Hippo Campus concert ends Winter Carnival on a high note

By Charlie Keohane

Courtesy Photo

While live concerts may seem like a relic of the past, indie-pop band Hippo Campus made an appearance at the college on March 20 in a virtual concert that served as the closing act of this year’s Winter Carnival. Students tuned in from the comfort of their rooms, and in-person viewings were set up in the parking lot behind Proctor, the patio of the Arts Center and the Ross Basketball Courts. 

Formed in 2013 in Minnesota, Hippo Campus has established a fresh, lively sound that is uniquely their own, performing at major venues such as South by Southwest and Lollapalooza. 

The band broadcasted in from their studio, where audiences were greeted by each of its five members rocking out on their instruments. The show kicked off with some of their bigger hits like the bubbly “Bambi” and the summery “Way it Goes,” sometimes slowing down for creative instrumentals. 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear some of my favorite songs, including the cheery “Tuesday,” played live. Their performance of the slow and sweet “warm glow” transported listeners to a mountainside morning with “warm glow morning soaked in pastel tea.” They closed the night with a peppy encore of their popular song “Buttercup,” leaving viewers energized as the night came to an end . 

Even online, Hippo Campus retained its youthful spirit and upbeat sound. Their music is bright, and their lyrics are riddled with alliteration, colors and natural imagery. Trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson also brought a cozy jazziness to the music. 

Unlike a traditional concert, where you would have to fight for a good sightline in a sea of fans, Zoom allowed us to get a private glimpse into their studio. They were a fun bunch, often cracking jokes with each other and entertaining the crowd with facts about the college in between songs, from its average ACT score to its famous alumni. At one point, the (nonexistent) men’s volleyball team even got a random shoutout.  

I began watching the concert from a projector outside of Proctor Dining Hall in a six-foot chalk circle, but I retreated to my room for the second half of the concert as the night got colder. As I finished watching Hippo Campus’ performance from my desk with a cup of tea, it was impossible not to think about how fantastic it would have been in person, with a pulsing crowd and colorful lights. Students watching the outdoor screening cheered after each song, but the band could not hear or feed off their positive energy — it was like the band was having a private jam session, and Middlebury students were offered a window into their world. 

As much as it was a fitting closing celebration for a unique Winter Carnival, the concert was also a looking glass into the dramatic ways that our lives have changed in the past year. “There’s somethin’ fiction ‘bout the way that reality’s going,” lead singer Jake Luppen crooned in “baseball,” reminding viewers of the strange reality we’ve been living for more than a year.