The line for Thursday night at the House of Vans went all the way out the alley. The West Loop indoor skate park and occasional event space has become a hotspot for free community events in the last year. This week’s awesome offering featuring The Orwells was part of Riot Fest’s lineup of after shows.
Supporting act Peel started their set right on time. The four-piece band played for more than half an hour, but I only caught glimpses of their set as I waited patiently for my oxtail poutine from the Bruges Brothers food truck posted outside. With the temptation of unlimited free Goose Island beers, I couldn’t continue the night without eating something greasy to soak up the alcohol.
The band opened with “Black Francis” off of their latest album, “Terrible Human Beings.” With an energetic set powered by frontman Mario Cuomo, the band quickly got the crowd moving. No one stood out more that night than the band’s singer Mario, who donned a black-and-white gingham suit and bleached blonde hair. At first glance he looked a lot like Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy. The band played new and old favorites, playing “They Put A Body In The Bayou” and “Mallrats (La La La).” While the rest of the band performed a solid and engaged set, Mario truly engaged the crowd, throwing bottles of water to the crowd towards the end of the set. The band closed out the normal portion of their set, but left it pretty obvious that they would return for an encore.
Upon returning from a brief dip backstage, the band returned to the dimly-lit venue. Not one to disappoint, their singer returned with a bag of Funyuns and proceeded to rip the bag open onstage and toss onion ring snacks into the crowd. The band closed out properly with their biggest hit “Who Needs You” with the singer running off the stage and into the nearby bowl to finish the set writhing at the bottom of the bowl covered in sweat and gingham. The set was an excellent primer for their Sunday afternoon Riot Fest appearance.
House of Vans
The 2017 addition to the West Loop and worldwide House of Vans locations has quickly made a name for itself. The venue opened in February with a with a grand opening party featuring Noname, Digable Planets, and Future Islands. In under a year, the venue has hosted the likes of The Internet, Charles Bradley, and Denzel Curry. In partnership with Goose Island, the venue offers free beers from a menu of 312 staples and seasonal offerings.