The last time I was in Chicago’s House of Vans was last October, when I waited in line for 2 hours to watch The National play a cohesive set that had singer Matt Berninger running through the crowd, during their performance while everyone followed him around. Tonight’s a more intriguing lineup with Denmark’s Iceage headlining an indoor vans skate park, it’s been raining nonstop all day but it’s calmed down a few hours before the doors open. As bartenders and security show up early people have been passing by constantly asking, “What’s happening here tonight?” A friend and I proceed to tell multiple businessmen and dog walkers about our favorite Denmark band playing tonight, they’re all briefly intrigued and exchange a few words before proceeding with their evening plans, not too long after it’s 6:30 and the doors are finally open.
When first walking through the doors of the skate park it’s so dark you can barely tell it’s a skate park, and then I immediately see the sage surround by red streamers from the lights to the stage floor. This is apart of the kinetic art installation installed done by Christian Friedlander. As I ventured further into the park I noticed an enclosed room with the same red streamers dangling from the ceiling all the way to the concrete floor outside the room on the wall read, “Iceage has allied itself with Denmark based artist and stage designer Christian Friedlander to bring stage visuals to life and into the House of Vans for an immersive kinetic art experience. Friedlander is a stage scenographer and photographer from Copenhagen/Berlin, working for Iceage, theaters and opera houses throughout Europe including Opera Lyon and the Royal Theatre.” In the small space there are fans that blow just enough so that you’re unable to capture that ‘cool’ Instagram picture but also cool enough to give you a refreshing breeze.
Chicago’s Torture Love is slowly making their way to faint red stage as concertgoers stumble closer to see the first band, for a band playing a genre of music that seems repetitive, overused, and boring at times they seem to rock the House of Vans with an abrasive sound that could grab the attention of any Chicago hipsters sipping on tonight’s free beer. Harpist Mary Lattimore followed after the local act with a quiet yet remarkable set with her harp. The L.A. based classic harpist may be the oddball of the night due to the lack of sound, and the less than attentive crowd waiting for Black Lips and Iceage.
Bathroom and beer lines are at full capacity even as Black Lips embrace the stage. The crowd’s roaring before the band even plays a note which reminds me of how Chicago gets when they see local favorites Twin Peaks, and their performance emulates another form of Twin Peaks. Is it better and more enjoyable than the former? Debatable, but I’m not one to argue about indie rock or garage rock greatness. It’s enjoyable enough for me to pay attention to the flying bodies during their 2011 head banger “Family Tree” from the album Arabia Mountain. The last time I saw so many people willingly jump with excitement and scream along in unison might have been in a Chicago basement before I lived here, it’s a refreshing sight and assures that there will only be more exciting things to come tonight.
The Danish punks have arrived to deliver the best set of the night, maybe the best set ever at the House of Vans. They look as clean cut at their press pictures especially bassist Jakob Pless with his black and gold diamond encrusted jacket that you can see gleaming from any angle. Iceage begins their set with the leading track “Hurrah” from this year’s album Beyondless, the entrancing riffs gets the crowd moving just not as much as Black Lips nonetheless the performance is flawless, from vocalist Elias Rønnenfelt’s blissful voice, to Dan Nielsen’s faint but vibrant drumming that lingers behind the bands catchy wave of guitar riffs, and that’s only tonight’s first song.
After a series of songs from this year’s album we get two back to back tracks from the bands 2013 album, You’re Nothing with “Ecstasy” and “Morals,” two abrasive tracks that display the band’s earlier efforts to make a name for themselves. Every song has shown how tight they are on record and in person, they round off the night with “Beyondless” and “Catch It,” fans attempt to crowd surf over each other as the all try to scream along during, “Catch It” when Elias yells, “Come make me real, you reel in then you catch it, catch it, catch it, catch it, catch it.” There’s a swift exit and a swift reappearance by the band to play an encore that’s titled, “White Rune” from their first album in 2011 New Brigade. Another example of the bands catchy yet abrasive tone is perfect culmination of what the band has achieved over their career and most recent album. Iceage’s perfect performance made me a believer that even after being a band for 10 years anything is possible.
Photos by Daniel Boczarski