The House of Vans is billed as a “place where imagination lets loose over concrete bowls, art installations, workshops and concert stages, the House of Vans is home to the creativity that moves us.” That sounds cool, but I had no idea what to expect. When I got to the address I was sent to, there was no door. I had to follow some hip looking people down an alley and that’s when I saw the line. It was about two blocks long.
When I got into the venue, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The venue was an old warehouse that was refashioned in the coolest possible way. There were funky decorations, groovy lighting, unbelievable art (which also functioned as backgrounds to take the mandatory selfies), and interactive games. Entering the House of Vans was like entering another world, a super funky world.
And of course, there was a stage. Tonight’s featured entertainer was Anderson .Paak, which might help explain the two block long line to get in. .Paak’s music is soulful; a mix of hip-hop, R&B, blues, and funk that can be described as both a throw-back and futuristic. The venue and the music seemed like a perfect match for the night.
Before .Paak took the stage, The Free Nationals entertained the crowd. They are best known as the backing band for Anderson .Paak during his live shows, but the group is prepping a debut album on their own as we speak. So, it was the perfect opportunity to show off their chops. The grooves they were laying down were so effortless and unending it almost seemed as if they were the main event.
But of course, the top billing was reserved for Anderson .Paak who delivered on the hype. Listening to .Paak’s recorded songs, you get a sense of how talented he is – but that is nothing compared to seeing him live. The man works hard: .Paak started off behind a drum set, that was placed center stage, where he drummed and sang the opening song, never missing a beat (pun intended). From there .Paak took turns singing, rapping, and dancing (sometimes while playing the drums, sometimes out front so the crowd could get better look at him). None of these talents diminishes the other talents, meaning that .Paak is a top-notch drummer, A+ singer and badass rapper all rolled into one. He’s a triple-threat, if not more.
The best songs of the night included Make it Better and King James. Make it Better a slow jam that details a relationship that has gone stale and tries to come up with ways to spice it up. While the relationship in the lyrics might need spicing up, the song certainly does not. It’s a jam. King James is a unique song as it is a protest song, commenting on police-brutality and even singing from the perspective of Colin Kaepernick, but it’s delivered in a laid back manner. Which, depending on your perspective, either adds or takes away from the urgency. Judging by the fans in the room, who were some of the hippest people I’ve ever seen, they could feel the urgency.
If you find yourself invited to a House of Vans event and you wonder what it is all about. Do yourself a favor and go. It’s a night unlike any other.
Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski / @DanielBoczarski