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Ryan Bowman

Fresh off their debut full-length album Landmark, the Minnesota-based Hippo Campus brought their first major headlining tour to Union Transfer on a rainy Tuesday night. While the mood outside was gloomy and bleak, the atmosphere inside was absolutely electric. I saw Hippo Campus open for Saint Motel in the very same venue last fall, and was excited to see the band transition from an opener to a headliner. I’ve been following the band for a few years now, and they have grown a devoted fanbase that showed up in force for the show. The Miami-based indie rockers Magic City Hippies set the stage for a night of pop-based guitar riffs and catchy beats that make it impossible to not bop your head.

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Nathan, Whistler, Jake, and Zach – the four friends that are Hippo Campus – took the stage to a ferocious cheer from the fans that had packed Union Transfer to capacity. They opened with “Sun Veins,” a slow yet dramatic buildup that flowed seamlessly into “Way It Goes,” the second song off their new album. They continued the theme of playing Landmark in order, following with the infectiously up-beat “Vines,” and the slightly slower, yet equally catchy “Simple Season.”

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They followed these with two of my personal favorites, the hit “Suicide Saturday,” that spent a year circulated around alt-rock radio stations, and “Little Grace.” The latter song is a vintage Hippo Campus song with colorful guitar riffs, cheerful vocals, and a buildup that quite literally forces you to start dancing wherever you are listening.  After these two songs, they continued alternating between newer songs and old, allowing fans old and new to enjoy the progression of the show.

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Their “official” last song was the final song off of the new album, “Buttercup.” Of course, an encore followed, but this was a very fitting end to the show. This song has a little bit 0f everything that defines Hippo Campus; the melodious guitar riffs, and a buildup that left them bouncing around the stage so energetically that I honestly thought the stage might go up in flames. The moment the last note was played and they started walking off stage, the crowd was already screaming for them to come back. It took a few moments, but the four came and finished off with “Violet,” a song of their second EP South. Jake thanked the crowd for coming out, and promised to be back soon.

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Hippo Campus is one of those small bands that you absolutely need to see before they explode. It doesn’t matter whether they are playing five songs as an opener or playing fifteen as a headliner – they play with the same inspiring enthusiasm and energy that will make you dance during the show and leave you craving more.

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They finish up their tour in the next few weeks before playing a few festivals over the summer like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Keep an eye out on their website for new tour dates and to stream songs.

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