Jr. Jr. / Hippo Campus

Neumos - October 6, 2015 - Written by Elyse Lankford

Jr. Jr., an indie-pop band from Detroit, graced Seattle with their live show at Neumos last week. I’ve been a fan of theirs since my brother introduced me to them at the release of their second album The Speed of Things; I’ve followed them through their recent name change from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to simply Jr. Jr., and their self-titled album release to commemorate the switch.

Their fall tour started in St. Paul, MN, the hometown of their opener, Hippo Campus. Despite Seattle being just the fifth stop of the tour, both bands were completely focused and engaged with the venue and crowd. Neumos’ small and intimate feel added so much to this show. Waiting in line you can hear the bands doing sound-check with perfect clarity and the lack of a barricade makes the show that much more engaging.

I discovered the indie-rock band Hippo Campus this August and was completely impressed with their first EP Bashful Creatures. The bright guitar solos at the forefront of their songs, performed by co-frontman Nathan Stocker, and the vibey sounds, a product of reverb and the beautiful drumming by Whistler Allen, perfectly translated to a live setting. The bassist, Zach Sutton’s dancing, the band’s interaction with each other, and the level of engagement with the music was infectious. They opened with “Bashful Creatures” from their Bashful Creatures EP and played several songs from their recently released EP South including “South” and “Dollar Bill”. Jake Luppen’s clear, falsetto crooning is everything you’d want from a lead-singer and made their whole set completely enjoyable. I would’ve loved to hear a bit more about Hippo Campus from the band themselves but, all the songs they packed into their 45 minute set were perfectly chosen and incredibly well done. Hippo Campus’ technical talent and passion for music clearly translates though their live performances.

I was surprised by the shift in the crowd before Jr. Jr. began. The group of guys next to me that were “really into psychedelic stuff” and “looking for people to jam with” during Hippo Campus were replaced with a Jr. Jr. loving man and his girlfriend that serenaded my brother and I during “Nothing But Our Love” from Jr. Jr.’s  first album It’s A Corporate World.

Jr. Jr.’s show was incredibly sensory-oriented with their vibrant lighting, magical bubble machines, and lively, unconventional sound, complete with Joshua Epstein (half of Jr. Jr.)’s lo-fi mic made out of a telephone. They opened with “As Time Goes”, the first song off their new album Jr. Jr., setting the tone for an amazing show full of fun melodies/harmonies and intriguing production techniques. Later, the already high energy in the room spiked with the beloved “If You Didn’t See Me (You Weren’t On The Dance Floor)” from The Speed of Things, appropriately making the crowd break out into dance. Their backdrop of giant, light up, and multi-colored JR JR letters flashed and blinked in time with the all the songs, the setlist including a good mix from all three of their albums.

“Caroline” and “Hypothetical” from Jr. Jr. are two of my personal favorites off the album and the live performance of these were particularly great. Epstein shared bits of backstories in between songs and heard the cries of the crowd for Daniel Zott (the other half of Jr. Jr.) to let his hair down. Thanks to Epstein amplifying this request, Zott pulled the hair-tie out of his long and unruly hair. The show continued with Zott providing a multitude of photo-ops for fans of ethereal hair flips. The change into checked, neon colored blazers and the addition of black lights made their encore into an incredibly visually stimulating finale. Both Hippo Campus and Jr. Jr. put on such a good show and completely complemented each other. I’m happy I was able to experience such a magical evening.