Grab your immature costume, your sugartooth and your fleece-lined pants – Halloween weekend is upon us. With this confusing pagan holiday and its discomforting cold front comes a hoard of bands midway through their tour looking for a reason to stay vitalized. The beginning of those tours may have been fueled by adrenaline, but this leg is fueled by new stage gimmicks, experimental setlists, and coercive political agendas. Whether or not the audience was swayed by the goal-oriented “Register to vote!” stand set up on the edge of the venue, Hippo Campus and The Districts had plenty of other weapons of mid-tour entertainment ready to fire from the hip at Boston’s House of Blues this past weekend. Pre-show whispers circled the venue in praise of each band’s live prowess, but I had no idea how much alternative rock energy was about to warm up the room.
As I walked into the House of Blues, I could hear the muffled boisterousness of The Districts’ opening song seeping through the insulated walls. You could sense without even walking through the front door that the Pennsylvanian rock band wasn’t only loud – they were party-starters. Their lo-fi grittiness celebrated the same time-agnostic spirit that trailblazers of alt-rock pioneered in crowded college basements over 20 years ago. Not only that, but they were a unit. No one member stood out from the rest, yet they all sang along (most without a mic in front of them) with smiles smeared on their faces simply because they loved the product that they collectively created. Needless to say, the crowd loved it too.
I knew Hippo Campus was fairly popular going into the night, but I could have never predicted the amount of screaming girls that introduced the Minnesota natives to the stage. Those girls weren’t just showing their outward appreciation because Hippo Campus has a handful of heartthrobs on staff (although that was definitely part of the cause). They were preemptively screaming because these guys had a few fun surprises up their sleeves.
Hippo Campus’s song structure naturally lent itself to a gradual build of excitement on the live stage, but each song’s studio blueprint was only a fraction of the equation. Their lead guitarist Nathan Stocker and trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson did more than respectively fill gaps – they built mountains of excitement that a enthusiastic crowd wanted nothing more than to climb. Lead singer Jake Luppen sounded just as good if not better than his studio-self. On top of his vocals, Luppen did well to rouse the crowd, smirking as he shot off stimulative, locally applicable lines like “So how ’bout them Sox?”
Amidst all that overwhelming entertainment, the screaming virtually never stopped. As a nearby crowd member jokingly quipped “I swear they have a cheer track for every song”, it became abundantly clear that this band was meant for bigger things than this mid-sized venue. Their provocative alternative style was meant to stretch out its legs in open air, allowing more room for thousands of fans to express themselves. This set was undoubtedly impressive, but I would love to see Hippo Campus flex their true potential on the festival scene in years to come.
Favorite Live Tracks: Violet, Anxious, Suicide Saturday, South, Way It Goes
Due to the lack of a publicized setlist, below is a playlist of my favorite songs between The Districts and Hippo Campus.