Hippo Campus | Photo by John Vettese

Turns out we only sort of knew Minneapolis popsters Hippo Campus. Their XPN Free at Noon appearance this summer was terrific, but hardly the full experience. The audience didn’t once shriek at the top of its lungs, for one thing. Seeing this charismatic four-piece play to a crowd of daydrinking first-timers nodding their heads and slowly coming around to the idea that, hey, these boys can rock is altogether different from seeing it play to the fans. At The Barbary last Thursday night, the show was sold out and the crowd lined the front of the stage, smiles on their face, smart phones at the ready. Frontman Jake Luppen actually joked at one point “What is this, and Apple convention?” and asked the room to please put their phones away and be in the moment. They gladly obliged (for the most part).

Luppen looks not unlike a young Damon Albarn, and Hippo Campus has a bit of an early Blur thing going on – undeniably poppy, no shortage of boy band charm but the songwriting smarts to back it up. The snappy “Bashful Creatures” opened the show with a swift and jangling highlife / AfroPop lick a la Vampire Weekend, while “Suicide Saturday” was an infectious pop jam, even in its non-remixed form (great remix, tho). Things got slow on “St. Paul Roofs,” a nod to their Twin Cities roots, while the exhuberant encore “The Halocline” definitely showed the doubtful why the band uses that song title for most of its social media. “This is the most beautiful song we’ve ever written,” said Luppen, and though it might have come across a bit cocky, it totally was beautiful.

Fellow Minnesotans Bad Bad Hats opened the show, and if you haven’t listened to their excellent 2015 LP Psychic Reader, don’t sleep on it too much longer. It’s tender and heartwarming, with a Waxahatchee-ian sense of introspective melancholy but not as much psychic damage. The music goes from ultra quiet quiets to emphatic louds, and Kerry Alexander is a totally winning frontwoman, whether she’s telling stories of late-night convenience-store-run ennui or using the holidays to get people to patronize their merch table. Definitely a band to watch.

Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

Hippo Campus setlist
Bashful Creatures
Suicide Saturday
I (Oh, I)
Close to Gold
St. Paul Roofs
Little Grace
Dollar Bill

The Halocline