It’s been a bit since the famed Midwestern indie rock band, Hippo Campus stopped by the JBTV Studio for a performance. To be exact, the last time they came was in 2015 and at the time they only had two EPs out. Now, in 2019 when I had the chance to see them live in concert for the second time, they’ve grown, matured, and ultimately found their sound as a band and have two ALBUMS out into the world. To say that they’ve come a long way would be a gross understatement.
It’s been such a pleasure to watch this band grow up, and I feel as though I’ve grown up with them. At the time when I first discovered their perky, upbeat, and infectious Bashful Creatures EP in 2015, I instantly felt electrified. I didn’t realize music could be so fun yet so meaningful until I found Hippo Campus. But even as members Jake Luppen (lead vocals and guitar), Zach Sutton (bass and keys), Nathan Stocker (guitar), Whistler Allen (drums), and DeCarlo Jackson (trumpet) matured, so did their music. In 2016, the now-five piece band dropped their debut album Landmark, which went on to receive massive amounts of praise. The album was placed on album of the year lists as well as many ‘bands you need to keep on your radar’ lists. Though this was just the beginning of Hippo Campus’ accolades.
Right when it seemed as though they were being fit into a cookie-cutter classic indie-rock sound, the band did a 180 on listeners and critics with the release of their 2018 effort Bambi. This album proved to be experimental and polar opposite of what they seemed to have perfected on Landmark. Though true fans stuck with the band and traded in their Doc Martens and Pavement records for pink-tinged outfits matching the album’s aesthetic, others weren’t as keen and were more so confused as to what the band was trying to hone in on (myself included). However, after multiple listens and witnessing Hippo Campus perform these new songs live on The Bambi Tour, I can attest to the fact that this album and era is truly coming-of-age and is brilliantly done.
On April 26th, and after many months of anxiously (no pun intended here) waiting, I ventured back up to Madison, WI to see Hippo Campus play my favorite venue, The Sylvee. It just seems as though I’ve been so inspired by these said ‘Wisconsin pines’ that the band sings about in their song “Way It Goes”, that I’m always caught going out of my way to see them in Wisconsin. It’s an odd coincidence, but I thought I’d bring that to your attention, reader.
First up for the night was indie-pop songstress, Samia. In the weeks leading up to the show, I was eager to witness this promising young singer grace the stage. After hearing praise for her on her recent tour with the fabulous Donna Missal, my hopes were rather high. As the lights dimmed and Samia’s band ran on stage, her lead guitarist opened with a revving riff of Heart’s “Barracuda” and Samia immediately bounced out and the crowd was instantly hooked on her and her band’s positive energy. After playing a mix of sad songs and upbeat ones and closing her set with a powerful, full cover of “Barracuda”, the crowd was left breathless and excited for Hippo Campus’ performance.
At 9:45 sharp, one-by-one the members of Hippo Campus waltzed onto the stage to play to a sold-out crowd filled with long-time fans, new listeners, natives of Madison, along with a ton of dedicated Minnesotan fans traveling solely to see their favorite band live. Instantly, they burst into the catchy and synth-heavy title track from Bambi. From there they quickly transitioned into the warm “Golden” and the iconic “Way It Goes”. Looking back at the crowd, each person was off their feet - either jumping or dancing. Regardless, everyone in attendance was having a fantastic time, even three songs in.
Soon enough, the band surprised the crowd by completely switching up their setlist from the few nights prior by sprinkling in the catchy “Baseball”, my favorite song of theirs “Vines”, the more somber “Monsoon”, and one of the lead singles off of Bambi, “Doubt”. They also played my favorite deep cut from the new album, “Honestly”, a summery jam with prevalent guitars and a quirky “I suck, I suck, I suck” from Jake at the beginning of the song. Then midway through their set, Hippo Campus whipped out the crowd-favorite “South” which had everyone screaming a the top of their lungs “you go down south, south” on an endless loop before the song commenced. And soon after, they instantaneously transitioned into “Simple Season” a cute little song (another one of my favorites of their’s) that’s been absent from their live shows for a while.
For the duration of their set, their lighting was spectacular and romantic as warm ambers, cool purples, and bright pinks all glowed during their captivating performance. Between the phenomenal music and stage presence from Hippo Campus that was the main draw of the night, the soft lights were a nice accompaniment.
After leaving Madison with a smile plastered to my face and new songs I hadn’t delved into prior playing in the back of my head, I was pleased with my evening with Hippo Campus. If you get a chance, go out to a date of The Bambi Tour!
Words + Photos by Ava Butera
House Of Vans Hosts Show Honoring Wax Trax! Records With Film Screening And Performances By Cold Cave & Ministry
On Saturday April 13th, the city of Chicago had quite the special Record Store Day thanks to the House of Vans hosting a documentary film screening of Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records. The screening not only had a panel discussion and Q&A after the film, but a live music performances by opening act Cold Cave and headliner Ministry.
For those not necessarily in the know, Julia Nash, daughter of the founder of Wax Trax! Records Jim Nash, along with her husband Mark Skilicorn, produced and directed this mighty fine documentary. The documentary is a beautiful and insightful record of Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher, founders/owners of Wax Trax! Records, and the story behind the iconic label and record store.
How special is it for the city of Chicago, to have these two wisecracking pioneers relocate from Denver to Lincoln Park, and single handedly create and become the forward thinkers to releasing records devoted to a new genre of music: "Industrial" or better yet- "Industrial Swing," or better still- "Wicked Industrial Disco"-- as I like to call it.
Wax Trax! Records’ fourth release was from Front 242, a band that had a profound influence on Industrial Music, or what they liked to call "Electronic Body Music."
For a period of about 15 years after the 242 release, Wax Trax! would sell over a million records by Ministry, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, and 1000 Homo DJ's, just to name a few.
Yes, there's sadness to this story- the demise of the record label, let alone the record store from Lincoln Avenue, and its inevitable end at Damen in Wicker Park.
We’re not here to dwell on that, as this night is a celebration of Wax Trax!’s influence to music. To have the bands, the players behind the scenes, and the devoted fans reconvene at House of Vans on Record Store Day for a film screening and show honoring the store and label, it is clear that Wax Trax! Records does not need a formal address. For it lives on, and will continue to live on, through the people it impacted.
Ministry, fronted by the mighty Al Jourgenson, headlined the Record Store Day event at House of Vans.
At soundcheck, it was hard to make heads or tails on what to expect setlist wise. Outside of Chris Connelly working out vocal duties alongside Al, not much time was given to early Ministry/Wax Trax! releases.
What inevitably transpired during the performance was a set heavily devoted to early Ministry and it's side projects. Ministry’s set included "The Land of Rape and Honey," "The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste," and "Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs." Their set was also peppered with songs from the Revolting Cocks and 1000 Homo DJ's. The four songs with Chris Connelly adding vocals, elevated the performance to a whole other level. Towards the end of an acoustic version of "Everyday is Halloween," the audience devotedly sang along with the refrain and the chorus.
Openers Cold Cave, even with some projector problems and a short set, did not disappoint.
Wesley Eisold and Amy Lee have such solid musicianship performing live that the songs truly speak for themselves with a blast furnace swing and might throughout.
An incredible band, that is Cold Cave.
Relentless in scope and might, and considering the tidy and cozy confines of House of Vans, that is saying something. A truly trailblazing show from beginning to end. This was the best I've heard full on Ministry in years.
This show from Ministry still resonates in my head days after, and trying to comprehend what I just witnessed leaves me drained, in a good way.
A most splendid time all around.
As for Wax Trax!, the brand, the documentary, Julia Nash and Mark Skilicorn...we have no problem singing their praises time and time again.
The label lives on, and the devoted fans show no letup in the love and support that is righteously reciprocated at any and all events.
What a magical evening from beginning to end.
1. The Missing
4. Jesus built My Hotrod
5. Just One Fix
8. Burning Inside (with Chris Connelly)
9. So What (with Chris Connelly)
10. No Devotion (Revolting Cocks cover with Chris Connelly)
11. Supernaut (1000 Homo DJ's cover from original song from Black Sabbath)
12. The Land of Rape and Honey
13. Every Day is Halloween (Acoustic version with Chris Connelly)
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
On a chilly and calm Spring night, I made the trek up to Madison, WI to witness one of the best tours of the 2010’s -- including co-headliners Pixies and Weezer. Last summer, I had the chance to see this astonishing lineup in my hometown of South Florida. That show last June left me awestruck by both bands’ stage presence, live show, and ever-changing setlist. On March 31st, I got to relive that experience I so dearly cherished.
The first band to take the stage was British punk-rock newcomers, and recent signees to Fueled by Ramen, Basement. Though I could sense that the majority of the crowd had never heard of the band prior, Basement didn’t let the unfamiliar crowd affect their performance. They went on to hype up the crowd through their energetic set, filled with amped-up tracks. Lead vocalist, Andrew Fisher was constantly jumping around the stage, as though he was playing to a sold-out crowd of his ‘own’. The band’s positive energy was infectious and by the end of their set, the entire 10,000 seat arena was on their feet dancing along to the last few songs of Basement’s set. It can be said that Basement’s sound is a bit different from that of their tourmates, however it was refreshing to witness the band win over these Pixies and Weezer fans.
Next up was JBTV alumni, Pixies. It’s even cool to write that! One of the most influential alternative rock bands in all of music played the very stage that I walk by at work. I, personally, have always been a huge fan of Pixies. When I first began to immerse myself into different-sounding music (meaning not the typical Top 40 Hits), I soon enough stumbled upon this band. Between the band’s lyrical content, lead singer Black Francis’ unconventional singing style, and just their aura of coolness, I was instantly hooked. As a long-time fan, I definitely was not let down by the band’s diverse setlist. Incorporating tracks spanning their entire musical career, I got my fill of Pixies for the night!
The band started strong by opening with “Bone Machine”, from the fantastic sophomore release Surfer Rosa and quickly transitioned into “Gouge Away” and “No. 13 Baby” from the critically-acclaimed album Doolittle. They then continued on to include the melodic “Caribou”, the infectious “Here Comes Your Man”, and of course their undeniably most well-known song “Where Is My Mind?”.
Throughout Pixies setlist, they gave fans a treat by playing a handful of new, unreleased material, which I assume will be off of their upcoming September 2019 album. Toward the end of their set, they went on the play fan-favorites such as “U-Mass” (my favorite Pixies song), “Isla de Encanta”, “Wave of Mutilation,” and “Vamos”. Between their captivating light show and captivating live performance, once the band left the stage, the crowd was left speechless.
Finally, the third band of the night, Weezer took the stage shortly after Pixies. But before they officially took the stage, they performance a barbershop quartet version of the silly, yet infectious song “Pork and Beans”, off of the acclaimed Red Album. Soon after, they rushed to the stage, the curtain dropped, and Weezer powerfully blasting into “Buddy Holly” and by this point everyone in the crowd had a smile plastered onto their faces. Weezer is fun and humorous band, and their silly side is often conveyed to the crowd through the band’s antics and live shows. And of course shortly after, lead singer Rivers Cuomo exclaimed “Let’s take it back to Africa!” as the band covered Toto’s “Africa”, which had the crowd singing along, while also laughing at the same time. The band debuted “Tired of Sex” from cult-favorite El Scorcho to their setlist, while also playing well-known classic like “Undone”, “Island In the Sun” , “Beverly Hills”, and “My Name is Jonas”. Weezer also chose to play a wide variety of covers from their recent cover album, The Teal Album. Throughout the night they scattered songs like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, and “No Scrubs” by TLC to name a few.
By the end of the show and after Weezer played their encore, including “El Scorcho”, “Surf Wax America”, and “Say It Ain’t So”, the entire crowd was still beaming and dancing from witnessing three incredible bands. Last night’s show was definitely a memorable one and I recommend you check this co-headliner tour out!!
Check out more photos below!