Every song Hippo Campus has released sounds like the perfect summer that I’ve never had.
Playing at Paper Tiger this past Tuesday, Nov. 6, Hippo Campus brought their four years of rapidly increasing profile to a packed house. The mix of tracks played spanned from their recently released album “Bambi,” to their breakout 2017 album “Landmark,” and all the way back to their first EP “Bashful Creatures.”
I first heard about Hippo Campus a few years ago from their song “Suicide Saturday.” It was 2016, Vampire Weekend hadn’t released new music in two years, and I was in desperate need of a group of inoffensive white men singing bops over the familiar sound of indie pop guitars. Their first two EPs “Creatures” and “South” provided all that and more.
What Hippo Campus may lack in originality with their sound, they more than make up for in their contagious — dare I say “Boyish?” — energy. They fill their songs with a mix of irrelevant verses, catchy choruses and rhythms ready-made to forget your problems to. They’re basically the indie pop boy band for the post-One Direction generation.
Maybe that’s why half the crowd looked like they were attending a homecoming after party. The crowds at Paper Tiger never really make much sense to me, from frat guys at a Kero Kero Bonito show watching NBA games to a Kimbra show full of tall men who refused to dance.
But this crowd specifically felt out of place for the venue. When I arrived a little past 8 p.m. for the show, I was surprised to see a line snaking from the entrance all the way down the street reaching Burger Boy. Of all the times I’d been to Paper Tiger, I never had to wait in line to get in.
It was worth it, though. I hadn’t really connected with their latest album as much as I had with last year’s “Landmarks,” but I was happy to see how many of their back catalog they decided to play. Their bigger hits “Suicide Saturday” and “South” were cathartic experiences to hear live, as they are the types of songs with infectious energies that make you never want to leave the dance floor. I’m not usually a jumping up and down at a show type of person because, you know, expending energy, but this was a jumping show.
The thing with Hippo Campus songs is that I don’t really know what they’re saying for most of it, even the ones I’ve listened to hundreds of times. Like Vampire Weekend, they revel in crafting wordy verses filled with non-sequiturs and multisyllabic words. So, without having done my RapGenius lyric research beforehand, I was left enthusiastically mumbling sounds most of the show.
But from the lyrics I did know, the show provided an escape from the light-deficient, post-Daylight Savings Time, midterms haze. “Blueberry knees feeling just fine / Break up, down in the backyard / This simple season is all ours,” they sing on the song aptly titled “Simple Season.” This song synthesizes the Hippo Campus vibe, recalling with nostalgia a time that probably never existed in your life. The show embodied that feeling of a time before “futures where our nights are lost to condensation,” as they sing of in their song “Vines” — my personal favorite that they daringly chose not to perform. Even without my favorite song, Hippo Campus didn’t disappoint.
The last song they performed before the encore felt crafted to fit the post-election results mood in the room. “That’s the way it goes / There’s no point in crying” is a good thing to yell when you feel a bit lost. But Hippo Campus gave us something better to yell after they left the stage and found out the senate results.
“F— Ted Cruz,” lead singer Jake Luppen chanted as he entered the stage, in response to the crowd’s plea for one more song. With the same enthusiasm as we had sang the chorus to “Suicide Saturday,” the crowd joined in, chanting with what felt like a song’s worth of the phrase, until we were ready to forget our problems again.
“American eyes, cherry cheeks and blood-shot eyes / American eyes see peace on earth and truth in lies / Violet, trying to start your riot / Trying to get up and then go / So the world will always know,” Hippo Campus sang, ending the night with “Violet,” telling of yet another familiar time of joy before the fall of realization. Those times only seem to exist in memories, but maybe the perfect summer is always alive at a Hippo Campus show.