Hippo Campus only formed in 2013. It’s a surprising fact that only becomes more shocking once one realises that in that time, they’ve already played slots at Reading & Leeds Festival, and supported the likes of Walk The Moon. For a relatively unknown band from the US, that’s not bad going at all. For Jake, Nathan, Zach and Whistler – or The Turntan, Stitches, Espo and Beans, as they have come to be affectionately nicknamed – Friday’s show at Manchester’s Gorilla was the latest in a string of sets that saw them play London’s Koko earlier in the week, and which now finds them back home in the US, playing Bloomington, Illinois on Thursday. Tonight, crowd that has been waiting outside the venue, and which now starts to eagerly flood inwards as the doors are opened provide a good reminder of just how well the Minnesota natives are doing in the UK. Chatter and anticipation hum in the air, and it’s not long until they’ve packed the entire place out, drinks in hand, waiting expectantly for the lights to dim.
When they do, the applause is suitably rapturous. Frontman Jake is characteristically cool and collected, while evidently excited enough about being in the north of England to give a shout out to Changos Burritos, where the band got their dinner from. But it’s when the show kicks off that the real fun gets going.
Powering through old hits and new releases alike, the set is a plethora of crowd-pleasers, each drawing adulation from the die-hard set of fans assembled in front of the band. Particular mention has to be given to ‘Suicide Saturday’ and ‘South’, during which a mosh pit can be seen breaking out in the crowd for the first time.
This turns out to be a regular feature of the evening. During every song that has an upbeat enough tempo, sections of the crowd are admirably and determinedly moshing away, forming circles during build-ups and letting rip during choruses. The place is practically shaking during the crescendos of some of the band’s more popular tracks. Jake and co. seem to be having just as much fun. The frontman urges the crowd to sing along frequently, which it inevitably and fervently does, and at one point the singer even dives off the stage and disappears for a few seconds – presumably to encourage the one final circle pit that forms soon after he gets back on stage.
The set hits its highs perfectly, but the troughs are also to be savoured here. Jake asks the crowd if they mind if we ‘feel a little bit here’, which draws the expected applause from the audience who by now are expecting the forthcoming rendition of ‘Monsoon’. The place stills, and various audience members are of course seen on the shoulders of others while the track is played out in front of them, the whole band stilling for a beat during what is otherwise an action packed evening.
The next day saw the band head to Dublin’s Academy for the next stage of their tour, while the next leg takes them back to America this week. As the final notes ring out in Manchester though, it’s difficult to imagine they’ll forget this night in a hurry. The lights come up, and the crowd is still dancing to the venue’s own music that comes on over the speakers, and an eventual chant for popular track ‘Violet’ breaks out before long, lamenting its exclusion from tonight’s setlist. No matter what the future holds for Hippo Campus, it’s not hard to imagine that both band and crowd alike will be thinking about this night for some time to come.
Words by Ben Kitto