Hippo Campus Kicks Dallas in the Teeth

The crowd was wedged up against the front barricade of South Side Ballroom, cheering as Gus Dapperton and his band left the stage. They’d been the perfect opener for Hippo Campus—punchy instrumentals, smooth melodies and harmonies, and plenty of dancing. As the crowd waited in bated anticipation for the headliner, country music (obviously inspired by Hippo Campus’s country-esque new EP, Wasteland) boomed overhead. The air smelled of spilled beer and popcorn, and there was a cacophony of voices blurred together. 

I was chatting with another photographer when the lights changed and a fog machine clouded the platform, nearly covering the members of Hippo Campus as they took to the stage. I won’t lie to you, Hippo Campus has been my favorite band since I was thirteen, and to see lead vocalist Jake Luppen himself standing in front of me, center stage, not even a foot away. I could barely contain my excitement.

Deafening screams erupted from the crowd at the first few notes of the opening riff of “South,” one of the band’s oldest hits. Luppen, lead guitarist Nathan Stocker, and bassist/pianist Zach Sutton took to the front of the stage, while trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson played tambourine next to drummer Whistler Allen. The energy was immensely infectious, and after two more hits—brand new “Yippee Ki Yay” and slightly older “Bad Dream Baby”—my time in the pit was up. After all the running around, trying to get decent photos while also enjoying my all-time favorite band, I emerged absolutely breathless.

Each member brought an insatiable, lively energy to their performances, so well-practiced yet human that even small mistakes didn’t get in the way of their showing. Even in songs that used an auto-tune vocal compressor (a style I don’t go for generally, unless it’s Travis Scott falling through a hole at a Drake concert), there was a touch of realness in every note.

In the packed South Side Ballroom, it was impossible not to feel just how loved the band is. The audience knew the words to every song, and when Hippo Campus left the stage after their hit from album LP3, “Boys,” the thunderous chant of “one more song” filled the venue. Like seemingly all bands are obliged to, the group came back out to perform an encore: their 2017 track “Buttercup,” one of their most well-known numbers. The screaming and applause were ear-drum shattering, as were the groans when Hippo Campus got the last laugh. As soon as they left the stage and the cheers died down, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” played over the speakers. There was a chorus of “ugh”s, but on the way out, everyone mouthed the lyrics to one last song, together.