Archive for July, 2017

‘People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Lakai Limited Footwear for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That’s what ‘The Flare’ is about. It’s about fun.’

July 30, 2017

What if you’d been told, on the occasion of ‘Fully Flared’s premiere nigh ten years ago, that Anthony Pappalardo’s part would provide a primary guiding light for the shoe supplier’s next full-length video — would you have believed it? Similarly could any 80’s baby have guessed that it would be Crailtap’s joint tour vids with Anti-Hero that would set the Girl and Choco camp’s course for much of the ’10s? What would you say if some time-mastering pixie had whispered ten years ago that Lakai would require the vision of a Mattel toy company exec to navigate the wiles of a marketplace commanded by Nike and Adidas? Could a mere humanoid imagination conjure a world in which Jake Phelps is a recognized television personality, Dr. Dre works for Apple and apologizes for his gangsta past, a new Star Wars movie comes out every year, Gucci Mane lives a life of domestic sobriety, and former reality TV game show host Donald Trump leads the free world?

It’s true, all of it. Now comes “The Flare,” Lakai’s first formal video project since Barack Obama’s inauguration, perceived by some as a comeback, executed more like a reboot. Any lingering pathos or hard feeling from recent years’ departures and drama is shoved to one side by a grinning Italian who opens the vid with the type of low-fi inventiveness that once drew wiggly yellow lines across California streets and breathed life into a fuschia-hued setup. Following any initial disorientation and upset stomachs, Federico Vitetta dispenses with much of the high-tech effects and in-your-face emoting that at times distracted and dragged on the Ty Evans-helmed productions, instead plunking in moustachioed passersby on horseback, operatic music drops and occasional WWFing of trash cans, lightening the load carried by Altamont Capital’s newest flarees.

Whether the intro’s orbish viewfinder is emblematic of some proverbial rolling stone, casting loose all moss and withered tendrils of the past as it rolls beneath that flatbed trailer, is a question best left up to individual viewers and low-scoring undergraduate term papers. Lakai’s slate is not wiped fully clean — Simon Bannerot, a curly-haired hucker with a lovely fakie frontside kickflip, is tagged in by ‘Fully Flared’ curtain-hoister Mike Mo Capaldi to fulfill similar duties here, gliding long frontside noseslides, nose manualing down steps and launching what’s got to be one of the more daring wallies this side of Lizard King’s parking ramp blast. Sebo Walker goes in with Cory Kennedy fits and a princely De La Soul tune for his gnarliest part to date, Jon Sciano tosses an M-80 of a 360 flip over a garbage bin, Raven Tershy goes the distance on the Andy Roy bar and twirls a magnificent Cab disaster, Yonnie Cruz cracks a switch ollie into one of multiple hairy hills. Jesus Fernandez’s ledge tech remains in ascent — he gets onto the Dylan Rieder block switch — while Vincent Alvarez strings together a marathon line at the LA High School banks, and Stevie Perez jumps a rickety bar to a backside smith grind and traces some fairly tech lines through various European blocks. Riley Hawk chisels further his own legacy via speed-metal fueled 360 flip noseblunts and screeching kickflip 360 wallride.

Mike Carroll and Rick Howard pop in here and there, Mike Carroll taking a version of his downtown Los Angeles line from ‘Fully Flared’ to a narrow ledge, and Rick Howard shove-iting onto well-worn New York concrete, but the most direct references to Lakai’s prior tentpole come from Tyler Pacheco, a young box-wallriding blazer who seems to have memorized that vid’s lines and lore on his way toward meeting and skating with his childhood heroes. For all its storied catalogue, though, the Crailtap camp never has seemed particularly stuck on legacy-burnishing when it comes to their videos, and the passage of time, trends and team members merits a different context in which ‘The Flare’ ought to be considered.

Probably it is true that this video will not alter skating’s course the way ‘Fully Flared’ did, and may not attain ‘Yeah Right’s’ level of envelop-pushing handrail pyrotechnics, or capture an era like ‘Mouse.’ Does it have to? It’s worth considering that before Lakai offered up MJ’s 13-minute opus, brought Guy Mariano’s career back from the dead, and helped establish Lucas Puig’s international sensationdom, it was Mike Carroll and Rick Howard’s chosen roster of style luminaries and promising youngsters who collectively weren’t setting out to craft some vision of skating to come, or on any mission to refurbish any beloved brand name. Toward the end, what’s arguably ‘The Flare’s’ biggest twist doesn’t involve a bunch of fire or green screens but rather a clever spin on skating with the bros.

Was this type of team reset the best thing to happen to Lakai? Do any full-length vids have the capacity these to change the conversation and hit as hard as ‘Fully Flared’ did 10 years ago? Will Tyler Pacheco set off a multiyear trend of table-bonking flip tricks capped off with the ‘Carroll Thumb’? Is Jesus Fernandez an odds-on favorite to win, place or show in the race for the year’s best hardflip?

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PJ Ladd, Bearing the Weight of History’s Expectations Amid a Multiyear Video-Part Drought, and Also Some Discussion of Mystical Bears and Their Rumored Powers

July 23, 2017

In Richard Adams’ ‘Shardik’ a primitive people discover a long-prophecized god-bear, departed many generations earlier. The plus-sized mammal is worshipped by some and denounced as a property-wrecking menace by others, ultimately sowing divisions and touching off armed conflict before going on to collect royalty payments and licensing fees for use of his likeness by various professional sports teams and honey vendors. It is a lesson for our times and enshrined in our country’s tightest document, the USS Constitution.

Raised among Boston’s bruins, PJ Ladd is among the skating tribe’s most prodigal sons, gifted immense talent which he may not necessarily have squandered in the post-‘Really Sorry’ years — but certainly has been hidden beneath a bushel, to trangress into the deadly sin of proverb-mixing. It is inaccurate to claim he’s had no parts since — there was Es shoes’ last full-length gasp, a noteworthy DC intro, scattered park footage and assorted detritus — but the Plan B vid no-show sounded an ominous tone, and Colin McKay’s subsequent ‘Black Swan’ invocation eroded hope for the autumn of this wonderful, horrible skate career.

Does US sports apparel manufacturer New Balance and its ‘Tricolor’ executive production team deserve credit and reciprocal shoe-purchasing decisions for coaxing forth the most complete PJ Ladd video section since the Iraq war’s onset? Credit may lie with trusted filming hands, team manager life-coaching hammers and related Vince Lombardisms, promises of forbidden treasure hoards or (most likely) some potent mixture of these. The question itself is moot, the proof lies within digital video footage files spread across three minutes like $240 worth of creamsome pudding.

There is a line here, when the jittering percussion fades to a soothing drone and any remaining eyebrows lifted by PJ Ladd’s marmalade scruff relax to Cro-Magnon levels — it kicks off with a switch 360 and meanders with enough spark in the flips and power in the push to briefly resurrect those Coliseum ghosts. And much is forgiven. PJ Ladd, who once changed skating’s trajectory via an out-of-nowhere skate shop video mainly on word of mouth, owes the world in 2017 probably not much, enjoys a secure legacy. But you can still hope for more, and even if it doesn’t hit with the same impact, one can wallow in a fistful of PJ Ladd lines and ledge moves from Boston’s famed Eggs spot and be satisfied.

Some cosmic block now lifted, will PJ Ladd’s recent bout of filming develop into a full-blown fever in which he, like the recently revived Aphex Twin, unloads a succession of new footage and unburdens various archives unto a gobsmacked and blissed-out public? Does the fact that PJ Ladd is filming more while the ‘Tricolor’ vid’s release is delayed heighten your hopes? Has PJ Ladd, by growing a Grizzly Adams beard, communed with mystical bears of old to attain still-greater powers such as tearing the doors off cars and swatting salmon from rushing river rapids? If you are a bear is eating a whale an ender-ender?

The Power of the Deck-Buying Dollar, and the Promise of the $30 T-Shirt

July 16, 2017

The internet’s cultural side-loader washing machine swirls. What once was, is again, sometimes faded and sometimes pinked by rogue red garments. In the civilian world, tragedy plus time equals comedy; in skateboarding, fashion and hardware trends plus a period of years divided by the internet’s recyclatory properties (which are a constant), factoring the quotient by the strength of the counter-prevailing fads of the day, equals attractive brand-building opportunities that can help to finance electric cars with an auto-pilot option.

Santa Cruz, whose venerable skate dynasty doesn’t preclude opportunistic chintz-grabs, this month has revived its early 1990s technology breakthrough, the Everslick, presumably upgraded to avoid the sogginess that turned so many back toward conventional decks by the turn of the half-decade. As skaters nationwide discovered low-cost ledge lubricants to be had in the supermarket’s canning section, Alien Workshop, World and others abandoned slicks, relegating the technology to the same hardware-fad dustbin as Bridgebolts, Rip Grip, copers and Gullwing’s incredibly heavy plastic-coated hangers. But with deck shapes then already well on their way toward a homogenized popsicle shape, shelving the slick also marked a fateful step away from one of the few deck innovations that briefly commanded a premium price from penny-pinching skateboard consumers — and provided a fleeting glimpse into a future where peddling decks could be something other than a low-margin, efficiency-maximizing commodity business.

In this year of our lord 2017, the deck buyer’s dollar has never been more powerful. Through the 20/20-enabling hindsight view afforded via the internet’s continually expanding archives, skateboard purchasers can gloatingly look 25 years into the past to see mailorder clearinghouses hawking decks for $45 apiece. Adjusted for inflation, those same objects ought to change hands for about $76 at current rates, but U.S. shops, internet portals and even the lowly mall asks only around $55 as the industry has failed to provide a justification for lifting prices incrementally skyward over the years. The world has not stood idly by; wages, logistics and other costs grew while the skateboard business repeatedly cast their votes for Ulysses Grant as their preferred candidate for boards. This has lead deck makers and distributors to move manufacturing overseas to cut costs, whilst chipping away at shop margins, and diversifying into shoes and clothes to subsidize deck enterprises in the grand quest for profitability or its less attractive sibling, break-evenness.

It did not have to be this way. The wooden baseball bat —- derived from hardwood trees and among the sporting world’s closest kin to the seven-ply deck —- has not been subject to the same price-point stagnation. Despite occasional mutations in shape and diversification away from ash into maple and birch, the wooden bat has changed relatively little over the past 30 years, if not the past 130. A basic wood bat retailed for around $20-$35 in 1992; similar models today fetch $30 to $160, scaling upwards based upon pro endorsements, premium wood selections and high-tech processing techniques to command enlarged dollar piles from wood-shopping baseballers.

The same embrace of that unbottleable qualitative that produced Natas Kaupas’ hydrant spin, the Fucked Up Blind Kids, and Gou Miyagi is at play here: The visceral pleasure to be milked from sliding silkscreened Canadian hard-rock maple across concrete or stone cannot be replicated through aluminum or synthetic hybrids, probably to the detriment of performance enhancements that might put more balls into end zones or players on base in other, more regimented pastimes. And the same frugal Ludditism that has fueled the past decade’s revival in low-profile vulcanized shoewear translates to a collective “meh” towards innovations such as Almost’s “Impact” decks, corrugated bottom plies and unique wood mixes.

Should board makers dreaming of fatter profits look to the cotton T-shirt, where token shifts in construction and fit allow those with the strongest graphics and market position to nowadays ask $30 or more for an otherwise commoditized garment? Has the remarkably visionary Jason Dill already been applying this concept to boards? Was the riser pad the air bubble of hardware? Do Paul Schmitt and Rodney Mullen possess a secret storehouse of advanced board technologies long-shelved due to fears the seven-ply maple-worshipping would never accept them?