Jamila Woods at House Of Vans 8/14/2017


House Of Vans in Chicago has been putting on great shows all summer long. Everyone from Digable Planets and Joey Purp to Royal Headache and Sheer Mag (still mad I missed this one). All of them free. Last night was the first time I could actually make it out to a show there, and I’m glad it was for the “LSD” video release party. Jamila Woods has been a fantastic Chicago singer/songwriter for a long while now, and I’m hoping she breaks out soon.

The venue is pretty cool, with skateboards adorning the bar and little ramps and rails scattered about for their regular skate events. It was hot as Hell in there last night with the crowd of people and sandwiched in together. They had a Harold’s Fried Chicken truck parked out back for their food offering. The line was ridiculous for a while, but they seemed to be doing a good job of keeping up with demand.

Fellow Chicago artist Kaina opened up the show with a great set that I found a bit surprising. I live in Chicago. I write about music in Chicago. Yet I had never heard of her. And a lot of the people in the crowd were singing along to her songs, so she obviously has a following. She was really good and smiled so much I thought maybe she was trying to challenge Jamila Woods to see who could show more teeth (spoiler alert: don’t get into a smiling contest with Jamila Woods-you will lose).


In between and beforehand they had DJ’s playing music. The first one made sense because there was an hour between doors and when the show was supposed to start (actually kicked off about ten minutes early). The second time the DJ only got to play for about ten minutes, which seemed like a waste.

After the second DJ set Jamila came out with Vincent Martell and Sam Bailey to announce the runners-up and winner of the competition they held to be assistant director on the “LSD” video. The trio seemed just as happy as the contestants as they walked across the stage after their names were read. The winner, Ashley Huicochea, not only got to be on set, she also won a Canon 7D and a bunch of other swag, including a year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud (they all received this subscription, and I have it and it’s great if you’re making films or editing photos).


Then they showed the finished product, which came out really good. Jamila continues her obsession with being in the water, and it shows a more neighborhood-centric view of Chicago.

The evening ended with a performance by Jamila Woods and her backing band. This was my third time seeing her perform, and she’s better every time. As her crowds have got bigger, so has her drive for excellence. At Pitchfork she played in front of (maybe) eight to ten thousand people when she got moved to the Green stage after The Avalanches had to cancel due to a family emergency. It was a great opportunity for her, and she capitalized with one of the best performances of the fest.

The crowd was much smaller inside House Of Vans, though it felt big when you’re shoulder to shoulder for a couple hours. Still, Jamila came out with everything she has. I think her most powerful weapon is her restraint. Where other singers might reach for a higher octave to knock your socks off, she’ll let a lyric linger and let you think about it. Something like that tells the audience that you respect them enough to not fool them with tricks, and as a concert goer I appreciate that.


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