Nas, Questlove, Vans 50th Anniversary - #Since66
Nas, Questlove, Vans 50th Anniversary - #Since66 Photo by Kenny St. George for Okayplayer

Kicks Since '66: NaS + More Celebrate Vans 50th B-Day [Photos + Recap]

Photos by Kenny St. George for Okayplayer

For the lifestyle and culture of Vans, becoming a cultural force in the worlds of skateboarding, surfing, BMX-ing, snowboarding and motocross is all but deserving of a swanky celebration.

Upon the dreary streets of a rain-drenched Brooklyn, New York, hundreds of people were looking to revel in #Since66, the milestone year where Vans celebrated its 50th year anniversary. Having carved out a souped-up indoor / outdoor space called “The House of Vans” in a nook of the borough’s Greenpoint neighborhood, a literal stage was set for an enjoyable night for all whom attended. With free goods, complimentary eats, adult beverages and a live performance from the legendary Queensbridge MC, Nas.

The house of Vans had a carnival-type atmosphere to it, complete with a “bring-your-own-ride” clause. Those in attendance were skaters, music fans, members of the press and all were fully integrated regardless of class or proposed level of “cool.” Each installation brought in droves of people, but none like the opportunity to receive free customized shoes. (Free kicks are a rarity, and 500 lucky people had a chance to get a pair.) Then there was the food: brick-oven pizza supplied by Bushwick, Brooklyn pizzeria staple, Roberta’s; waffles with all of the fixings and burger sliders.

And there was beer, plenty of beer for all… who were of legal drinking age.

With the blessings of nourishment and libations fueling much of the crowd, opening act Yeasayer undoubtedly gained extra fans — a combination of their set list and the comedic flair of lead vocalist Chris Keating, masterfully making the crowd comfortable with jokes during transitions. A high point came with their second-ever performance of “Silly Me,” a poppy deviation from the group’s alt-psychedelic sound. Though still effective in its lyrics, tone and pacing — the song can be found on their 2016 album, Amen & Goodbye.

Questlove was slated to DJ the event, but was ultimately a no-show [Ed. Note: Questlove's father passed away.], though the crowd didn’t seem to mind more time with Nas. Despite the event’s Kings County digs, the crisp night air evoked the strong spirit of the Queensbridge Houses thanks to Esco, who was joined on-stage by neighborhood mate Capone of Capone-N-Noreaga fame. As Nasir’s day-one homies posted in the background, mouthing Nas’ nuanced lyrics, the legend, sporting a sweatsuit and a fade etched with a barber’s preciseness, performed all of the classics: “One Love,” “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” Hate Me Now,” “N.Y. State of Mind,” etc.

In-between the performances, Steve Van Doren, who inherited the Vans company from his father, Paul Van Doren, shared a few words of appreciation to the crowd. Accompanied by skate legend, Tony Alva, everyone was gushing from the thanks and well-wishes for supporting the brand for 50 years.

Chris Thomas is a Morehouse-educated, Brooklyn-based freelance writer with bylines at Slant News and Hip-Hop Wired. Follow him (and us!) on Twitter @ChrisThomas266!