The House of Vans – May 12th | Photo by James North
The House of Vans, an indoor skate park nestled in the labyrinth of Waterloo’s arches, is celebrating 38 years of Fiction Records with a retrospective gallery of awards and photography. With a roster that has seen them release records by Tame Impala, HEALTH, The Maccabees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Guillemots, Death From Above 1979, Snow Patrol and Kate Nash, Fiction have a lot to shout about.
So for one night only, the House of Vans was taken over, as a line up of acts past and present, alongside photo booths, local brews and merchandise, all came together to show just why the label has been so successful.
Palace, who released their first EP only just over a year ago, kick things off, and show no signs of being phased by the already packed room. Led by frontman Leo Wyndham, the Tottenham four piece are tight and polished, with their bluesy and soothing ‘Veins’ and the instrumental crescendo of ‘Bitter’ in particular standing out.
The Big Moon are a big draw for many, and the evident delight with which they bounce off of one another and the crowd suggests a band that will win many over on the festival circuit. The foursome are captivating, riffing off the energy and bounding about the stage. Best of all, they back it up with great tunes. On record ‘Cupid’ has touches of hazy stripped back enchantment about it but live it’s all about the guitars. Buzzing with 90s grunge laden guitar pop they are polished but authentic, their playful zealousness infecting the tunes. ‘Sucker’ is a juggernaut, whilst ‘Sink’ could be an R&B summer pulse.
Let’s be honest, The Amazons are never going to win any awards for originality or talented musicianship, but for immediate hook heavy tunes that grab teenage skaters, they slot the vibe of Vans perfectly. Loud and bold, their most recent single ‘Junk Food Forever’ whips the receptive crowd into a frenzy.
A DJ set from Felix of The Maccabees keeps the crowd going until Crystal Castles are ready to take the stage, and a small straw poll of the audience suggests that many are here out of curiosity. Just how will Ethan Kath fare after the departure of the enigmatic Alice Glass, with whom he had a fraught but musically brilliant relationship? Gazing out into the audience, he and new vocalist Edith Frances certainly don’t hold back, and soon synths wash over the room as distorted bass thunders through the floor, and the House of Vans is taken through a relentlessly frantic and energetic set which includes ‘Frail’ and ‘Decide’, both of which will be on their upcoming album. Early favourite ‘Untrust Us’ becomes a disco anthem within the walls, ‘Baptism’ fires majestically, but it’s ‘Not In Love’ that really makes the audience rave. There’ll always be those with a yearning for the dynamic of yesteryear, but on tonight’s performance it’s clear that Crystal Castles will continue to thrive.
It would have been easy for tonight’s gig to have been a self-congratulatory smugfest, bland and potentially boring. It’s especially a risk when the audience is a combination of competition winners and industry folk. But Fiction Records proved at this party that they have the eye for talent, variety and killer tunes. As long as the music industry itself doesn’t implode before then, I bet on them being around another 30 odd years.