Review: Vans House Parties Caps Off the Summer with Wolf Parade, Torres, and Lala Lala

In a world of typical venues where the mode of operations is as simple as stand, drink, and wait for the band, House of Vans has been doing something different. Better and special, I would dare say. A mix of skate-park, concert venue, and art gallery, House of Vans has been putting on some of the most entertaining shows of the year thanks to well curated lineups and an area where you don't just have to stand/drink/wait (although the free beer could coax you into that mode), you can explore. Find the room filled with bean bags and chill as a trippy art installation plays, go outside and have a taco, sit up on one of the ramps, snag some freebees, and take selfies all over the interesting walls full of cool designs. And once the music starts, attention shifts to the bands and you can't help but bask in the greatness of the venue. Last Wednesday marked the final night of this summer's Vans House Parties and they made sure it was one to remember with Lala Lala, Torres, and Wolf Parade! Lillie West's Lala Lala started things off with a pretty energetic set. Having seen the Chicago-based band open for Courtney Barnett recently, I was incredibly excited to see them again. West's songs have an instantly enjoyable quality to them, making you want to listen to their sharp lyricism about vulnerability over and over again. "Destroyer" in particular churns with darkness as West evokes violent imagery and screams out a chorus of “You are the reason my heart broke behind my back!” There is a sense of catharsis in West's performances, getting all these feelings out to tunes that hit you in the right spot every time. Torres followed with a completely entrancing set that underlines Mackenzie Scott's incredible talent. On her records there is grace and elegance imbued throughout her songs, but a heavy dose of fierceness gets added in her live performance that sends them to into mesmerizing heights. Scott started things off strong with "Skim, "New Skin" (which feels all the more apt and powerful considering her feelings toward being dropped from her label), and "Sprinter." These songs are so tight and commanding that, when coupled with her naturally absorbing stage presence full of determined looks and powerful guitar playing, made for a show-stealing performance. The rest of her set, which featured a shortened "Three Futures" that led right into "Righteous Woman", somehow managed to keep up her intensity. Despite a six year or so hiatus, Wolf Parade reunited last year and this show definitely proved that they haven't lost a step. The band emerged to overtly excited fans, but nothing could have prepared them for the start of the set. A familiar rhythm of cymbal clangs and drum blasts from Arlen Thompson rumbled House of Vans. They were quickly met by Dante Decaro and Dan Boeckner's guitars and Spencer Krug's ringing keys and undeniably unique voice belted out "I got a number on me, I've got a number!" "You Are A Runner and I am My Father's Son" soared through the crowd and started off an explosive rock set. With a set list that spanned their four full length albums, Wolf Parade looked and sounded determined to give a roaring performance. They put an understandable emphasis on their debut "Apologies to the Queen Mary", digging deep into those now classic songs. "Grounds For Divorce" had all the flair of Krug's voice while "Shine a Light" saw Boeckner attacking his guitar with the ferocity you'd expect from him.Wolf Parade finished their set with "I'll Believe in Anything" before returning for a three song encore of  "Lazarus Online", "Modern World" and "Kissing the Beehive", leaving the audience of this year's final night of Vans House Parties with a memorable show. The Vans House Parties summer series may be over, but you should keep an eye out for the myriad of events House of Vans hosts.  Keep up to date at their website and really make an effort to experience this amazing venue.
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Julian Ramirez