Hippo Campus w/ Sure Sure
McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
In the hipster capital that is Portland, Oregon, what could be more fitting than a little indie rock group? Hippo Campus are bringing their pinstripe pants, beanies, and Doc Martens all over the US this winter, and stopped at the lovely Crystal Ballroom for a night that literally made the floor bounce.
To open the night, Sure Sure took the stage with their light pop tunes. Their looks ranged from 80’s Steve Jobs to thrift-store hipster and they were all smiles with gentle voices. They played their cute songs, taught the crowd a dance to one of their tracks, and left everyone smiling and happy.
Instead of opening with a banger like most acts, Hippo Campus chose to follow the echo-y vibes of their latest EP. Among smoke and warm, orange lights, the band led with “Poems,” one of the slower songs off their year-old album, Landmark—that is, until the intense “la la la’s” kicked in, quickly getting hands in the air as tears are wiped away.
Following with “Interlude” was another out-of-the-box choice. A dramatically slow, instrumental song, it actually served well to ease everyone into the show, like opening credits to a big movie.
The set pushed forward with little talk from the band, but no shortage of energy and love from the whole room. “Way It Goes” brought back the excitement of Landmark’s release with one of the best sing-alongs of the night, and old favorites like “Little Grace” gave older fans a chance to shine.
Hippo Campus had a really interesting stage dynamic. For a set that bounced from heart-wrenching mellow songs to tracks that went so hard you were sore later, they seemed to remain level-headed throughout. They quietly transitioned from one song to the next, taking only a few minutes from the whole show to talk to the crowd, but it never played out in a way that made it seem like energy was lacking—it just worked for the band.
Closing their set with “Violet,” it quickly became clear just how much wood floors can bounce when fans put enough effort into it. With the whole crowd screaming those final lyrics to an old favorite missed on the last tour—and the band soaking up all the love—few moments are as perfect as that closing.
Even with only three new songs since their last tour, Hippo Campus somehow managed to rework their setlist into something much more thoughtful this time around. Leaning away from the typical set structure and taking things in their own creative direction, the band clearly thrives off the freedom. They created a set that was filled with the same light-hearted fun their music is geared towards, but also gave the tracks everyone skips a new depth and weight that was incredible to see live.
Review and photos by Lulu Dawson