Hippo Campus & High School
By: Ellie Roberto
September 12th, 2015 was the first time I saw Hippocampus live, an upcoming pop indie band from Minnesota. The young group of four began their musical journey senior year of high school while they were struggling to transition into adulthood. They found comfort in the music they were creating and eventually listeners started to feel the same comfort as they grew in popularity. The band made a bold and scary decision to drop out of college to pursue a passion that made their view of future success hazy. It was a risk that I find very inspiring and something I wish other people had the courage to do.
At the time of the first concert, I only knew one song, “Suicide Saturday,” but I told some friends that this would be a fun concert to see and we attended a few weeks later, oblivious to how we would change after. And when the first strums of bass and guitar levitated from the speakers, our tired feet in the somewhat crowded Grog Shop immediately awoke.
After having a memorable experience the first time, I bought tickets to see them another time and then again when they opened for Saint motel in 2017. This time at House of Blues, they teased new songs but also kept to their original EP classics.
Hippocampus’ first EP is playful yet lacks experimentation. The songs sound too similar to the point where you question which song you’re actually hearing. However, you can detect the beginnings of a cohesive band and the melodies were easy to bop your head to. After the success of their first EP they questioned where they could push themselves after. The first album was all about their adolescent experiences close to home but for Landmark they explored beyond Minnesota. You can hear the difference in focus and attention in Landmark album compared to their first songs. The lyrics in Landmark are more thought out, creating a poetic album that are still relatable to youth but touch on deeper topics. “Way it goes” is a perfect, standout example of how they broadened their subject matter, discussing materialism and our constant search for approval of others. To me it means there are beautiful rare moments we experience that can bring ourselves into perspective. There are other star songs, but as a whole, Landmark feels ambient and nostalgic but not in the “I wish I could go back to this moment” way. Instead, It’s asking the question: “How can we look to our past to fix our future?”
If you didn’t see this coming, I went to their concert a few weeks ago (surprise surprise). Landmark was officially out this time as well as a completely unexpected 3 song EP. I had drifted away from Hippocampus music as a senior for no particular reason. I was branching out into new artists and genres that seem to have more prevalence in this chaotic time. But like always, when the concert started the bass guitar trills made it was easy to remember why I fell in love with these boys a few years ago. Their live performances are intimate and you could tell they care about your experience as an audience member. Sadly, a lot of musicians lack that stage presence. Hippocampus is a band you appreciate more every time you see them live. Magically, I heard the songs with more intensity and feeling each concert.
As a freshman and Sophomore, alt-rock and indie was my genre. I went to those first Hippocampus concerts without much experience with any other style of music. Like the young band members, I didn’t have a clear sense of self. My first three years of high school seemed to hazily blend together, making it hard to look back and pick out defining moments. Those were the years that I experimented with everything to finally find my sound. Almost as if it happened over night, I think I grew into my 5 foot 2-inch body. I feel everything with a greater appreciation after searching for myself for three years. Hippocampus’ Landmark is my story too. I am cohesive. I am reflexive. I am a part of something greater than me. Hippocampus by no means was the only sound blasting through my headphones for the past four years but it was a safe haven to fall back on, a comforting poem, and a unit of measurement for growth.
That Saturday night may have been the last time I will see Hippocampus live as I head out of the hometown I’ve known since I was born. I was reflecting with fellow music lover Lilly Rothschild after the concert about how we’ve grown and changed with this band. We watched them transform into a cohesive and successful band, and although they don’t remember the two screaming girls in the front row gripping the stage of every Cleveland concert, they unknowingly watched us grow into women with a clear sense of self and personal sound.