Archive for May, 2009

Kill Yo Self

May 31, 2009


Third time’s the charge

If the rumors are true then I guess this weekend may go down as skateboarding’s parting barrage at SF’s Wallenberg Alternative High School, as officials stand poised to expand the Bulldogs’ kennels down the hallowed four-step, and dash the dreams of gap-minded amateur skateboarders (and razor scooterers, for what it’s worth). Trailblazers Gonz, Bucchieri, Gerwer and Manfre have secured spots in whatever history books keep track of this stuff, and in the end Chris Cole will probably be remembered as the big boss of the Berg, what with his tre-flip vengeance tale and the nonchalance with which he put down the big tricks yesterday. I was kind of shocked he didn’t bring out the switch frontside heelflip, but with all the nonsense exploding down the steps and out of Phelps’ megaphone, probably I would’ve sat down after one switch frontside flip trick too.

But Chris Cole’s quick-draw makes aside, the winner of this weekend’s big-jump hoedown was for sure skateboarding’s schnozzed-out seventh son of a seventh son known as Lizard “Mike Plumb” King. Not so much because he landed more tricks than anybody, which he did, but because he spent his 15 or so minutes in the SF air executing some grade-A dork material… and while it would probably be a stretch to hold up a world record backside 180 one-footer as high-level commentary on the whole get-tricks-or-die-trying affair, it added an amazing unpredictable gonzo element to an event so packed with hungry strivers and messageboard mavens checking off boxes on “most likely to be landed” spreadsheets.

Now, some persons may find the slobbering pursuit of NBD’s that this type of contest produces rather gauche for understandable reasons, and Jake Phelps has taken plenty of heat in the last 24 hours for the way he seemed to relish axing dudes and dashing poor Neil Smith’s nollie heelflip hopes. But fair’s fair and hand it to Thrasher for moving the best-trick format forward, and in the process creating one of the few contests that actual people who ride skateboards care about… another being the Berrics game of skate, which you could say has improved upon the don’t-fall-off-your-board-for-60-seconds format. Whereas the Berrics’ warehouse floor democratizes professional skateboarding competitions, Phelps & Co. have successfully set up camp on the other end of the spectrum with shit like the Wallenberg contests, Slaughter at the Opera and so on, don’t-try-this-at-home affairs where, yeah, there’s money, but a shot at a piece of history too.

There’s an argument that packing 11 groundbreaking tricks into one banner-splashed, frenetic afternoon cheapens what it is to do a trick down the Wallenberg stairs, which I can see, but then I think about the legendary Hubba Hideout. In its nth liberation you had dudes flying out to camp there twenty-four hours a day, and yeah it was cool to see Carroll schralp it on the cover of TSM for all the obvious reasons, but that came amid a million web clips, and even legitimately gnarly stuff like Matt Miller’s nollie noseblunt were eventually relegated to the last 60 seconds in that summer’s TWS vid. So, Wallenbergers, get it if you can, while it’s there, make it count, etc etc.

And if there was a best trick yesterday, I think Lindsey Robertson did it. Wow.

The Spirit of Competition

May 29, 2009


“show you how to hustle”

When you watch this video of Dennis Busenitz at the Adidas Skateboard Clash contest in Berlin and you see:
-the quick set-up switch backside 50-50 (0:30)
-the hip ollie, frontside ollie on the vert wall (1:20)
-smith grind up the little rail/backside lipslide on the slant box/etc line (2:09)
-backside 50-50 up the hubba (3:00), and
-the surprise finishing move (3:30)

Do you:
A. Wonder who else might have possibly won this contest?
B. Already know it was aside-from-Stevie-Ray-Vaughn-tattoo-looks-and-skates-like-he-did-when-he-was-16 Bastien Salabanzi?
C. Ponder how Dennis Busenitz has banked street cred and power-speed skating to such an extent that he has become revered alongside skate message board dieties Bobby Puleo, Julien Stranger and Gino Iannucci?
D. Wonder what Jereme Rogers was doing at the time?

Eli, It’s Real Velour… Let Yourself Go

May 25, 2009


Sweat/Suit

Not to be overlooked amongst recent video productions endorsed by Paul Rodriguez and Jereme Rogers are efforts to identify and elevate next generations of possible pro-level kids, in the process allowing some semi-established types to re-frame their whole deals and possibly help bust out of the dreaded man-am ranks, types such as one-time World warrior Jason Wakuzawa and former velour tracksuit proponent Eli Reed.

Reed along with Pudwill had one of the hotter sections in the ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ vid, his relocation to Southern California apparently helping him develop oodles of crazy switchstance tricks that I personally had no idea he could do (or anybody else either when it came to the Flushing Meadows switch ollie). But, it looks like that part may be a warmup to still yet further bonkers shit in Zoo York’s “State of Mind” video, if Eli Reed’s entry in the Berrics’ venerable “Bangin” series last week is to be believed. All manner of crazy tricks in there — he seems to have learned a bunch of transition stuff in addition to taking some of his older moves, turning them around and doing them down hubbas — and I sorta dig the fact that his switch stuff looks switch, if that makes sense. Meanwhile my personal jury is still out on whether the navy Dickies top the sweat suit.

Burden of Proof

May 23, 2009


You know, they could’ve called this video “The Storm II”

There is a theory that little kids who come out of nowhere with legitimately amazing skateboard skills are more prone to suffer haterism because, to some observers, they cheapen what it is to have that level of control and power over their board — see the respective arrivals of Danny Way, Willy Santos, Bastien Salabanzi, Paul Rodriguez, there’s probably lots of examples. There’s something about seeing a veteran like Eric Koston or Heath Kirchart backside noseblunt a handrail when nobody’s ever done it before, but when four months later some shortcakes am from a flyovoer state comes along and does it, some of the gravitas is sapped from the situation, for better or worse.

That’s not so much the issue with “Proof,” the heir apparent to the Paul Rodriguez-helmed “Forecast” video from a few years back that introduced the world to Ronson Lambert, Nick McLouth and Mike “Boss Stooge” Capaldi. Mostly it’s a case of a lot super-hard tricks that begin to blur together, plus some pretty abysmal music that continues the Ty Evans tradition of lifting from whatever was on Pitchfork’s BNM a year ago.

Nate Principato gets set up for the Mike Mo spot and fittingly does a lot of the same sort of tricks, i.e. hardflips, switch heelflips, et cetera, sometimes looking like somebody stuck Chris Cole’s head on a Sk8Mafia body. He gives the new edition of the Med Choice gap a workout and has some good tricks, like a different-looking ‘forward flip’ and a switch frontside 360, and there is a little kid one-two punch of Stevie Perez and Gatorade phenom Chaz Ortiz, taking his Dew Tour skills to the streets with predictable results, and a last trick that may have Gailea Momolu contemplating a summer contest circuit comeback.

Pivot-happy German S.K.A.T.E. threat Alex Mizurov pops up in the montage, representing the white-hat look, alongside Theotis Beasely, Moose and the amazing Marquis Preston who I really wish would’ve had a part in this. Also magic-footed half-pint Mark Suciu, bizarrely tech and one of the few little kids I’d actually like to see more of in this or any video.

“Proof” picks up with Josh Grossguth, who loves manuals, sags his pants and has a kind of an unshowered weed-dealer style; this part makes one want to do crooked grinds, and it leads into Keelan Dadd, who does great DGK tricks like frontside flip nosegrind reverts and great non-DGK tricks like 50-50ing this rail to a big drop. Awesome parts also from Sammy Baptista and Darrell Stanton as well, which depressed me for reasons entirely separate from the skating–Baptisa rips in a Venture “Awake” shirt and continues to make the case for his ultimate goofy-ness whereas Stanton rifles through nolle frontside noseslides and backside noseblunts that could’ve come out of “Free Your Mind.” Mostly I got bummed thinking of how these dudes are the ‘old dudes’ in this video.

My own fast-approaching senility aside, right after Terell Robinson kickflip lipslides a big rail to an amazingly wimpy song that Jamie Thomas never would’ve approved, Torey Pudwill shares another MGMT-powered part with Justin Schulte and another dude. With all the techery and poofy haircuts it’s kind of hard to tell who’s who at certain times, but aside from a backside tailslide bigspin across that long kinked ledge, Pudwill brings most of the highlights: tall b/s tail on the winder ledge, high jump to backside smith grind, feeble kickflip out, then looking to knock MJ out the box with a closer trick that rivals some of Joey Brezinski’s longest-named moves. That ledge has to be caked with at least an inch of wax and urethane at this point.

Hey, Leo Romero Also Is Back On His Bullshit

May 20, 2009


Shoot the gun

So this RVCA promo: basically it’s what you would expect, a load of longhairs in tight pants and red shoes, banks, jangly guitars, 5-0s and so on. It’s kind of less interesting as a concept than the company itself, as what with rappers wearing RVCA hats (possibly in the XXL with Rick Ross) which made me wonder if RVCA is maybe far deeper in terms of, you know, cultural reach than previously suspected. Regardless Nestor Judkins has some really great tricks here, if that’s him hopping up on the backside lipslide and jumping the handrail into the bank.

That is til 3 minutes in when the stage clears for Leo Romero to unleash the great Baker footage firehose, or at least the stuff that’s not worth saving for the Emerica vid, logo boards be damned. The fakie frontside blunt opener was a good one I thought, back to the “That’s Life” part where he’d occasionally throw in random difficult ledge tricks in between gliding down gaps. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen any footage in a while but in this promo Leo Romero seems like he’s skating faster and angrier and at times (such as the humpty-hump to backside 180 and the tight-spot kickflips), seemingly for the sheer “fuck” of it, which is kind of a tough thing to communicate in an age awash with so much urban creativity. This is a good section, not great unless you look at it in terms of what he’s still sitting on, namely all the uphill handrail battles which are apparently contesting Heath’s white period for “Stay Gold” bragging rights. Not sure how rare this vid is supposed to be, but worth the free admission for the long slides, flashy frontside flip and artfully selected slams — which work pretty well, following the landed tricks toward the end of the part.

Lazy Sunday Redux: Saturday Edition f. Tim O’Connor and Pancho Moler

May 16, 2009


Do da stanky leg

It could be nostalgia, the comforting graininess of pre-Panasonic era or the generally low-impact tricks, but footage uploads of recent years raise the question of whether watching mid-to-early-90s footage relaxes more so than getting one psyched to skate, et cetera. (As long as you steer clear of the spastic multi-pressure flip stuff of course.) So it goes with this 93-94 Tim O’Connor sponsor-me tape that Thrasher posted the other day — he ups the E-Z-Boy factor with the natural floatiness of certain tricks like the kickflip over the pyramid or the nollie over the curb, and the sequence of flippery down the three-stair with the persistent snowbank lurking nearby. And skating curbs. Perhaps some of those lines at the bank wouldn’t make the cut today, but I challenge you to find a better-cut pair of khakis on the current market.

Fuck You Money

May 15, 2009


Deviating a bit from mining the R&B charts for tenuous pro skater comparisons

Taking a break from beating the Koston shoe-sponsor horse into a fine, not-all-that-humorous powder has provided some time to really ponder on the whole thing. Like, perhaps Koston’s abrupt ship-jumping isn’t predicated on some brass-ring grab or a valiant effort to shore up Lakai’s balance sheet, but rather a wish to live out the remaining years of pro-skaterdom in whichever kicks he sees fit.

The above pic, which purports to depict Koston skating a pair of Adidas, suggests that he may be having a jolly old time sampling the ever-expanding skate shoe buffet, confounding internet speculators, and why not? Koston’s been a loyal soldier for the past 15 years or so, if you aren’t looking at his trucks, and if he hasn’t earned the right to play the field before Nike makes the official announcement, well, who has.

However – 1990s reference incoming – it would be kind of cool if Eric Koston played this thread out for the rest of his career. Forthcoming multi-zillion-dollar contracts notwithstanding, he’s already got some money, and if there ever was a working pro skater out there that can get by without a shoe check, he’s the one right? A video part featuring a smorgasbord of skate shoes on Koston’s feet would probably be kinda jarring, but could serve to remind that there once was a time when you could maybe skate another company’s board/shoes/shirt and the footage wouldn’t be slated for the low-res web clip file. An element of mystique even – recall if you will Gino’s Reeboks from the 101 part, the shoes that launched a thousand Slap board queries; to a lesser extent, the Sauconys sported by Smolik in his TSM interview or Simon Woodstock’s clown shoes.

Lizard King Is Probably the T-Pain of Skateboarding

May 12, 2009


Not Lizard King or T-Pain, or even Billy Gibbons

Back in 2001, when men were men, pro deck sales were still on the upswing and PJ Ladd was wrapping up a game-altering East Coast shop video part, plucky softgoods concern Planet Earth released the largely overlooked “F.O.R.E. and Friends,” a city-hopping video that brought together the likes of Kenny Anderson, Felix and a young Terry Kennedy* to celebrate the rising star of Forrest Kirby, who at the time occupied a place in skateboarding where he basically was like everybody’s lovable little brother. Whether donning a doo-rag or skidding banger noseblunts, FORE was down with everybody and stood poised to take his place amongst top-ranked professional athletes everywhere, before stepping back to attend CCD and pen faith-based memoirs.

As you can imagine we live in less innocent times nowadays. International jewel thieves still are at large; 50 Cent is having problems selling CDs of his music and snitches roam the streets. Yet some things are not so different. Dustin Dollin remains a glorious mess for instance. Varial kickflips are still better left alone unless you are Brian Anderson. Whereas we once had Nate Dogg, we now obey the robot voice of Tallahassee Pain, and while skateboarding once ruffled the hair of a towheaded kid from San Antonio, in 2009 everyone wants to be down with the Satan worshippin’, razorblade abusin’, crazy-eyed rail/gap/other killa Mike Plumb.

And just as T-Pain took the stage at the Grammy awards and beseeched award-winning artists everywhere to hit him on the hip for collaborative art pursuits, Lizard King seems eager to get down with anyone and everyone possible — his journey from a one-foot backside lipsliding amateur contest oddity sponsored by Think has brought him into the house of Reynolds, and more recently he’s spreading the endorsement love amongst entities including but not limited to Jake Brown and Sean Sheffey’s not-sure-if-it’s-real-or-not clothing venture “Laced” and, ah, DC Shoes? Lizard King’s three-ring circus is such that you are never certain what to believe, what is true and what is just bleary-eyed delusion.

Other traits shared with T-Pain: a boisterous nickname, a penchant for outlandish behavior that might be really annoying in other people, and they’re both friends with people who have tattoos on their face.

A healthy work ethic and the big-tent approach has worked for T-Pain, just as it has served Lizard King well. And despite the media ubiquity of both it’s hard not to cheer for them. They are too tirelessly and exuberantly weird to root against, neither seems to take himself too serious, and for the most part it wouldn’t do any good anyway. In closing, if Mike Plumb contributes an autotune hook to a JR rap song you all owe this web blog $1000.

*who had yet to learn bluntslides from Stevie Williams

Ohhhhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhhhhh

May 5, 2009


“Radio killa”

In the above video for “My Love,” the main single from The-Dream’s critically valued 2009 CD “Love vs. Money” The-Dream attempts to press home the point to a befuddled Mariah Carey that “it takes time to get money,” as the ‘Glitter’ singer aggressively fries sausages and eggs in the same pan.

This is one of many themes of control that The-Dream, who may own several houses, explores in “Love vs. Money,” a powerful work that insists upon a man’s place and how he is ultimately powerless before the persistence of time when there is money needing to be secured. Hinting at the two great American eventualities, the fact that The-Dream is willing to lie, cheat, steal and beguile in his pursuit of money probably is beside the point. More critical are the constraints of a mortal life and the limits this inevitably places on money getting and several other activities, including but not limited to Mariah Carey features and R&B beefs with man-about-award-shows Chris Brown, who has vowed to destroy The-Dream’s career at all costs.

Back to the video though, is Mariah Carey’s confusion or refusal to accept The-Dream’s argument intentional? The filming of the video makes it difficult to tell, but it doesn’t seem to make his job any easier. He is a tortured man who is racing against the clock always as he tries to get money and keep Mariah under his thumb. (For the record we all know he is just playing a character, okay)

Nike’s skateboarding division touched similar touchy touchstones in “Nothing But the Truth” a couple years back, in a series of nigh-unwatchable skit moments that rapidly ascended to the top of skateboarding’s most-skipped sections, just behind Jordan Richter’s contribution to the Blind video. And rightly so, but I’m not sure Nike got as much credit as they were due for the sheer weirdness (hubris?) involved in that whole effort. Though I have no particular effort to try and wrap my brain around some of those skits ever again when there’s that Landscape video to watch, I do sometimes think about what they were trying to do with that skit where Reese Forbes runs into the fog and returns a different yet still flannelled man entirely.

But as they keep pumping out the internet videos, you begin to appreciate the way Nike moves, as much as it vaguely saddens to shuffle into the park and see the swoosh adorning every other kid’s feet. Ten years ago people were coming up to Tony Hawk after the premiere of “The End” and saying they hadn’t seen a video like that since the Bones Brigade era, and it seems Nike has the potential to do some similar sort of high-concept thing, provided they rein in whatever ad agency cooks up the theme for their next full-length production.

In the meantime there’s been a slew of sweet clips on their site recently like this “120 minutes”-esque clip with Matt Beach, Al Partenen, Daniel Shimizu and Chet Childress tilting at sketchy warehouse rigs; last week they had this Dan Magee-directed clip from Italy featuring a heap of Euros like the man Luy Pa-Sin, lots of backside flips and interesting angles. The usual complaints about slow-mo HD footage aside, these are alright, but I’ve got higher hopes for their Debacle amateur video, which may or may not be a no-BS endeavor with ripping Grant Taylor footage, but will be Nike’s first big attempt to redirect their creative oceanliner after encountering the “NBTT” iceberg.

Brian Wenning Is The Best Skater Alive

May 2, 2009

In keeping with the Plan B focus this week comes the inevitable news that Brian Wenning has been let go from the Danny/Colin hardgoods dream team, shortly after being handed his walking papers from Droors Clothing Shoe Co USA. Given Wenning’s lack of footage these last few years, mostly underwhelming photo output and recent Youtube antics, it maybe isn’t super surprising that these eventualities have inspired a flood of “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out” commentary across the skate-related interwebs, but it’s disappointing, because what people are overlooking is the fact that career collapse or no, Wenning will come to be seen as a hugely influential figure in 00’s skating, and if he is flaring out, it’s in proper 1990s party-spiral fashion.

Whether or not Wenning achieves or even attempts a comeback maybe is beside the point in a post-Fully Flared/Sorry age, where legends are unearthed, outfitted in fresh sponsorship deals and New Eras, and set about writing sequels and prequels to stories that were basically holy scripture. You saw that Timberland video, Wenning’s still got it, but what’s the upside for him? A part in a soon-forgotten Axion promo? A spot on Element*? (He may need to have a real Oprah-style moment before Fred Gall could make a case to put him back on Habitat.)

Probably the smart move for Wenning would be to drop off the map more or less completely, make random solo appearances in New Jersey, maybe grow his hair real long and not really skate. (The Timberland thing was possibly premature in this way.) If Bill Strobeck is kind he could delay dropping his video for another year, at which point skateboarding will have forgotten the Brian Wenning of the two-inch scratcher slides at those alphabet ledges and people will trip out anew on the Photosynthesis era – while PJ Ladd’s video part had a bigger impact on actual tricks, Wenning’s Photo part remains one of the most influential sections style-wise over the last ten years, and one shudders to think where, say, Ronson Lambert would be without it today. The Henry Sanchez comparison – Brian Wenning was doing the hottest tricks at the coolest spots, looking like nobody else at the time.

So maybe in a couple years he can mount a comeback part, get a board offer from say Zoo, figure out a way to get kicked off within three weeks and quickly slide back into obscurity. Which may be preferable to seeing him chase pole-jam variations and waxy ledge combos, or a reality TV deal.

*Baker probably a more realistic prospect, but with the economy in the toilet who really knows anything about anything