A couple weeks ago, I went to a concert. Examinations show, however, no bruises. That’s because I never even left my house. Apparently Vans does house parties too. Over the summer, the skateboard and apparel company put together free concerts in Brooklyn. For those of us not being able to get in or live too far away, never fear: just watch the webcast of the live show like the other 3,000 did that night. Now obviously this isn’t the first live broadcasted concert (YouTube or television frequently does), but it never ceases to amaze how insane technology is or how crystal clear the sound quality is.
At the last show Jacob Bannon, the singer of Converge, said something worth noting. “Here’s the thing- people have been down on records and killing the music community for 10 years. I’m also a guilty party and I think we all are who are music lovers. But it’s fucking awesome to see a company that’s actually been supporting music for many many years. There are still a lot of bullshit car companies still trying to approach this community and Vans has always stuck by all of us,” he said.
Bannon’s right: Vans always has. As a company that has been supporting Warped Tour for nearly its entire run, they have seen it all (i.e. how great The Millionaires were) and still gave this music scene a shot. Maybe it’s defined as a second chance better (or a third, fourth…). Franz Nicolay once wrote, “The only meaningful relationship is the one between you and the handful of strangers you’re trying to convince (at bare minimum) to not walk out of the room while you’re playing.”
For some reason, punk = skateboarding. Perhaps it’s the only genre to have a sport associated with it, with the exception of ’60s Beach Boys surf rock. We all know how that ended. Back to Warped Tour though: tours are incredibly expensive. Festivals wouldn’t even happen without some sort of sponsorship. Today, as bands make about one dollar or less for every record they sell physically or digitally, can you blame them?
So let’s dispel the potential rumor of this editorial: this is not a “guess who is a sellout?” piece. The definition of selling out is doing something for someone else, not you. Meaning a band makes a record for “the man” that has little to do with the musician’s actual taste.
Look, sometimes MTV (or, Lucifer, as we prefer) does buy into the wrong product. But how wrong can they be when compared to the Billboard charts? Sure, Kanye West is a train wreck, but people can’t stop talking about him. Similarly, the only reason Vans stays is because WE allow them to. Fans completely call the shots. As Android uses Fake Problems’ song “Soulless” in commercials, you could pick a million more examples of bands featured in advertisements that might “Apple Effect” their sales. Truth be told by Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins when he says, “Do you think that paycheck is in any way a slight to their integrity?”
But, is Bannon correct about the “bullshit car companies?” Most of the crowd thought it was a direct stab at Scion, but they aren’t alone. Kia Motors markets the Soul to Warped Tour attendees. Then there’s the Honda Civic Tour, which this year features Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance. Knowing even just a smidge about marketing, it makes sense: young people buy cars and these cars have an “alternative” edge. However, using cars isn’t the key to a car company’s failure in the music scene. It’s the fact people buy whatever they can afford. At this point that’s a duh– people rarely pay for music these days as well. So don’t wonder why there are sponsors now.
If it’s one company with success, Vans isn’t alone. Macbeth has artist-made shoes (get me a pair of those Anthony Green ones). Hurley has been involved with Bamboozle as a stage sponsor. Converse does the “Three Artists, One Song” series.
In the end, what’s going on here is a clear obsession with shoes (a phenomena that has yet to be explained). Like the old NOFX record, say “So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes.” See you next year.