Archive for June, 2015

Mike Vallely’s One-Minute X-Games Part in the Blue Helmet Is Not the Video Part Your Summer Asked For but the One It Deserves

June 27, 2015

In his tactical 1970s business fable ‘The Lorax,’ Dr. Seuss venerated capitalism’s transformative power via a versatile garment dubbed the ‘thneed,’ a rangy soft thing wearable as a sock, a hat or an overlarge large glove, but also capable of covering bicycle seats, draping windowspaces and carpeting floors. Despite the efforts of various stash-pocket crafting footwear concerns and Foundation’s legendary cinch-shirt, the skateboarding industry has yet to hit upon its thneed. However, when pondering the thneed’s potential further function as grandiose metaphor, New Jersey strongman Mike Vallely has it ‘sewn up’ when it comes to the pro boarding career as a multipronged stepping stool or crowbar toward further pathways and trades, some better explored than others.

Lo, and consider: Mike Vallely alternately over the past 30 years has functioned as the hot-shoe am; deck-shape innovator; Steve Rocco cohort and nemesis in turns; launcher of at least six different board companies; slam poet; pro wrestler; pro hockey player; three-time rider for George Powell; vegan advocate; maniacal tourer; ‘Beef’-style DVD star and vicarious defender of skate honour; Black Flag manager; Black Flag singer; titular performer in Mike V and the Rats; founding father of Revolution Mother; supporting actor to Paul Blart; podcaster; and more recently, streetstyle helmet-endorser.

No longer shall Mike Vallely bear ‘contest-contending pro’ upon his CV, however, declaring the other day that his entry into this year’s X-Games ‘Real Street’ video contest “is definitely the last competition of any kind that I participate in.” Destiny may or may not have other plans in store for the windy and sometimes foggy path it so far has set for Mike Vallely, but for the time being it is hugely fortunate for the planetary public that such a competitive swan song doubles as the most singularly ‘summertime’ video part yet concocted this year – reflecting Mike Vallely’s many and sundry and sometimes peculiar skate-biz travels this section sticks out like a sore vestigial tail from those of his rivals, the oldest of whom runs 13 years his junior and none of whom wear a helmet or have used their physical fists to free the Muska from overbearing security agents.

Bursting with solar wattage, our-street-could-be-your-spot accessibility and curatorially mismatched sneakers, the ‘Real Street’ video makes a big nod back to Mike Vallely’s seismic ’Public Domain’ section using the type of era-specific construction that similarly made Etnies’ World park ‘Skate and Create’ entry one of the best things to come out of that TWS project. It’s been a minute since Mike Vallely put out a more straight-up video part that didn’t also include voiceovers and touring toil footage, which is too bad – trimmed of gravity and seriousness all the street plants and gonzo schrapling make some handrailing and wallie-concerned video parts recorded by comer-uppers half his age look grim and calculated by comparison.

Would a ‘Real Street’ contest win cement Street Plant Skateboards as the last stop on Mike Vallely’s deck-manufacturer endorsement dancecard and help produce a longer part like this? Why has Airwalk been left out of the hazy corporate seance that has attempted to revive nearly all other defunct or culturally comatose skate companies? Has Baby learned anything from his breakup with Lil Wayne that will make him handle things differently with Thugger? Will Mike Vallely be proven right on helmets and thus force future historians to re-evaluate Ryan Sheckler’s tweenage street footage?

Si Se Puede

June 21, 2015

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“Because We Can” is the tagline for the Emerica-Lakai joint venture summer demo tour, ostensibly nodding to rootsy trappings of a bros-before-focused-branding jaunt that recalls Crailtap’s past roadtrip tie-ups with the Firm and Anti Hero, and perhaps also the idea that Stayed Flarees aren’t contractually bound to bulge bracket contest stops, or fettered by corporate interests broiling with jealousy and alleged to have previously boxed out events planned by rivals.

Might this thundersome tour, boasting the caliber of lineup to collectively bless parks and spots alike perhaps once per decade, also be called ‘Because We Should’? It makes certain business senses for skater owned/directed shoe companies to band together as Nike has rolled out heavy artillery on multiple fronts between SB and the revival of its Converse skate program, while K-Swiss hoovers up Supra and New Balance tries its hand at ‘Pretty Sweet’ intro cinematography and attempts to one-up Plan B in the video-supervision after-black hammer that is securing PJ Ladd footage.

Assuming any relevant private equity fund analysts are safely off parking the vans, there probably exist few more-direct methods to illuminate any ‘skater-owned’ halo than to situate various owners, founders and shot-callers atop a pic-a-nic table in a sweaty Milwaukee warehouse, or nose manualing across pads in Pittsburgh. Whereas an demo featuring Mike Parker or Herbert Hainer might draw its own standing-room gaggle of vexed shareowners, slack-jawed blog proprietours and other would-be looky-lous, any effect on unit volume likely would present as incremental and potentially surprise to the downside, after all due rep points awarded for trying.

Pressing flesh among the seven-ply’s huddled masses though remains a worthy public service in an incarnation similar to the interstate highway system and other feats of two-way public infrastructuring. Impressions seared into yung psyches run deep enough that Andrew Reynolds, who’s got to be as hardened as anybody after two decades grinding through the industry, still turns slightly giddy recollecting the time and place he first saw Mike Carroll skate, at a demo. Whereas some kickflipping kid out there this summer will in a couple decades relate seeing Andrew Reynolds and Mike Carroll staying flared as he or she speaks on the formative transpirings that set him or her on the jittery path toward running his or her own skate concern, there would seem also some current temperature-taking value for today’s company runners to be gleaned from a month or two rolling amongst chronically undercompensated shop managers and the broader goods-buying populace.

Instagram and Facebook are gently ballyhooed as grand equalizers that place access to each tween’s favorite professional a mere few keystrokes away, but any digital fuzzies warmed by the internet’s flat culture inevitably contend with personal-branding business machinations that would program bots to holler back at random followers, or transform subscriber figures into bargaining chits for contract maneuverings. From certain angles far up in the nosebleed seats the gulf between the industry’s top talents and the larger boardbuying populace seems in some ways wider — wristband warrior and NBDDer Chris Cole in a recent interview speaks angrily of pro-athlete pressures and his impatience with weekend warrior types who don’t get it:

Actually, I’m gonna go on a tirade right now: When the “core” dudes try to clown, and I’m sure you’ve fucking heard it – it’s a defense mechanism – they say stuff like, “It’s just skateboarding, man.” Implying that you’re taking it too seriously.

A. You’re telling me what skateboarding is? Get the fuck out of my face. And B., Street League is a contest with a lot of money on the line and this is actually what I do for a living. This is my job. I love the hell out of skating; I love it more than anyone. But it’s not “Just skating, maaaaan.”That’s throwing what I love and what I’ve dedicated my life to, into some hobby that you kind of fuck around with. They love to throw that one around.

Chris Cole, who knows his way around a demo as good as anybody, elsewhere rehashes yet again his awkward early years of professional development, as well as hearing firsthand critiques of his chosen outfits and conduct from prior detractors in the course of compiling talking head footage for some forthcoming documentary. It’s unclear whether any who bore ill will toward snowplow nosegrinds or flapping yellow t-shirts ever took a demo appearance as an opportunity to directly air concerns with a younger Chris Cole, or if a few weeks traversing American byways and mingling with shop employees and early-morning sessioners logging park time prior to diaper-changing duties or weekend overtime might sand edges off Chris Cole’s stance on the diverse and potentially spicy views on skating harboured by aging hobbyist/purists.

Whether deep and heady assessments of skating’s true nature can or should be chopped up between pros and average joes at local skatepark facilities or tour clip-worthy spots along the way remains a question for us all to chew over as we toddle toward our mysterious graves, but it is skating’s uniquely democratic nature that allows it even to be possible. You don’t see major league baseball teams materializing unannounced for pickup games at neighborhood sandlots; the recognized and registered sucker-free boss ballers of figure skating or tennis aren’t in the practice of swelling about local rinks and courts*, twirling axels and swatting balls alongside the fanning hoards, and potentially talking sponsor-jumps or fearsome performances.

In what other pursuit can you be hobby-horsing it upon a weekend and look up to see the world’s accepted best wandering in to join, or augment onlooker activities by also serving as a human safety net for sweaty professionals breaking themselves off at your local park? Should a board-and-shoe consuming Joe Kickflip’s views on skating, seriousness and Street Leagues carry the same weight as professional contract players with long years in these trenches? Are pitchers’ mound rushers and stands-charging small forwards similarly chided that it’s ‘just a game’? Does man remain ‘the most dangerous game’ or has this title been usurped by quadruped robots and armed drones?

*Courts of law don’t count

The Functional Baker Boys

June 5, 2015

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The true glory in growing old and finding one’s self with little or nothing left to prove is that it carries wealth in options. Bill Murray, that graybeard vanquisher of ghosts and pro jock to the Dalai Lama, honored fellow oldster David Letterman last month by leaping out of a secretive cake chamber and proceeding to take shots to the dome. Jack Palance, that silver fox of the US prairies, saw fit to parlay his time at the Oscar podium into boasts about the size of his bowel movements and several one-armed push ups. Betty White this week joined Instagram.

So too in the skate biz, where pro careers now offer second and third acts, there are elder statemenships to be carved out, with Jeff Grosso lovingly hollering at the collective industry to get off his lawn, French Fred Mortagne pulling back the veil on the early years of Barcelona paradise, and Tony Alva donning a puff-ball stocking cap to level-set the Vans video.

Andrew Reynolds and Mike Carroll still have a few miles in them but the heavy retrospecticus vibes and general grown-manning going on when the frontside flip impresarios deposited themselves upon the Crail Couch the other day suggested some pondering toward whatever roles await them as full-time company-runners, number-crunchers and talent-pickers. At this point Andrew Reynolds has been on the sober straight-and-narrow longer than his service under the Pissdrunx, and in interviews he’s been steering kids clear of drugs and drinking for a while now, but it is nevertheless a bit jarring to hear him take shots at Migos:

Advice for the youth?
AR: Don’t smoke weed. Don’t listen to whatever they’re saying in all this trap music, whatever that shit’s called.
MC: MOLLY!
AR: That music, I listen to it in the skatepark and people play it, nonstop, the same song over and over. And I like hip hop. But that new shit though is like brainwash, Migos and all that, like fuck. That’s like, and I see on Instagram, the kids, their little statement about them, is like ‘skateboarding and weed.’ It’s like, alright. And the music is just like ‘disrespect women, money, drugs.’ That’s pretty much it. And if they’re not listening to anything else besides that then that’s just pounded in, all day long.

Andrew Reynolds never has attempted to whitewash his past or foist his teetotaling on his riders, and one must assume that for now his official stance toward Migos music is the same.* It’s not clear whether Dustin Dollin owns ‘Rich Ni**a Timeline’ but the sometime devil’s spawn in the ‘Propeller’ divulges that he holds down the other end of the Baker spectrum, apparently the last bleary-eyed pro standing from the Warner Ave 7-day weekend after his assorted bendermates fell out over the years:

Thrasher: [A]re you the last Pissdrunk?
Dustin Dollin: I cannot confirm that rumor. Pearcy still drinks. Dancer still drinks, I’m sure. But yeah, out of the celebrity skateboarders in the public eye, I may be the last. I may be the last of the OG Pissdrunks, but there are thousands of them out there now. Thousands and thousands. And growing! But yeah, Jim doesn’t drink. Ali doesn’t drink, Elissa doesn’t drink, Andrew doesn’t drink, Erik doesn’t drink.

T: Can you still get tricks hammered?
I mean, every day that I go out skating I’m usually drinking and I try to get a trick if my body’s able. So I guess it’s every time I go skating.

Part of Andrew Reynolds’ legend status no doubt flows from about two decades’ worth of steady output that’s managed to consistently raise the bar, whatever his personal circumstances. But there’s a statistical argument to be made in favour of Dustin Dollin’s boozy functionality, previously revealed through his self-appointed role as KOTR footage logger/point tallier/stunt motivator and the staying power of the dudes he’s helped put on, but mainly via his own skate tricks themselves. A review of assorted Youtube clippings and Digital Versatile Discs from Baker2G’s Y2K release to the present indicates that among the named Pissdrunx, Dustin Dollin is the second-most productive in terms of minutes’ worth of video parts released, coming in ahead of now-dry peers Erik Ellington, Jim Greco, Ali Boulala and Elissa Steamer:

pissdrunx_chart

Does Dustin Dollin’s statistical outlier status reflect genetic advantages possessed by Australians in the barroom? What of New Jersey, and might Fred Gall similarly skew averages when stacked against peers less beloved of Sambuca, Ozzy concerts and plunging headlong into burning buildings? Would Andrew Reynolds take genuine offense to the ‘Better than the Beatles’ meme? Will legitimate musicals finally earn Migos the respect they deserve?

*Until the Slap boards divulge otherwise