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House of Vans provides platform for local artists

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Skaters and music lovers alike flocked to a spacious warehouse in the West Loop Wednesday night and were met with booming speakers, cavernous echoes of rolling wheels on concrete and the clatters of skateboarding tricks gone wrong.

Blogger Ron Simonte partakes in the open skate at House of Vans | Camilla Forte

The night was part of an ongoing event hosted by House of Vans Chicago called SESSIONS — a series of nights of free skating, live music and good vibes from 6 to 10 p.m Wednesdays at 113 N. Elizabeth St.

Located in venues around the world, House of Vans is a cultural hub of imagination, creative expression, artistry and of course, shoes.

In addition to the music showcase, the venue also features an open lounge area, a photobooth, professional live mural painting and open skate park access. SESSIONS also provides complimentary pizza and free Goose Island beer for those over 21.  

The most recent House of Vans SESSIONS event in Chicago featured performances by Bad Jokes, F.A.B.L.E., Aaron Jasper and others.

Rocco Sabatino and Mitch Stout performing at House of Vans on March 13 | Camilla Forte

“We’ve never had anything like this,” said Bad Jokes bassist Rocco Sabatino. “We get to play in this super cool place in front of all these people who are into this s—.”

SESSIONS provides a larger platform for local underground artists to gain exposure, introducing their music to individuals who wouldn’t normally listen to it.

Bad Jokes was formed in 2016 and includes Columbia College Chicago students Sabatino and Dylan Fritz, and College of DuPage students Mitch Stout and Brendyn Wirtz.

“Fast punky-punk, that’s our official genre,” Sabatino said.

“Nostalgic throwback garbage,” Mitch Stout corrected.

Rapper Aaron Jasper shared Bad Jokes’ sentiment of gratitude for the event.  “It’s such a great opportunity, but not too many people know about it,” he said.  “You only hear about it by word-of-mouth.”

SESSIONS is also an event for Chicago’s active skateboarding community, providing them with a space to socialize while doing what they love.

Ron Simonte, an active skater and skateboard blogger, was first invited to the House of Vans two years ago by his connections in Chicago’s skateboarding community. Simonte said coming to the event is a good way to “chill with the homies” while skateboarding and enjoying free beer.

SESSIONS street canvas artist Shelby Rodeffer | Camilla Forte

Hired as a street canvas artist for SESSIONS, Shelby Rodeffer agreed that the free beer and pizza are major incentives. Rodeffer first painted a mural for House of Vans during their 312 Day in 2018.

Spectators said they were drawn to SESSIONS because of the ambiance and aesthetic.

“It’s good people watching, music and art. We always go to these kinds of things,” said Kiah Zellner-Smith, who came with friends seeking an indoor event to escape the cold Chicago winter.

Master of ceremonies Chris Horace, known as F.A.B.L.E., noted that the atmosphere was what drew him to the event.

“I like the inclusiveness,” Horace said. “It’s a pretty welcoming environment despite the hustle and bustle. It’s kind of like a mini city.”


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