January 24, 2018

Hippo Campus and Sure Sure | Vancouver

As the smoke settled and the lights dimmed to a warm ember, the Sure Sure x Hippo Campus show at the Imperial poised itself to be a night to remember. The crowds poured in, despite the dampness and the chill of the January evening. Past will-call and security, the line for coat-check was filled with people shedding their layers so they can move freely all through the night.
Even before the show started, the crowds were already excited. The paplpable thrill of anticipation was steady and true, made evident by the masses singing along to The Proclaimers' I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) with gusto and fervour. The echoing back-and-forth of the da-da-da-da's filled the venue with laughter, characterising the atmosphere with a certain kind of buoyancy in the air.

Even as Sure Sure opened the show, this light-hearted mood persisted; aided by that one dude who was just super, duper stoked to be there. Even the band took note of his excitable nature as they shared a chuckle and a knowing look towards the guy who was woo-ing and clapping above his head intensely. Unbeknownst to us, that guy would continue the night jumping in place, well above the height of half the average height of the crowd. He even ended the night making a dance circle so he could dance to a dispersing audience after the show.

And though not everyone was at his level externally, his general disposition was surely matched by the crowds. Sure Sure set the tone for the evening as they got everyone to sway along like well-soundtracked zombies to "Hands Up Head Down."

The band is set to return to Vancouver several blocks down the road in April, and sure enough, a ton of people who went into the night's show not having heard of them will likely be showing up to support them at the Cobalt.

From the moment Hippo Campus went on-stage, to the last note of the last song of the set, there was no shortage of energy that reverberated all throughout the room. Everyone was tuned to the same frequency; both band and audience attuned to the contagious giddy feeling that surrounded the place like a bubble.

Luppen's vocals were crystal clear despite the wide-range of notes required of him to hit. Surprisingly not at all breathy like you'd expect other vocalists who transition from recordings to the stage, his ooh's in 'South' pierced through the air -- distinctly his own, and complimenting Hippo Campus' sound in the indie-rock sphere.
True to their youthful vibe, the charisma of the band was enlivened by the back-and-forth between Sutton and Stocker whenever they'd catch each other's eye from opposite sides of the stage. The way the band moves together in a distinctly individual yet cohesive whole is indicative of their closeness and compatibility despite it still being the early stages of their career.
Naturally, I can't talk about everyone else and not mention Whistler Allen. As a non-musically inclined person, I'm already consistently amazed by musicians. However, drummers who can simultaneously do vocals still boggles my mind. And yet, Allen does it with the ease akin to breathing, or blinking.
Although Hippo Campus' music does have a tendency of blending together in an amorphous blob if you're not paying attention, the seamless blending of the songs still made room for standout moments. When the set slowed down for Monsoon, Epitaph, and Warm Glow, you can bet there was a silence that hung in the air as the crowd basked in an otherworldly ethereal feeling altogether.

I can still recall listening to Monsoon as I sat on a ferry on the Hudson River last summer. The Manhattan lights cast a glow to the darkened seating area, and I sat through a wave of contemplation as the atmospheric sounds of the song weighed on my soul.
Warm Glow was nothing short of amazing to hear live. I had known that I would love hearing it in real life just like I had know that I would come to repeat the song non-stop after I first heard it. The poeticism of the Hippo Campus lyrics rings true for all of their songs, but it is especially apparent for this tune.

Warm Glow is honest in the way that it bleeds emotion from the moment the song starts at the "smoke-swell haze" to the built-up chanting of reassurance in "arm's length, shoulders wide / looking for a fight / peace sign, getting by / people, we'll be alright." To this day, I am still amazed at how they managed to name a song the way that it feels.
The rest of the show was a euphoric montage. The melodic riffs coerced the crowd into dancing along with one another with no complaints. There was many a time where I would find myself taking a break from shooting and closing my eyes to enjoy the moment, only to reopen them to lock eyes with strangers around me as we all swayed together -- grins plastered on our faces. 

It's one thing to bob along to Suicide SaturdayBaseball, and the likes when you're on your own having a grand time with your headphones on full-blast. It's a whole 'nother thing however, to groove to these tunes alongside a mass of other people. Trust me, there was a sense of infectious giddiness that run rampant throughout every body packed in that venue.
Somehow, this show ended up being one of my favorite crowds I've figuratively gotten lost in. Who knew that Hippo Campus fans would be a bunch of sublime human beings? I shouldn't have been so surprised though. After all, the band's sound embodies wistful nostalgia and good vibes all around. It should have come as no surprise that everyone was pretty much floating on the same wavelength that evening.

It goes without saying that I highly recommend you see the band live while they are on this Winter 2018 Tour of theirs. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones if they make a stop in your vicinity. I know I sure did, and I know I'm eagerly anticipating their future return to Vancouver.

Special thanks to Timbre Concerts for allowing me to shoot the show. 

Stay gold,


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