Living Mirage: The Head and the Heart with Hippo Campus
Toyota Music Pavilion – Irving, Texas – July 12, 2019 | Words and Photos by Cassie Preston
Hippo Campus has rotated a couple of times on my Spotify playlist, enough so that I could recall their name but none of their songs. I was pleasantly surprised by their indie rock performance preluding The Head and the Heart show at Toyota Music Factory on Friday. Jake Luppen heads the band on guitar and lead vocals, Nathan Stocker supports lead vocals, jams on guitar and provides some sweet dance moves, Zach Sutton plays sensitive and simple bass guitar, Whistler Isaiah Allen nails the drums and provides a great backbone to the band. But honestly, who is the trumpet player/complimentary drums extraordinaire? And where is he on the Wiki page? The band performs, “Honestly” and ends it by telling us, “It’s good to be in Dallas … or wherever this is”. No born & bred Dallasite (AKA me) is going to claim Irving as its own. The band quickly corrects itself and tells us, “Oh yeah, we’re in Irving, baby”. That’s right, baby.
The chords of “Simple Season” strum and vibrate through the audience and I notice what I can only qualify as a phenomenon (do-du-da-do-dauh). Remember The Bunny Hop? Well guys, it’s been replaced by what I can only describe as, “The Hipster Hop”. There is an array of women in platform sandals, ill fitting 90’s jeans and yacht-club-chic men boppin’ to the tune of these songs. Gird your loins. Shout out to the women who had no one to dance with and decided to ballroom twist with one another. As much as I’m enjoying this music and the band’s energy, my one wish – and my only – is for them to not only play to their fans – because you got them guys – but to more than that.
Stocker, remember him? Yeah, he opens “No Poms”, which is heavy on guitar and lead vocals. Now, I have realized -which is both a huge and bold compliment – but he sounds like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Yeah, I said it. But he’s kinda into himself but also, his dance moves. But – AGAIN – who is the “TP/CDE (Trumpet Player/Complimentary Drums Extraordinaire)? The band breaks after the song and takes some time to thank it’s photographers (*heart eyes*) which ends in ( TP/CDE ) trumpet solo. The band – ironically – thought it was a great time to thank their photographers, Brit and Bryan, right before strobe lights … (AKA) a photographer’s worst nightmare.
Hippo Campus ends their set with, “Buttercup”. It has a carefree beginning which is juxtaposed about a minute in when hard guitar and drums come in. I’m in the back of standing room and you can feel the chords pulsating through not only myself but through the entire crowd. These guys – meaning the band – are … interesting … but strange and creative in their songwriting and craft. It seems to me that the crowd has enjoyed their time with the band by the loud clapping and roars. So you did it, Hippo Campus. You won them over.
I know that an Indie Folk show sounds like it would be drowning and close to unbearable because … well, they make music like you would imagine. However, their sound has somewhat evolved especially after their fourth studio album, “Living Mirage” which has more pop music influences. The new sound consists of shorter songs but with a strong beat. And as a shameless Indie Folk fan, I feel like the majority of my favorite bands have had to evolve this way in order to gain popularity. Just because I have followed these sorts of bands for well over the last five years, I’m always a little curious about the people who come to these shows.
Two young girls are chat and giggle with one another while we wait for The Head and the Heart to take the stage. They are traveling alongside the band for their Tour du Texas. Originally from Houston, they already saw them in Austin and came up to Dallas because they won tickets (plus meet and greet passes) from ALT 103.7. The lighting changes to darkness and I break away from the girls. The Head and the Heart takes the stage and suddenly there is a dreamy, celestial glow coming from the stage. Despite being a large venue, it suddenly feels like we’ve all come to an intimate lounge where you have to know someone to get in. But my heart sinks. The lead singer Jonathan Russell is wearing a large brim hat which is keeping the majority of his face in the shadows under the bright concert lights. Basically another photographer’s nightmare.
Charity Rose Thielen, the band’s violinist with the voice of an angel stops the performance after “Lost in my Mind” to address a man who has been holding their first album over his head for the entire performance. “Who is this sweet person?” she asks him from the stage. He explains that he’s been here holding the vinyl in hopes that the band would recognize his perseverance and sign the album. But it’s not for him, it’s for his girlfriend *swoon*. Eventually the band asks the couple to come backstage so they can sign the record. But the lead singer brings them on stage, puts a pair of maracas and a tambourine in their hands and lets them play and dance along to their next song.
During “I Found Out”, the lead singer would hold his mic (when he wasn’t using it as a hat stand) out to the crowd so we could all sing along to the music. As I looked around in the crowd, it was almost like there was something therapeutic about this act … or maybe this is just happiness. The Heart and the Heart seem like not only an incredibly well-produced band with clear intent on what experience they want to give their fans, but above all else, they just seem like kind people. And if there is one thing I have learned, you can’t teach people how to be kind. I heard something wonderful at this show during this song: “It’s not the love that’s in your mind, It’s the love that you might find, That’s gonna save our lives”. Thank you for that. Let’s take care of one another out in this world.