House of Vans put on another killer free show at their Brooklyn warehouse-turned skate park and live venue in Brooklyn with lots of free beer, cool swag, tasty food trucks, and, of course, lots of the best of bands in the emerging rock scene. This show proved to be a collection of artists that have all fused classic genres and sounds together to make beautifully original music.
First, there was the explosive political punk outfit from Providence called the Downtown Boys, who could easily and masterfully headline a show of this type. They have a sound so wild they could be described as an unlikely mixture of Bruce Springsteen, Bikini Kill, War, James Brown, and Los Lobos. I still remember seeing them set up for a show the first time a few years back and thinking they might be a funk or jazz fusion band after seeing the horn section and all. Actually they are funky and jazzy, in a way, but they are also a combination of so much more, and yet, they are very much their own. Every time I see them live, I get swept up in their molten eruption of fuming anarchy that sets ablaze every stage I’ve seen them play. They own the role of angels, demons, and agents of change like no other band out there right now. Their rallying against political injustice and social inequality proves to be just what the music scene needs in this dark age of Trumpism, and they hoist the flag of uprising proudly and loudly to bring together all the people to rise against the powers that be. Their revolutionary message is roared forth to the masses by the ferocious wails of bilingual singer Victoria Ruiz, and backed in the struggle by an always-sizable cast of players whose madness seems directed by the always steady hands of Joey La Neve DeFrancesco who is the guitarist, vocalist, and ringmaster of this activist circus. Their set may have started off innocently enough by singing “Happy Birthday to You” to their sax player, but soon they were rallying the troops for many a great cause, from support for net neutrality to exclaiming that we need a jihad (in the truest definition of it being a struggle) on the corrupt powers that be. Their new album is aptly entitled Cost of Living, which I already feel is even better than their last, which is an impressive feat indeed.
After that came another firestorm of a band called Sheer Mag, a Philly punk band that shirks conventional commercialism (like having very little social media presence) while still searching far into the past of rock to produce a classic rock sound akin to greats like Thin Lizzy, Buzzcocks, X, and plenty more. They thunder from the skies with epic guitar riffs that would make AC/DC cower at their feet, and plow through your soul with bass riffs that would make CCR cry in the corner. They roar loud about inequality and societal oppression as well, although their bent is slightly less political and more in the social realms of fighting against the likes of sexual objectification, derisive misogyny, and homophobia. They manage to strip the cheesy arena rock out of the retro-Zeppelin sounds they cultivate, and they serve it raw and juicy again, which is no small feat. Singer Tina Halladay makes each song her own, with a depth and power unmatched in modern music. They just released their first full length album Need to Feel Your Love, and it should be required listening to all those looking for that great new sound while also slipping into that rocking retro comfy chair.
The Australian punk band Royal Headache headlined the night, and they too kept me thinking, “Have I heard this one before? I know I have!” They also definitely had a very familiar sound of many great classic artists melded into a very modern one, although this band has its eye on bringing back the classic late 70’s British punk style and attitude. Yet, they aren’t just Sex Pistols and Clash revivalists, as there was clearly some early Joy Division and The Fall in there, as well as touches of British indiepop, like The Wedding Present and Teenage Fanclub. The lead singer Shogun brings an exhausting, sweaty, frantic energy to the songs to the point of it almost being anxiety-inducing as he swirls around the stage in a state. Their songs are way too catchy and full of power they almost burst in your mouth like candy. There is plenty of inner-turmoil with this band, and they let it all out on stage. It all leaves you sweaty, beat, shattered, and yet, still wanting more, which is exactly how you’d want a headlining act to end a show.
Article: Dean Keim