On tour promoting their most recent album Bambi, Minnesota natives Hippo Campus made their long-awaited appearance in Toronto on May 1st at The Phoenix Concert Theatre, alongside supporting artist, Samia.

Hippo Campus flies largely under the radar of mainstream indie radio but holds a very loyal fan base growing rapidly worldwide. It’s almost unavoidable to stumble across one of their songs on any given alternative Spotify playlist. If you follow their socials at all, you know that their branding is strong, from their Instagram post tactics to their unified merch line. Everything is done with intention, something evident of a high level of creativity within the band that stems far outside of music. 

The quintet started the night off strong with heavy hitters off the new album including Bambi and Golden, before diving into a selection of songs from their archive highlighting the band’s versatility and uniqueness that really sets them apart within the genre. The precision each member brings to their craft is indicative of a high level of education, what can be assumed as a combination of both formal teachings and self-taught musings. With poetic vocal intricacies tied to nostalgia and playful guitar riffs that instantly embed themselves in your head, you get Hippo Campus, a band with a name that is equally as brilliant. 

Vocalist Jake Luppen’s background in opera is not all lost with Hippo Campus. His operatic range is met impeccably with soaring trumpet from DeCarlo Jackson, bringing orchestral undertones to what they’re creating. Nathan Stocker, guitarist who is equally well versed as a vocalist, demystifies the idea of having one sole singer in a band. The dynamic between him and Jake, who stands to his left on stage, is a refreshing reminder that bands don’t always need an overwhelming pull towards a distinguished and energized lead singer. For these guys, everything comes as a compliment to each other’s sound, and it is all presented with cool confidence.

A highlight of the night included Luppen’s soft stylized phrasing in Monsoon accompanied by bassist Zach Sutton switching to keys, and Nathan to slide guitar. Their versatility reached a peak as they continued the set with South, highlighting the raw, punk nature of Stocker’s voice. The constant switch between spoken word, shouting, and harmonizing is admirable and especially magnetizing on a first listen. 

Although no one band member leads the show, their lighting was highly dynamic and suggestive of where your attention should be. From spotlighting during a trumpet solo, to backlit spirals during the vocal breakdown on Bubbles, the lights really guided the visual experience of the music. It was playful and moody and especially complimented Whistler Isaiah’s technicalities on drums. 

Hippo Campus ended on an energetic high with Suicide Saturday, supercharged Violet, and fan favourite, Buttercup. As fans streamed out of the venue, overhearing individuals humming a tune was unavoidable, and these five musicians seem to be some of the most suitable candidates to deliver that feeling.