Archive for April, 2016

Let’s Pretend We’re Married

April 30, 2016

purp

Skating last week waved a black lace garter goodbye to one of its longest-burning signal flares, Prince, a towering figure whose resolute outsiderness, restless creativity and sexual horsepower presaged skating’s passing indulgences into blouses, smouldery brooding, paisley and motorcycles. His purple fingerprints linger in skating’s infatuation with eagles, seagulls and pigeons, Corvettes and berets, whilst his Paisley Park compound providing a blueprint for many of today’s self-contained content factories. Indeed, Prince is rumored to have been the soft-spoken and hypnotic voice delivering a series of wee-hours directives to a succession of skate-biz power brokers, for decades anonymously guiding the industry from a what is widely assumed to be a love symbol-shaped telephone.

Eric Koston is as easily pegged a Prince disciple as any working pro, from skating to ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ to social media adventures and releasing multiple purple coloured shoes*. One could ponder whether Eric Koston’s late 1980s-‘Yeah Right’ run matched Prince’s prowess over his first 14 albums, and just as Prince in the mid-1990s famously severed himself from Warner Bros, the record-labeling bros who had released his music for nigh on two decades, Eric Koston last year stepped away from his own 20-year employers at Girl, and now appears set to further immerse himself in Prince’s legacy as he speed-dates deck merchants while developing his own board imprint.

This weekend Eric Koston surprised few with the unveiling of a deck series for WKND, after foreshadowing a master plan that also involved endorsing some funny arted decks created by Brad Staba’s Skate Mental company. The polyamorous moves harken back to Prince’s high-heeled hopscotching from record company to record company after the Warner Bros kiss-off, even if the frosty vibes emanating from Eric Koston’s parting ways with Girl didn’t rise to the level of scrawling ‘SLAVE’ across his face. Alternately one could posit Girl as Eric Koston’s Vanity, from whom he moves on to a string of bosomy and multi-instrumental paramours, sometimes while jamming on synthesizers.

Are Eric Koston’s indigo-tinted industry maneuvers helping to usher in a post-board sponsor era in which deck makers become loose, image-oriented collectives for pros and various bros to shack up for a time, under some ‘gest’ or similar rubric, before drifting apart? Is this threatened obsolescence of the deck-company team an extension of the much-maligned hookup culture, hunted to extinction by smartphone-eroded attention spans, ringtone raps and seven-minute abs? Just as Prince ultimately buried his +4 Axe of Creative Control with Warner Bros, will an aging Koston eventually return to Girl in a deal that grants him full rights over his ‘Goldfish’ to ‘Pretty Sweet’ raw footage, which later will be turned over to the courts for a years-long legal battle amongst Koston’s heirs after his sudden death traumatizes millions and reveals that he left no will?

*Generally purple and gold, referencing the colours of the LA Lakers**
**A team originally from Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota

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The Rise of The Noseslide Shove It Heralds The Age of Dad Tricks

April 15, 2016

Kevblack_Hey_Dad-front-medium

Is skateboarding as we know it courting wholesale disaster and destruction? The resounding answer ultimately must be a form of ‘idk but..’ as a steadily swirling swirl of lifestyle choices, fashion accessories and increasingly, tricks themselves increasingly bear the mark of the paterfamilias, to increasingly risky and questionable ends.

The current ‘dad’ fad is little shock when you consider how skating, once a rebellious youthful subculture prior to its modern format as a joint venture of several global footwear manufacturers, previously offered a haven for broken-homed kids that in many cases was preferable to careers in substance abuse or strong-armed robbery. Generations later the youngsters now look up to second-generation pros such as Alex Olson and Riley Hawk, who skate with their dads, swap pro models and career advice as they forge dynasties that can rule over taxpayer-funded bowls and prefabricated plaza spots for eons to come, battling rival clans across the cosmos for wealth and prestige and lucrative mineral deposits.

Dadness already had been stoked to a near-inferno by the widespread re-adoption of loose-fit, faded denim jeans, sometimes with a sensible cuff-roll well suited to low-impact cycling or safely depressing the pedals of a used minivan. Soon after, hat designers including Huf and Bronze56K elevated the dad cap from musty closet shelves and lost-and-found bins to a lofty $36 pricepoint item that comes in fetching pastels, equally at home flipping an 8.5″ popsicle or being flipped via Ebay for healthy multiples of its retail price.

Yet whereas any geek off the proverbial street can outfit himself in dad garb, cultivate convincing flab in pursuit of a lusted-for dad bod and feign a tiresome lifestyle of early bedtimes and a mind-eroding 9-to-5, dadness also has revealed itself gradually through long-passe streetstyle maneuvers. The varial flip, which only style dieties bearing names such as Brian Anderson, Mike Carroll and Jordan Trahan can lift to the level of the tolerable, once was not the sort of move performed in mixed company, but no more; body varial, same deal.

The noseslide shove-it, which elbowed aside no-complies, shove-its and wallrides as well as threatening light balls to capture precious screen time in Polar’s energizing ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind,’ again resurfaced in this week’s Bronze promo ‘Plug,’, marking a new apex in ‘dad’ tricks that may be difficult to surpass. Fifteen years since Rob Welsh nearly single-handedly rescued the noseslide from that doomed scrap pile of tricks too basic for blocks and too ‘Muska’ for handrails, a new era beckons in which legs weary from four presidential terms’ worth of pop-outs are offered respite via a mellow 90-degree shove in the direction the board already is headed, a ‘tech’ trick in the same spirit as the ‘extra mild’ salsas hawked by the jug in Midwestern box stores.

How uncomfortably deep is skating willing to take its dad fixations? Does the unfortunate prophecy of the star-crossed Theban king Oedipus, who slew his father and married his mother, suggest that skating will thrust some metaphorical harpoon through surfing before turning an altogether different and still more troubling metaphorical harpoon toward roller-skating? Is there a convoluted version of the Sphinx’s riddle that could include a basic noseslide in the ‘morning,’ the late-90s favorite with the 270 shove it the hard way for the ‘afternoon,’ and then the current/dad version in the ‘night?’ Will ruin and chaos soon follow, or could the frontside tailslide shove-it be next?

Pontus Alv’s Frenetic Lament for a Scattering Tribe

April 10, 2016

strandbeest

From disused plastic piping, zip ties and empty two-litres, Dutch sculptor Theo Jansen has over recent decades bestowed life upon a new and fearsome form of creature he has dubbed ‘Strandbeests,’ nomadic and dinosauric automatons that draw their power from wind and moisture to restlessly roam frozen Scandinavian shores and, through unwitting human enamourment, sprinkle their genetics globally via our computerized internet. Theirs is a lonesome lot on barren stripes of the earth, but their ramshackle ploddings are not without a certain joy and wonder.

A few Lego bricks and Ikea couches away, by accepted U.S. cowpoke measuring standards, Pontus Alv tinkers among his DIY embankments and bowls and at long last takes his third full-length off simmer, a Nordic dream smearing several decades’ worth of lovingly recollected skate touchstones that uncork themselves as the most ‘now’ vid since Supreme’s ‘Cherry’ and 2016’s pulsating frontrunner so far. Buffeted by larger forces both natural and otherwise, the non-complying bros and their half-seen stand-ins populating ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind, Please Don’t Wake Me This Time’ place faith in leaps both figurative and actual that send them soaring atop buildings, crunching through shrubs, high diving off delivery trucks and rolling away from frontside noseslides to fakie with arm dropped just so. Beyond the Alien Workshop and Blueprint camps of yore, there’s not a lot who handle their imagery and mix their media as well as is done here.

Dane Brady’s bucolic opener presents most of the elements, simply — here’s his dog, his curbs, his parking garages, his deceptively intense control, skidding from parking bumper to parking bumper or manualing through the grass or jumping a damn swing. Michael Juras and Jerome Campbell wind their way through bricked out European back streets, speed hopping bump-to-bumps and backside tailsliding way out on rugged ledges, seldom any one dude holding the frame too long without somebody else on the team hopping onto the same spot, maybe the opposite way. Hjalte Halberg crushes big blocks in possibly the vid’s best played-straight part, Pontus Alv is in there with his backward hat and his arcing wallrides, luring his followers into snaking doubles lines at Swedish DIYs and Oskar Rosenberg-Hallberg, seemingly growing up before the fisheye here, buoyed beyond the switch pole jam and ride-on smith grind by the best little-kid stylings since Yaje Popson or maybe Kevin Bradley. Aaron Herrington cashes in what look like a couple years’ worth of chips like the double wallie and later on Kevin Rodrigues, who comes with tricks that have no names.

Pontus Alv has talked about a kind of wonderful weirdess and isolation that go with doing his particular take on skating from one of the unlikeliest spots on the map, while also wearily eyeing the constraints and pressures that come with developing a beloved and increasingly successful company.

It’s always the same. It starts like, “Hey, there’s this cool new brand. It’s small. It’s underground. It’s run by these cool guys and we love it because we can’t get a hold of it.” Like when World (Industries) first started it was exactly like that. And then all of a sudden there’s all this demand and then that brings hype and then slowly the companies get their shit together. They get their business model together, the production, the distribution, and everything. And then, of course, when a companies growing, the company’s costs are also growing so it’s like, “Oh shit, now we have to widen our distribution channels to make enough money to supply the riders, team, video production, ads, and all of those things that you have to do. And then all of a sudden people look at it and are like, “Well, it’s kind of big now. I don’t know. It’s not cool anymore.” And then all of the sudden they lose some of that support and all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, we don’t have the core support anymore but we have this massive company with all these bills.” So you widen the channels more and more and more.

Henry Sanchez, who also came up in the Bay area only to part ways with the CA-based industry, questions the cultural cost of broader-based success in an interview discussing his latest return to skating: I see a bigger corporate presence in skating, and it has a stronger foothold in the market. To me, those are indications that skating is a lot bigger now. It seems like they’ve spent enough money campaigning for your heart. We had a stronger defense with a much smaller army.

It is maybe too easy to see the rising and receding industry tides gently lifting the wallriding Mary Poppins of ‘Don’t Wake Me’ across grassy hilltops, blowing him into spiky trees, or at other points holding the magical umbrella just out of reach in various times of need. But with ever-larger commercial interests alternately supporting Polar’s trans-Atlantic bonelessing and bank-building, while harbouring threats of spiky contractual strictures and molding future generations from Olympic bully pulpits, how much longer does Pontus Alv’s idyllic Polar dream go on? Could a ‘Really Sorry’ type quick follow up serve as a sort of cosmic snooze button? Was the vid’s lengthy gestation period at all related to scheduling difficulties in securing the Rover cameo? What was going through Kevin Rodrigues’ head when he seen that rail? Are all the H-Street references actually subliminal signals from Pontus Alv to the Polar team that they should abscond together for some upstart board company in a few years, thus easing the crushing pressure on Pontus Alv to follow up this video and allowing him to pursue an Evol-like reboot at far lower stakes for all involved?