- by Zach Johnson (Texacaliago) Rating: Release Date: Label:
Catching a show by legendary alternative rockers The Breeders would probably strike most people as a more than solid way to spend a Saturday night in Chicago. But when that aforementioned band is being hosted at the House of Vans in the West Loop as part of their House of Vans Parties concert series, it elevates the occasion from what otherwise might just be a casual night out, to a distinctly awesome experience.
For those not privy, everyone’s favorite skate shoe company (although I admittedly rocked a pair of Simples to the show) has a select few venues worldwide (namely in London, Brooklyn, and of course Chicago) that provide a particularly unique concert-going experience. Taken from their website: “It’s a place where imagination lets loose over concrete bowls, art installations, workshops and concert stages, inspiring every person who runs, rolls, or stomps through its door…the House of Vans is home to the creativity that moves us”.
If that weren’t enticing enough, it also happened to be an entirely free event, which no doubt contributed to the rather lengthy line that extended into the alley and wrapped-around to encompass roughly half of the sizable venue. But for those willing to brave the long line in exchange for the free admission, there were even more complimentary goodies to be had once inside. In addition to a free photo booth, free shirts (while supplies lasted), free beanbag chill-out areas, free wall-art to stimulate your mind, there was also…wait for it: free beer!
Now that’s the kind of freedom I can get behind.
All the palpable realness of the event attracted a predictably eclectic crowd as well, which is always nice to see. Whether it was venerable old-school alternative-nation folks rocking their flannel, Lilith Fair vets, or new-school millennial types with their eccentric styles and youthful exuberance, everyone of all shapes, colors, and ages were certainly well represented that evening.
And as much as all the art, vibes, (and “freedom”) of the venue helped to enhance the overall experience, it was ultimately the music that brought everyone together. Both of the warm-up bands on the bill (Divino Niño and Palehound) provided quality indie-rock-flavored jams that echoed off the airy warehouse walls and reverberated positively crunchy vibes for the masses in attendance to enjoy. Was honestly hard to say just exactly how good (or average) both bands actually were on the whole, but given all the plethora of stimulations the House of Vans had to offer, it was understandable that their performances couldn’t help but feel like little more than just quality background music.
That said when it was time for The Breeders to hit the stage, suffice to say they had the vast majority of the crowd’s undivided attention. And how could they not? When in the presence of alternative rock royalty (namely Kim Deal), one can feel compelled to pay attention.
Kicking off their set with “Saints” (in which the lyrics “…summer’s ready when you are…” seemed all too fitting), the band wasted no time indulging the audience with some standard fan favorites. The band then veered into some new (pretty good) material from their latest album All Nerve (namely “Wait In The Car”, and the title-track) before peppering in a healthy amount of selections from their best album (with apologies to Pod) Last Splash. “Divine Hammer” and “No Aloha” sounded like pure, crunchy, fuzz-soaked grace as the waves of heavy reverb washed over the crowd, whilst “Cannonball” (which arrived mid-set) and “I Just Want to Get Along” helped whip up the crowd into a modest frenzy. But The Breeders saved the best for last during their encore with a spot-on performance of “Gigantic” from Kim’s days with The Pixies, which was the perfect way to round-out a pretty rad overall performance from one of alternative rock’s most beloved bands.
Coupled with the unique venue experience that The House of Vans has to offer, it indeed proved to be a singularly awesome night out. Cheers to Vans for curating these shows, and fostering an inclusive, celebratory environment that focuses on music, art, and culture, and in the process creates an experience that is impossible not to enjoy.