Big music festivals in cities get pre- & after-shows, usually acts playing that festival that also play a relatively late night regular show as well. Chicago’s Lollapalooza (QRO recap) this year had ticketed shows from the likes of Tegan & Sara (QRO live review), as well as free ones sponsored by the likes of Pandora (QRO live review) and Culture Collide (QRO live review). Riot Fest had the ticketed after-shows, but also had a special pre-show the day before the festival, at House of Vans Chicago with The Orwells and Peel on Thursday, September 14th.
Vans opened their ‘House of Vans’ in Brooklyn (QRO venue review) back in 2011, a half warehouse/outdoor space with free music & free beer, and that has held true for this year’s new satellite House in Chicago. That includes the free beer – indeed, the selection was larger, with five different beers, but that’s Chicago for ya. The indoor warehouse is larger, while the outdoor space smaller and more removed, but still has a food truck with a line longer than for beer – instead of NYC tacos, it was ‘Bruges Brothers’ deluxe fries (though doubt that they’re actually Belgian…). And there’s still a VIP area (for your correspondent), though in this one you can actually see the band (if there’s ‘only’ two beers on offer) – and separate VIP entrance, though both are in a dark, kind of sketchy alley.
Opening the show was Peel, who played pretty much the kind of noisy rockabilly punk that one would expect of an opener at House of Vans the night before Riot Fest. But the main event was locals The Orwells, and it was an event. The crazy band had a crazy crowd, with singer Mario Cuomo (decked in a Vans-esque two-tone suit) leaping around and leaning in. Particularly notable was that the front row of the wild audience was female, unusual in the usually XY punk scene.
Great music & beer for free the day before a festival? Yes, thank you, House of Vans.