From a history of raising the youth on rugged skate culture and timeless shoe silhouettes, Vans continues free concerts in the summer of 2017 with the annual Vans House Party series at House of Vans locations in both Brooklyn and Chicago. Drawing in the illest crowd of locals, music muses, fashion icons, and culture carriers, diva rapper Princess Nokia opened for the indie surf band the Drums. In the epicenter of the cross over between a divided crowd, was the same open energy, lots of Goose Island beer, hazed air, and a jaw-dropping pit. I could not tell what it was about the gathering, but everyone seemed to be ready to strike a pose and start a conversation.
Princess Nokia finally opened with “Tomboy,” an anthem that drew the crowd guts-first into the barricade. With energy built up, she leaned in to grab some sweet fan gifts and leaped into the crowd to ride out the wave. From the pit, I felt her, literally, fly over me. Dressed up in her orange athletic gear, this New York City based rapper glowed and already had the crowd spilling drinks on the floor before the main act of the night. We love you Princess!
The Drums carried out a kick-butt performance that stays true to their heavenly track recordings and pansy, surfy sound. Johnny Pierce was a vision, dancing with blue and red backlighting in a pair of Answer motorcycle racing pants. With a heavy mosh pit front and center, many were swaying along in the back on the skate ramps, while filling up at the food truck, or even… by the Porta-Potties. The band built up a party on a Wednesday night; While many students were traveling to House of Vans after school, others were coming straight from a 9-5 office day. I got to the edge of the pit just as they played “Money,” a hilariously relatable song that went “I want to buy you something, but I don’t have any money!” A boy in a Christmas sweater came up to me after this one and told me how he lost his glasses in the mosh, but when he was looking for them, “Money” came on and he could not resist jumping right back into the crowd.
Pierce shattered hearts last night with a performance of “Days,” hitting home with a joyful melody and throat-heavy vocals. From the album Portamento, “Days” is a retrospective look back at the fears and hopelessness of adulthood as it is happening. I was sliding around on the floor of the pit and had two guys hoist me up into the receiving arms of the crowd. I swear, thanks to both the dual toned lighting of the room and intimate familiarity of the song, I think I had an out-of-body experience before being pulled over the barricade by event security.
The past two albums by the Drums indicate a sense of self reflection and correction. Abysmal Thoughts and Encyclopedia are both humble pieces with dark undertones. In an interview for Nothing But Hope and Passion, the Drums talked about nostalgia and the grandeur of looking back at the events that make up a whole. There happened to be a miscommunication between Pierce and the event security after being told to tell the raging crowd to calm down. With a total rockstar night, Pierce humbly apologized to the crowd and the security saying, “I’m just trying not to be an asshole.” Bringing up the energy again, Pierce got down to eye level with his fans for “Book of Revelations” and closed the night with a two song encore. The fans were lovely and loose, standing in puddles of our own sweat and beer, leaving House of Vans with a mutual ringing in all of our ears, shoes missing, and lipstick smeared.