Archive for September, 2017

The DC Blog Post or, Finding Yourself and Redefining Success After Your Parent Seeks Protection from Creditors

September 16, 2017

Like a healthily scuffed Lynx arcing across a sunny SoCal sky following an AVE post-bail heaving, the erstwhile DC Shoe Co USA is in transition. Gone are Street Leaguers Nyjah Huston, Mikey Taylor, Felipe Ortiz and Chris Cole, on whose backs DC once sought to build a contest-circuit machine to rival the likes of Nike and Adidas. The flag logo that once represented the action-sporting nation DC once aimed to forge — a more perfect union of skateboarders, BMX bicylclists, motorcross motorcyclers, surf-riders and assorted well-wishers. It’s a smaller tent now, refocused on that seven-pointed star and the normal/extra-boldface/bold typeface pattern that crowded an older generation’s heads with highly motivational and semi-coherent calls to action.

It’s been a long time for DC in skateboarding’s lonely wilderness of what is not so cool, a foggy landscape of mall stores, mail-order warehouses and board shorts with flames on the side. Few find their way to the other side. Like Es shoes, DC remained in thrall to the tech shoe’s hoary bulk as Nike found its simpler, streamlined toehold in the Dunk and set about directing the conversation in the post-9/11 years. DC gained its own corporate firepower following its roll-up by surf log manufacturer Quiksilver, and outfitting Rob Dyrdek and other lords of MTV reality provided cushion enough for DC to maintain its industry position through the vulc-sole wars of attrition, if not necessarily retaining space on shop walls. A succession of designers proceeded to bastardize the Lynx into steadily less-recognizable forms, Euro SuperTour jerseys mouldered away somewhere, and Danny Way and Colin McKay didn’t show for the Plan B vid. But, DC shoes still was there.

For skateboarders of a certain age it’s odd to think of DC, which did so much to shift skate shoes from relatively simplistic Vans and Jims toward sportier stylings and techish accoutrements in the late 1990s, as a legacy act. But here we are: The seeds of DC’s attempted return to its late 90s/early 00s vitality were sown by the retro-minded Pennsylvanians behind the Sabotage vids and #skateshoewars, copping online vintage Lynxes, Kalises and various others as they simultaneously reclaimed Love Park from the authorities. Unlike Alien Workshop, DC recognized a new generation preparing to don swishy pants and opened its East Coast flow spigots, and now spot-searching Droors-endorser John Shanahan helps DC find a path after long years of wandering.

Against this backdrop arrives the winkingly named ‘The DC Promo’, feeling more vital than any DC video project in years. DC seems focused on capturing the world-conquering prowess that drove its inaugural full-length, a quest made easier by the fact that after the LA schoolyard groundwork laid by the Girl and Plan B camps, DC convincingly placed longhaired sweathogs like AVE and Ryan Smith alongside ledge grimers such as Brian Wenning and Stevie Williams, also with some vert ramps and Mega RampsTM. ‘The DC Promo’ is not so different, proffering perpetually adolescent Tristan Funkhauser as an olive branch toward the flood-panted deities of wallies and body varials — his incredible wallie frontside 360 is well-served by Chris Ray’s incorporation of the after-black hammer. Carlos Iqui and the too-long overlooked Tommy Fynn spin some wild handrail tricks, noted clotheshorse John Shanahan cracks an immense fakie shove-it over a bar and be still our hearts, for about 30 seconds, Colin McKay and Danny Way get busy on ramp coping. Wes Kremer and Evan Smith, who made a convincing enough odd couple in Thrasher’s recent interview issue, turn in a fairly blistering tag-teamer with Evan Smith inventing a new approach to an aged Philly spot and Wes Kremer further proving out 2014’s SOTY nod with a mindbender of a last trick. But the moment really is Tiago Lemos’, a time when switch backside tailsliding the Mission District 3-up-3-down can be goofed as a warm-up clip, irksome physics get brushed aside by waist-high kickflip smith grinds (both ways), and Marcus McBride’s block hops get Xeroxed for one of the more memorable lines down the SF pier in a while. This dude is operating on a whole different wavelength right now, and it’s a privilege to watch it unfold.

How much of DC’s turn away from prime time action sporting and podium-climbing pros, and refocus on skater-run events, pumping out videos and re-outfitting team riders in glossy jerseys, was forced by Quiksilver’s bankruptcy and resulting belt-tightening? Does the existence of new Danny Way and Colin McKay footage render the question moot? Yall saw these right? How much of the recently departed riders’ salaries have been redirected toward Tiago Lemos’ bank account as a preemptive hedge against the inevitable swoop by Nike or Adidas? How frantically are DC’s marketing overlords looking for ways to get him booked on a Thrasher trip before this year’s SOTY race winds down?

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Summer of Bad Vibes

September 5, 2017

Summer’s strength wilts and, seems like before we’re really prepared, darkness steps out. On the world stage, blunt talk of nuclear war; fires rage across the continent; monstrous storms bringing flood, pestilence and misery; and last month, the sun itself blotted out. Steely Dan is permanently fractured with Walter Becker’s death. And tragedy again in skating as beloved dad, bro, lensman and barbecue grandmaster P-Stone is lost to a car wreck, the driver Girl’s Cory Kennedy, booked on a 0.10 DWI charge, and carrying this burden for the rest of his life.

What else? The Ride Channel, that once-churning aggregation portal that Quartersnacks perceptively pegged as a HiphopDX for skating, is itself deteriorating — adding items of varied relevance now just in fits and starts, and in a troubling suggestion of early-stage dementia, each day posing to its pensive visitors the same question: Why Isn’t Chicago a Bigger Deal in Skateboarding?

Mike Munzenrider’s dutifully researched feature offered a range of answers — weather, cops, general not-giving-a-shitness — and these may well be. Does Chicago need to be a bigger deal in skateboarding? Chaz Ortiz, when he’s not buying out the bar with high-level mages, seems to be making a mighty effort to reclaim and elevate the greater metro area that set him on the path to X-Games glory, while making restitution for Trueride-flavored lines like this. But even in his most powerful Diamond t-shirt, Chaz Ortiz can’t carry 2.7 million souls on his back alone — Chicago’s been second, third, whateverth too long, plenty grimy but too Midwest to chart with the cellar-door-turned-bump-to-bar-wallride pro contingent that gravitates toward East Coast crust. In Chicago, crime wars fill the streets with dead children and the money always seems to be running out.

Not that the town has no talent. But it’s on some other shit. ‘Realm,’ the latest in a string of increasingly gnarly videos from Chicago’s Deep Dish collective, opens on a bombed-out husk of a city shot through with militarism on the march and authority’s heavy hand always just beyond the frame. The skating happens in the shadow of architectural marvels and across crumbling foundations, by streetlight and under those battleship-gray skies. CJ Kelly draws night lines down the block that go on forever, his noseblunts and wallrides bumping off poles and fences. Nico Rizzo tosses a nutty manual to no-comply down some steps, DJ Plummer scrapes off sparks and Mason Barnard whirls one of the crazier manual tricks in some while on a fat marble bench. It is wildly panted Brett Weinstein who breaks the knob off though, bigspinning both ways up an industrial-strength Euro gap, popping tricks over puddles, backside lipsliding up and through viaduct crust and, at the end, climbing up and down through the bowels of the Chase building to unload a pile of lines. This dude hits some minor-key harmony between Gino ledge tricks and the going transfixation on wallies and varial flips, and gets in one of the crazier transfer ollies since that kid jumped out to Jason Dill’s ender block.

Probe deeper though and you come to Chicago’s Ssquirted collective, which has been making videos for five or six years now that seem geared to disorient and abrade, placing viewers inside dimly lit rooms where stuffed animals are ominously scattered, and weirdly costumed characters preen just out of focus. In vids like hoEphase and this year’s bracing ‘PSYKO’ and ‘bLoWiE BuNnY’, voices get pitched down, skate footage slowly rotates and threats of violence and occult imagery fade in and out. A lot of stuff drips. The tricks blur between all this like one of those dreams where you can land everything until your grip loosens and the lights go out and you find yourself with blood-drenched hands clawing at your board.

Are the dissonant and sometimes harsh vibes out of Chicago the right ones for skating at this summer’s jarring end? Will these harsh and forbidding vids pull more people to skate Chicago or keep them away? Did Darkstar anticipate some of this doom and pathos when resurrecting its unoly knights? What’s next?