The Music of Hippo Campus

Hippo Campus is an indie jam band whose original members – Jake Luppen, Nathan Stocker, Zach Sutton and Whistler Allen – met as students at their performing arts high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Officially formed in 2013, the band found quick success, built on a combination of Luppen’s affinity for “singing in cursive”, their unique yet intuitive musical arrangements, and their energetic live performances.

But why explain who they are, when I can allow the band to introduce itself through its music.

Here is a live set recorded at the storied Seattle radio station KEXP, and it boggles the mind to think that these guys were just 20 years old when they flawlessly performed these four songs. In particular, the last two, Dollar Bill and South (beginning at 13:09), are such exceptional recordings that they would work wonderfully if they were ever released separately as live singles.

It’s endearing how they revert back to being goofy 20 year olds during the extended interview portion in the middle.

Here’s another stellar live performance, this time captured in their home state of Minnesota by the local indie radio station, The Current, as they play through their entire 2017 album Landmark.

Note: If you prefer to become acquainted with the recorded versions of songs first before engaging with them live, then here’s the album for your listening pleasure. My suggestion: press play and let it groove you.

A few years after Hippo Campus formed, the band added a fifth member, trumpet player DeCarlo Jackson, and his horn added a new dimension to their style. What’s more, the band actually went back and incorporated his trumpet into their old songs, a taste of which can be seen in this Austin360 performance.

Though the clips I’ve shared are of the band performing live, I’ve yet to include a more “typical” set, one where they’re jamming in front of a rabid crowd who know the words to all the songs, and are very available to have a back and forth interaction. Here’s one recorded at Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

As Jake Luppen notes at the start of the video, touring and playing these types of venues is the group’s “bread and butter”.

So, there you have it, it’s Hippo Campus.

I hate to end abruptly, but my journey with the band and its various members hasn’t yet surpassed the year 2018. So even though in the last three years Hippo Campus has released various albums and EPs, Luppen and Stocker have spun off to create a second band which has released its own record, and Luppen has spun off again to create a solo album, I haven’t advanced far enough along my journey to know much more than that.

Think of this as an intro course, because if you’ve never heard of Hippo Campus until today, then there’s nowhere to start but at the start.

As for me, one day I’ll move it along, but until then I’m keeping Tuesday on repeat in my headphones.

Sometimes I call it a Tuesday/Sometimes it’s the best day of my life

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