It’s a scenario that brings a smile to the face of every concert-goer with the experience – you attend a performance to see a headliner that lives up to expectations, but it’s an opening band that makes the evening memorable. A few years ago, we went to The Independent in San Francisco to see a band from Australia (the Jezabels) and it was an unknown band from Las Vegas (Imagine Dragons) that created the buzz. We’re not ready to predict that there will be a popularity trajectory comparable to that experienced by Imagine Dragons, but last night “we went to a Mowgli’s concert and a Hippo Campus broke out” (apologies to fans of comedian Rodney Dangerfield).
Hippo Campus wasn’t an unknown. The night before, the band was the musical guest on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show. A video of the appearance is embedded in this post. Still, while we were aware of the band and all but one song in their setlist, there were surprises.
Unabashedly, Hippo Campus will tell you that they provide dance-ready Pop ("kinda Pop" according to the Facebook page). One surprise was that when the vocals stepped aside, the guitars more than filled the gap. For a number of the songs of Hippo Campus, the impression is that an emphasis was placed on synchronizing guitar notes with the syllables in the lyrics. The track “Sophie So” is a good example, particularly early in the song. When the vocals take a rest, the guitars are unleashed from any restrictions and they take advantage.
A less significant, but endearing, surprise was that a band with the confidence they exhibited during the appearance on Conan showed vulnerability when they asked (with hope) whether the attendees had heard of their song. Responses from the attendees left no doubt that the song was known.
“Sophie So” by Hippo Campus
Hippo Campus tour dates: