From Tierra Whack to Phantogram, the House of Vans pop-up brings a vibrant lineup to a 2nd Street warehouse
This past weekend, House of Vans transformed a warehouse on 2nd Street into a center of arts and culture, featuring performances from local and distant artists, an impromptu skate park, and several art installations and workshops. The result was a four-day festival of creativity and counterculture under the sphere of Vans, the popular skate brand.
Opening night one was Orion Sun, the Jersey-born, Philly-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Majette. Although mostly locally known, her set that night proved worthy to share the stage with a big name like Tierra Whack. Her soulful voice was in stark contrast with the clatter of the skateboards just in the next room over, but by no means unwelcome. Situated on a nearly empty stage save for a DJ booth in the way back, Majette captivated the audience with smooth beats and lyrics as sweet as ice cream.
House of Vans veterans Hop Along took the stage next, kicking off with “The Fox in Motion,” off their 2018 album Bark Your Head Off, Dog. From there, it was all hits and no filler, as it were. The Philly four-piece ran through the best of their last two albums, including “Somewhere a Judge” and “Waitress” before their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” now a must-listen for fans of either band, Quinlan’s voice lending the song a renewed sincerity. Their set never lost energy, however, and continued through performances of “The Knock” and “Prior Things,” both with stellar extended outros, until arriving on “Well-dressed” off of 2015’s Painted Shut, which featured brilliantly a transition directly into the chorus of The Cranberry’s “Zombie,” which, although also performed at their set at the Make The World Better Foundation concert, was nonetheless a blissful homage.
Closing out night one was headliner Tierra Whack, a Philly favorite and Made In America alum. Given her notoriety, the audience’s high expectations were met gleefully. Whack entered quietly, but to massive applause, launching into a high-energy set that included a front-to-back (with some tangents) performance her 2018 critically-acclaimed album Whack World. The EP is made up of short, sweet tracks, eclectically presented, and it sat well alongside Whack’s more recent, more fleshed-out fare like “Only Child” and “Wasteland.” Whack was at peak energy, strutting across the stage while spitting with confidence and flair. At one point, she stopped the concert to bring on a special guest, revealed not to be the handsome man stepping on stage, but the turtle he’s holding, Whack’s son Boots.
This would later turn out to be a night of special guests, although latter two would be somewhat impromptu, Whack inviting any local rappers in the audience to join her on stage, both given a minute to freestyle a capella. Although the first had appeared somewhat thrown by the lack of beats, both rose to the challenge of impressing Whack. Whack closed out the set quickly, the entire pop-up closing around 11, but kept the crowd engaged throughout her limited time, leaping in at one point, standing on a speaker at side-stage another. When she closed out, she stayed on stage and took shoes from fans (mostly Vans) to sign, for those who had missed her earlier shoe-signing stand.
NON-COMM alums Y La Bamba opened night two, the Portland-based group fronted by Luz Elena Mendoza. The bilingual group switched between Spanish and English on a dime, all while mixing common indie tropes with Latin percussion and guitars that could only be found on the West Coast, somewhere between tinny and colorful. With Y La Bamba’s electric chemistry on stage, the early audience may have found a new favorite band.
Following was Channel Tres, the engimatic Compton-based producer, who brought not only himself and his DJ, but also two dancers to accompany, Tres himself often participating in the choreography. Although his studio recordings generally feature Tres’ voice understated and on the lower register, his set was more high-octane and frenetic, especially considering the active and at times acrobatic movement involved. Incorporating house beats that gave off a DIY-vibe not unlike that of Yaeji, he countered with calls to the audience to dance and sing alongside on songs like “Black Moses” and “Controller.” The audience responded in turn with plenty of excitement towards the captivating artist.
Although Channel Tres’ set was enough to take up the whole night, Phantogram had to follow up that powerhouse performance. They entered to a dark stage, appropriately, to launch into their song “Black Out Days.” Their music was a surprisingly dark turn to the night, not only in their lighting but also the songs’ grittiness, characterized by heavily-distorted guitar from Josh Carter and vocals from Sarah Barthel, with some electronic accompaniment. Although both band leaders were clearly engaged in the music and their performance, both making their own space on stage and giving it their all, the tone felt off from the preceding acts, both somewhat more poppy than Phantogram’s more intense music.
Regardless, Phantogram gave a more active performance than most established artists like them, and those in the audience who had clearly made their way out to the warehouse solely for this band responded in kind. Although tonally mismatched the rest of the lineup, they felt right at home for the House of Vans pop-up, and still felt that their set was cut all too short with an early wrap time. Exiting the pop-up, it felt as though leaving a small universe, precisely curated by Vans, filled with tropes of rebellion within the comfort of the corporate banner, but nevertheless an exciting conference of artists and fans all under one roof.