Archive for December, 2012

1. Mark Suciu – “Cross Continental”

December 31, 2012

Mark Suciu seemed to lurk around every corner in 2012, roaming the map and riddling spots with very hard tricks before resurfacing every few weeks with yet another video clip, earning him favorable comparisons to Gucci Mane in his prime. In recent months Suciu has ripped downtown San Jose, Spain, the southern U.S., Philadelphia and most recently New York, finding a new way over the courthouse cliff en route to an Adidas paycheck. And this all came after setting off 2012 with a skateshop part that digs deep into a trove of well-worn spots to unearth some bar-lifting lines and certain yet-to-be-dones. Views can and will differ as to the tastefulness of frontside reverts out of backside noseblunts or frontside crooks, but Suciu proponents were handed piles of ammunition this year in favor of a rare talent that gets over without slavish retreads of coast-specific tricks on coast-specific spots, hands-off editing and (aside from a little wavy animation) no punchlines and no gimmicks when it comes to execution. Mark Suciu in the “Cross Continental” part shakes out a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks, including the little-seen switch frontside smith grind and an immaculate hardflip, and rolls below nighttime lights of skate capitals on both coasts as he composes a love letter to turn-of-the-century urban classics like “Photosynthesis” and “Ryde or Die Vol. 2” and possibly the first “EST.” It is rare that he passes up the chance to add a flip trick up a curb or a 180-out at the bottom of a bank, and he packs multiple variations on 360 flips and 360s into the same line, but it still doesn’t come off all egregious. I for sure watched this part more than any other one this year and maybe more than any other part in the last couple years, up there with Dylan Reider and Jake Donnelly.

2. Vincent Alvarez – “Hard Times But Good Times”

December 31, 2012

Lines are some dudes’ friends and a natural enemy to others, meaning that during the space between tricks you get to see the subject navigate the board, push, potentially tug at his trousers or swivel his shoes to get set up for the coming gap, ledge, rail or come what may. Vincent Alvarez is one of those dudes where a healthy chunk of the appeal is absent without the swerve of his trucks, like in the run here that starts with the switch bluntslide, or the switchstance slalom between the cars. Vincent Alvarez skates fast and loose and sometimes like he’s flailing to hang on, and some of these tricks here like the switch frontside bigspin wallride and the hasty follow after the nollie flip into the bank are presented with all their rough edges intact, backed by a meandering jazz tune. A lot of this footage reportedly is drawn from the years around when he got onto Chocolate and filming with buddies afterwards, and to me what elevates this part is how you can see that this is a dude running his own roster of tricks, zooming around some well-traveled labyrinth of alleyways and ditches, facing down traffic and big hills. It is one of the shortest eight-minute parts ever.

3. Marc Johnson – “Pretty Sweet”

December 29, 2012

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Arriving three quarters of the way through “Pretty Sweet,” Marc Johnson’s clean and fast opening lines sail through like a cleansing breeze after about an hour of heavy-handed editing and over-caffeinated cuts between three or four angles of the same trick. This part for me right now is far more enjoyable to put on than his “Fully Flared” opus, partly because it is a third of the runtime, and partly because Marc Johnson seems like he’s having more fun, though it sounds like some encroaching-deadline madness inevitably crept in. This dude has been steadily recording great video parts for almost 20 years and you respect his efforts to think up something new to bring each time out, but Marc Johnson is as watchable backside flipping benches and switch frontside flipping into banks as he is nollie backside heelflipping out of a frontside noseslide down a rail, or rolling away from that manual b/s 180 fakie manual, perhaps the best-conceived and for sure best-executed wheelie trick of the year. This dude can make a troublesome trick like the backside noseblunt backside 360 look fluid, the brick QP casper turned a lot of those endless flip- out iterations on their ear, and that fakie 5-0 on the guard-rail cruised like an expensive hovercraft.

4. Justin Figueroa – “Bake and Destroy”

December 28, 2012

No morning-after phone call lamenting any fiscal “gifts” that a David Gonzalez SOTY administration would ensure for High-Speed Productions and no signs of bitterness that the golden statue skated out of his grasp, Justin Figueroa nevertheless brought heat and a prematurely grizzled countenance to some rather crazy tricks in this Thrasher-backed Baker offering, including but not limited to an elongated version of Jamie Thomas’ crooked-grind barge down multiple kinks 10 years ago. Prowling streets and sidewalks and seeming to be only half-thinking of the next move, Justin Figueroa gets over a lot thanks to his switch backside prowess, displayed down a triple set and the Wilshire rails during their final days, alongside his sometimes ill-advised commitment to scary tricks like the frontside feeble revert and the switchstance hill bomb following the frontside kickflip. Jousting with the big rails and gaps suits a guy like this, looking like some barbarian warrior launching himself onto the back of a charging wooly mammoth and not always expecting to stay on.

A Brief Interruption To Our Annual Year-End Programming Because Anthony Pappalardo Gave This Rather Frank Interview On 48 Blocks Today

December 28, 2012

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It was a curious thing to observe the responses when, a couple weeks ago, you had in New Balance the umpteenth major-league footwear company announcing its late entry into the SB club. Time was, a couple pros would cobble together some investment group and foist upon the beleaguered consumership some new truck company or shoe company and be met with a round of harrumphs and annoyed sighs, whereas lately an entry one by one of the multinational shoe companies tends to get a subset of the culture atwitter over the prospect of being catered to with theoretically better technology and construction backing another vulcanized, low-top sneaker bearing a logo recognizable to principals, moms, the captain of the football team, etc.

Curiouser has been the justification offered up for backing new corporate competitors, usually centered on allegedly poor quality of the shoes manufactured under skater-owned outfits. When it comes to the extremely basic designs that have generally forced some equilibrium across the shoe landscape and the fixation on suede, canvas or leather as the material, quality seems like a red herring, but that may be just me. What seemed gnarly was a certain willingness (in some cases eagerness) to reject the “grassroots” players that, whatever their warts, are our own creations in favor of these larger and more powerful entities that until 10 years ago were not much thought of, except for some disdain when it came to various hamfisted efforts to push their products. At this point we part ways from veering into another circular referendum on Nike versus the Don’t Do It movement.

Now we have a telling from Anthony Pappalardo, to 48 Blocks, on how he was allegedly fucked over by Converse, which wooed him away from Lakai despite his apparent misgivings, made him a pro-model shoe and then abruptly shifted into some bare-knuckled contract fight that seems to have severely dented Pappalardo’s already fragile-sounding self-esteem. Some of the story as Pappalardo tells it is confusing — already barely making ends meet, the breakdown in talks with Converse saw him homeless within months and later selling scrap metal to survive, kind of like some 60-to-zero shift from “pro-skater-with-shoe-deal” status with no in-between option like seeking a different sponsor, moving in with friends or family, or getting a day job. Pappalardo describes a sort of catch-22 in which Converse is not supporting him, forcing him to hustle to survive, which makes him unable to skate, so Converse (and later Chocolate) doesn’t support him. It isn’t clear what happened to any royalties from his shoe model, which seem to have sold briskly, or why he stayed committed to this apparently abusive sponsorship arrangement, when several years earlier he quit Alien Workshop with no safety net whatsoever.

It seems like there’s several pieces missing from this whole story, and while resisting the game of diagnosing Anthony Pappalardo’s potential issues via an interview apparently pecked out on a mobile phone, you wonder about the other side of all this — during the time period in question Pappalardo was not exerting a Lil B-like flooding of the market with coverage and his career arc wouldn’t yet seem to afford him the coasting abilities of someone like a Fred Gall. But at a time when shoe companies like Es and Gravis have rolled out of the frame, not hearing out a dude like Pappalardo, even given these past few years of traipsing down a path toward his trick minimalism and urban recluse profile, against a giant corporate entity feels off in some way.

5. Cory Kennedy – “Pretty Sweet”

December 27, 2012

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Cory Kennedy projects a stony bro love for lakeshore living, jet-skis and macro brews, but watching his footage evolve over the years I think he really likes to watch Jake Johnson parts, and not just because he’s out there this year pushing his wallrides all over the place. Coming out of the Northwest Cory Kennedy has some grasp on grit and it was a pleasant surprise to see all the double-sided parking block twister tricks offset by crunchier fare like the fakie ollie out to backside 50-50, the hairy frontside k-grind and the fakie b/s nosegrind 180, moves that that also seemed calculated to combat all those backlit golden-boy profiling shots. He gets Love Park bonus points for the pop-up panel to the bench and in a video drenched with questionable ledge combos the crooked grind drop-down to switch frontside crooked grind ranks somewhere in the top ten. For these dudes like Cory Kennedy who can do it all it really comes down to what tricks go into their parts and there gets to be almost too many to list from this one, ranging from the switch bigspin to the fakie flip cracked backside over the handrail to the bigspin backside tailslide to fakie on the hubba to the nollie inward heelflip backside tailslide to fakie which, on paper, sounds terrible but became among the most-rewound tricks the first few passes through this video. The backside tailslide kickflip to backside tailslide remains zany.

6. Yaje Popson – “Outdated”

December 26, 2012

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The prospect of a full-length, sponsor-backed video section from Brazilian-pedigreed, New York-bred Yaje Popson has tantalized since he demonstrated board control and trick choices far outstripping his age in the Green Diamond video a few years ago, and given his quiet parting of ways with the Crailtap camp ahead of “Pretty Sweet” that wait seems destined to drag on. Two instances in 2012 served as stopover dumping grounds for footage of his frontside feeble grinds and switch backside lipslides, including one of the central pillars in JP Blair’s really awesome “Outdated” video that also delivered goods from Kevin Tierney, Brian Clarke and the pop-gifted, excitingly named Billy McFeely. Yaje Popson’s part reminds here of the mixtape-esque output of a post-“Mosaic” Danny Renaud, meaning sporadic and easy to miss if you aren’t out there looking for it, but super worthwhile. The switch b/s lipslide across the famed pyramid ledge is one of many highlights, along with a kinked-hubba backside tailslide and a perilous 50-50 transfer. We’ll see if any of the top-shelf tricks in his old Skateboarder interview make it into the planned “Dece Vid,” slated for a January release, and a reported migration to Brazil casts further uncertainty on his boarding future, but meanwhile the stuff from a separate ”Strange Notes” clip last summer is nearly as good as the “Outdated” part.

7. Rory Milanes – “City of Rats”

December 25, 2012

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In a tumultuous year for British skating, what with the mass exodus of the Blueprint roster and international monetary policymakers airing concerns around a potentially destabilizing bubble in Palace-branded asset prices, it fell to London stalwarts Slam City Skates to re-center the 2012 scene and Rory Milanes to deliver the closing argument. Rory Milanes did one of the best parts in 2010’s “This Time Tomorrow” and steps up here in decidedly U.K. fashion, kickflipping brick channels and wearing stripedy sweaters to properly downbeat music and overcast skies. Straight off the bat he spins a nollie twister across a street gap, skates some high ledges, has a beauty of a switch backside kickflip, full command of the frontside 180 fakie manual/5-0 and a danger poke over the final bump-to-bar. For me this section took a little while to sink in, given Rory Milanes’ tricks don’t hit with the bombast of a Chewy Cannon, but I think he comes in as a solid bridge to some of the best skating of the now-closed Blueprint chapter.

8. Stevie Williams – “Parental Advisory”

December 24, 2012

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Stevie Williams to me never really exuded rap-star decadence, but maybe I’m looking at it all wrong — here he is, tapping spots across three continents for a relatively slim three-minute part, stopping through the old Philadelphia stomping grounds because he knows how a far a couple tossed-off tricks will carry. It seems like Stevie Williams isn’t regularly mentioned among the all-time style slayers, even though his old Chocolate commercial inevitably bubbles up in any meaningful discussion of the best lines ever done, but his first run through the Barcelona blocks here reminds of a gap when he’s not out skating. The fakie hardflip, white tees, waist-high switch frontside noseslides and switch heelflips remain in effect but he still seems to be making an effort when it comes to clips like the switch front blunt and the switch varial flip nosegrind revert (a new spin on one of the all-time Lockwood classics). He keeps his ledge combos Satva and Lucas tasteful and finds a couple angles on the MACBA ledges that I haven’t seen before. Between the show-closer status, heavy Jay-Z tune and his first full part in years Stevie Williams sorta has this section tracking towards a ‘moment’ but does himself a favor by not overextending it toward the five-minute/two-song zone, whether by judicious editing or lack of actual tricks filmed.

9. Fabian Alomar – “Free Fabes”

December 23, 2012

Whatever happened with the DGK video and the fortunes to be gained and lost peddling this generation’s version of the FUCT t-shirt line to rap singers and their suburban admirers, Stevie Williams cemented his position as a skate mogul by using his clout to help put out a video part that a certain segment of the populace had been waiting on for 15 years — a feat that apparently had eluded Kareem Campbell, Steve Rocco, Patrick O’Dell and possibly others. The continued fetishization of mid-90s attitudes and filming equipments can’t recreate the fit of the jeans or the sound of a k-grind across the Venice pit ledges, and Fabian Alomar’s nollie backside flip over the sand gap, the line at the white planters and the tricks off the bump at the end could have run in any of the greatest videos of that era. Tough luck that it took a personal tragedy for this footage to see the light of day, but it would be testing fate to overlook a gift pony internet sites such as this one have been requesting from Santa Claus for so long. DGK’s “Free Fabes” website is here.


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