Not sure how many folks celebrate or even remember Black Label’s Jim Gagne, a blue collar street-and-transition man known to pack a keg into the back of a truck to ratchet up the awesome factor in a given session. Don’t necessarily recall tricks in particular but the dude always got a thumbs up on general principle because of how he saw and embraced his “small-town mentality,” as per an old interview in Thrasher that detailed the keg scenario. It was not on the level of a Fred Gall interview but pretty close.
Around that same time Josh Kalis was gathering momentum for what would be a decade-long run of pretty much unparalleled video/photo coverage, arguably peaking with the “Photosynthesis” video section, pretty much every trick difficult and snappy and done well at eye-pleasing spots and sometimes in swishy pants. Like the coyote or famous zebra mussel he has proven able to acclimate to and thrive in the most metro of zones across New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Barcelona, as detailed in mostly chronological year-order over a recent “Epicly Laterd” broadcast. Probably you wouldn’t call 200,000-person Grand Rapids, MI a one-horse town but by comparison you maybe wonder if Kalis is on some level the same sort of small-town sentimental type as Jim Gagne.
Case in point, the sepia toned recollections of Love Park days gone by in the “Laterd” and revelations of how Kalis has since chased the meetup-spot vibe to other venues with what sound like gradually diminishing results. In the Toy Machine Thrasher that’s out now he discusses the Embarcadero era.
When you watch a video part with those guys, you see them slapping fives with everyone and having fun. I loved that time when you could just be all together at a spot, egging each other on. Everyone’s feeding off each other. Nobody wants to punk out, ’cause their friends over here might make fun of them. I like that stuff.
Kalis believes the organic vibe of a session bleeds through into whatever photos or footage wind up getting produced in between the smoked cigarettes and cracked jokes and musings on theoretical physics traded with local hobos. As per the “Laterd,” Kalis values honesty both in terms of how tricks come to pass and what’s presented in any finished product, opting to put forth the last year’s travels and daily routines as opposed to stacking DV tapes in a garage somewheres.
Kinda worried about Kalis, not because this all isn’t a worthy effort that other dudes could/maybe should follow. Concerned though that we’re seeing a cowboy slowly fenced in. Hassles from the man plus proliferation of skateparks times glorification of private warehouse training facilities makes me wonder how many organic scene/spots are bound to be left in five/ten/forty years, if Kalis is holding to the phantom of a dying vibe or some equally chilling concept. Wonder if the torch he’s carrying is going out, or turning into a plastic flashlight, or maybe even a more bizarre and ominous analogy like it’s actually the headlamp of an oncoming train and the Mayans were right and we shouldn’t really be worrying about any of this.
Sorta related to all this, wonder whether the question Kalis raises with regard to what footage inspires him (or vice versa) points back to all those dudes occupying benches and taking mounting hardware off broken boards and rolling joints in the handful of seconds before or after a trick goes down on the screen–like whether a video clip’s improved by its background noise, the suggestion of good times being had in the sun at some ledges around the corner and how it plays off all the potential inside the deck/trucks/wheels setup and even the street in front of your house. Stopping here before we hit Marc Johnson in “Operandi” mode.