written by Hannah Hines
Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski / @DanielBoczarski
Despite it being rainy and 50 degrees in late June, people from Chicago and afar made their way to House Of Vans on a Wednesday night for another installment of the spaces’ free Vans House Parties. From the outside the venue looks like an abandoned brick building with barely any windows just nestled in the West Loop neighborhood. Inside, however, House Of Vans comes to life boasting art and expressions of every kind while encouraging creativity. HOV gave out branded pullovers and ear plugs along with complimentary beer and a free photo booth as if the show being free wasn’t good enough. They really treat these shows like community events which may help get people to come see a show they normally wouldn’t and maybe even find their next favorite artist. With skate culture being so intertwined with music and art, it is really inspiring to see a company started in the skating community stay connected to their roots and sort of give back some. The indoor skate park is expertly turned into a concert venue / art gallery for the night and it’s a stimulating experience I hope everyone gets to have for themselves.
The space quickly warmed up thanks to the indie punk Long Island band, Macseal. In the same vein as bands like Modern Baseball and Oso Oso, Macseal brightly flows approachable songwriting through intricate guitar work and move-your-hip worthy hooks. The group paused to thank people for getting there early while excitedly observing this is the most people they had ever played for. I can only hope that everyone in the crowd went home to listen to “Cats” on repeat like I did.
Next, the indie rock duo out of Baltimore, Maryland that is Wye Oak took the stage and filled every inch of the room with dreamy ambiance. The set seemed to give permission to explore – whether that was inner reflection or a chance to walk around and see the beautifully displayed paintings from Ariel Wolfe Baldwin or Lauren Asta’s vibrant wall filled with her iconic doodles.
Julien Baker closed out the evening with a simple yet stirring set of songs. It was interesting hearing Julien’s softer music mix with more voices than you’d expect to hear at show that is put on by really one person, their guitar, and pedal board. It felt more pub than coffee shop but Julien played unphased over the (some) spirited souls. Julien has a remarkable voice that makes her heart-wrenching lyrics come through with a power that probably gave many people in the room, including me, goosebumps. The set opened with “Appointments” bringing much of the crowd to join in on the repeated line “Maybe it’s all gonna turn out alright / Oh, I know that it’s not, but I have to believe that it is”. An incredible violinist accompanied Julien on stage for a few songs including “Shadowboxing” – only adding to the delicate vulnerability that is bottled up like magic in each song. It was still raining when the show ended in Chicago but something about the night felt warmer – maybe it was the comfort of music or the chance to just step back and enjoy the company of others. Whatever it was, House Of Vans provided the space for a bunch of people to just come together and appreciate art of different kinds under one roof on a Wednesday night.