area concert-goer. And I knew going into it that I would be on my own for the latter two-thirds of the show, and being at a concert alone was also, surprisingly, a first. Allowing myself to be immersed in the atmosphere created by the band and fans, however, my anxieties about the situation quickly dissipated.
Hippo Campus and Jelani Aryeh brought warm, lively presences to the stage on the night of Sunday, March 6th. Each was eager to be there, expressing it both verbally and through the clear passion put into the performance.
OPENER JELANI ARYEH GETS THE CROWD’S ENERGY UP
Just before Hippo Campus’ opening act Jelani Aryeh stepped onto the stage at 8 p.m., the venue was already packed. The crowd was busy chattering, moving around for a better spot, and grabbing merch and concessions. But when Jelani Aryeh came on and sent the first few pounding drumbeats vibrating through the floor, everyone turned their gaze to the five-piece band. And the attention was dell-deserved — Aryeh’s stage presence was electrifying.
Dancing around the stage, fiercely jumping at times, their band delivered a nine-song set that captured their vibrant energy and reflected the range of their music. From slower songs like “Someone To Hold You” to the high-energy rock moment they closed on with their biggest hit “Stella Brown,” the crowd responded enthusiastically.
Between songs, the band got in some words as well. They cracked jokes at how many times they’ve changed band names. And they also revealed that the House of Blues was likely the biggest venue they had played to date, that it was their first time in Boston, and that it was their first time touring as a band altogether. From the band’s organic dynamics, feeding off of one another’s energy, it seemed as if they had been touring for years. By the end of their set, it was clear by the number of people pulling up the artists’ page on their phones, that they earned many new fans.
AN INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN HIPPO CAMPUS AND THE AUDIENCE
From the moment the lights went out to indicate the start of Hippo Campus’ set, it was clear to see how fiercely fans were enamored by the band. They hollered in anticipation before the music started and between-song breaks, and then later worked together to yell out a synchronized compliment to guitarist Nathan Stocker, for his Princess Leia-Esque buns hairstyle.
While it is easy for the connection between artists and concert-goers to be lessened in a larger venue like the House of Blues, it felt like the band was constantly making an effort to close the distance. Waves and air-kisses were targeted directly at the upper mezzanine; hand-waving was encouraged on the rare couple of songs that the acoustic guitar was pulled out for; and in one of the most special moments of the night, the microphone was turned towards the crowd to sing the refrain of the band’s well-loved hit “South” from their 2015 debut EP.
TRANSITIONS BETWEEN ELECTRONIC-LEANING SOUNDS AND CLASSIC INDIE-ROCK MOMENTS
Kicking off the night with the song “2 Young 2 Die,” pulled from their just-released 2022 record, Hippo Campus transported concert-goers to their own sonic universe. The band’s set largely drew from this recent full-length album, titled LP3.
Having more synths-infused and electronic tracks on LP3, Hippo Campus had to get creative with their performance to balance these incorporations with the equally lively but more instrumental-based throwback songs like “Way It Goes.” And it wasn’t just from track to track, but also within songs that different sounds were mixed.
This fusion of electronics and indie-rock is not something new to the band though — it has long been a large part of Hippo Campus’ draw and distinctive style. Thus, unsurprisingly, it became a defining characteristic of the flow of the band’s extensive twenty-song set.
Changes sonically were marked by the lighting in a captivating way. Often a particularly flashy, multi-colored stage design paired with dreamy, experimental sounds. And the artist’s demeanor would change too. A more free-spirited and dancey nature was associated with indie-rock moments whereas the electronics saw lead vocalist Jake Luppen with an almost-intimidating display of cool.
Except for the two encore songs “Bambi” and “Buttercup,” which blended seamlessly together, Hippo Campus ended each song on their set on a clear final note, the stage going black. These few seconds of silence gave a chance for absorbing the beautiful punch of each song before moving into the next.
OTHER STANDOUT MOMENTS FROM THE SHOW
Many small details throughout the night made sure that the performance would be one that fans would hold onto for years to come.
“Listerine” saw lead vocalist Jake Luppen depart the stage while the rest of the band got into the instrumentals. Bassist Zach Sutton got jazzy, and DeCarlo Jackson gave one of the night's handfuls of stand-out trumpet solos, earning many cheers from the crowd.
Luppen’s vocals shined across the night, but it was vocal variations from track recordings that really kept things interesting. Leaning back, hand over his chest and pointing up towards the ceiling, he held high notes. “Way It Goes,” had a particularly impressive one, met with him and the band responding to the energy with jumps and kicks.
Later on in the set, one of the band’s earliest hits, “Suicide Saturday” was an unexpected treat in the setlist that had the whole room singing along and grooving. And “Boys,” which was LP3’s lead single, was another crowd-favorite, its lyrics catchy and at-first straightforward sound giving way into a dreamy electronic soundscape.
For the encore, the pairing of “Bambi” and “Buttercup” was perfect for leaving the night on a fun, lighthearted note. It was notable how much more comfortable the crowd had grown with one another from the concert’s beginning to these last two songs. Dancing and singing along with perfect strangers I felt surprisingly at home, welcomed by the vibrant atmosphere Hippo Campus had created.