Archive for October, 2020

Dawn Of The Dead: Anthony Van Engelen, The Zombie Spot, And The Unholy Consequences That Could Follow

October 18, 2020

In skateboarding nothing stays dead for long. Tricks, fits, careers and companies are unearthed, rehabilitated, and marked up for a searching and seldom satisfied tribe whose tastes run fickle and are always averse to any whiff of the stale. The professional class’ collective acceptance and eventual embrace of the softgood-consuming public’s okayness with something less than relentless trick progression helped usher in a nostalgic wave where one-downs are cool, ‘Tilt Mode’ stunts are a cottage industry, and vibe rules.

And yet some things remain beyond the control of mere mortals that direct industry hype, and consumers who rule upon it. Just as generations of advanced deck technologies continually are cast aside in favor of the good ol seven-ply maple stick, the hassle-free concrete pads and ample parking of the skatepark era has failed go temper street spots’ allure. And so when the bulldozer and the excavator loom, scuffed sneakers shuffle into city council meetings, petitions are launched and campaigns mounted; sometimes they work (Tompkins, South Bank, Stalin Plaza), sometimes they do not (Love Park), sometimes the answer remains murky and scary (Brooklyn Banks). But always, the outcome lies somewhere beyond the skaters’ control.

Now we find ourselves in a tingly season when spirits rise, and sometimes, the dead walk again. Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen, that Dr. Frankenstein and Igor of the early World vibe, this week affected a minor act of spot resurrection. Possibly using the Necronomicon but in a cool way, their FuckingAwesome imprint — itself a revived and broadened onetime ‘streetwear’ concern – plucked from the ‘Mosaic’ and ‘DC Video’ period the curved metal bench hit early on beside a building by Kenny Anderson before Dill and AVE and possible co-conspirators transported it to the downtown LA wasteland spot alongside a miniature pic-a-nic table, a makeshift jump ramp and other detritus of the time. After Eric Koston anointed it at the height of his powers in ‘Yeah Right’ it seemed to pass into shadow, until returning as the surprise guest for a host of tricks by Anthony Van Engelen and Guy Mariano in FuckingAwesome’s excellent three-banger ‘Dancing on Thin Ice.’

But like the cat brung back to this earthly realm by the haunted and poorly maintained ‘Pet Semetary,’ what lies ahead for the revived bench is unclear at best. Defying the laws of nature, and unspooling the mortal coil, can have unintended consequences that even the most learned computers are not able to accurately calculate. Hubba Hideout’s third and final act saw a truckload of glory-hound tricks that affected less and less as names and moves were hurriedly tacked on to the bottom of that storied list. Plan B’s revival seems to have been a commercial success, if carrying little of the company’s 1990s impact. Alien Workshop’s reboot has put on some worthwhile talents, but otherwise coasts on 25-year-old graphics and varied success in recapturing the singular audio-visual presentations of its past. After respawning from a Mike Carroll break, the pink board from ‘Yeah Right’ quit skating and instead seemed ready to take up surfing.

Is the curvy metal bench officially ‘back from the dead,’ or with AVE’s last trick in the vid is it now officially ‘killed’? Does it stagger around at night, seeking to feast on miniature schoolyard pic-a-nic tables? With some love, tenderness and bravery related to the roving police, could the Brooklyn Banks rail return? Could DNA be extracted from the tile in Josh Kalis’ garage to eventually re-grow a new Love Park, and could it be safely skated long enough to film a new ‘Sabotage’ entry before it runs amok and destroys the idyllic tropical island where it was placed?

Experimental Drugs, Dead Gods And Locust Swarms: Runners And Riders For 2020 SOTY

October 11, 2020

And this calamitous year shifts now into high gear for the final quarter. The USA president, administered experimental drugs to save his life from a bat-borne disease. Eddie Van Halen, guitar diety, claimed by the Grim Reaper. Brawny hurricanes pummel our valuable beaches and locust swarms afflict Africa’s farms.

Anti-Hero Skate Boards, that atoll of relative calm betwixt the news cycle’s fearsome winds that also employs Frank Gerwer, this past week took the unusual step of sponsoring and affixing its famous eagle logo to the vice USA presidential debates (seen above) to remind those seeking cranium-ready sand openings that Skater of The Year season is again in full swing. Must Chris Pfanner’s cool-headed and European approach to existentially risky handrails be considered in any such conversation? Will 2020 be the year that ‘at last’ delivers the coveted Rusty artifact to the doorstep of a perennial contender? Could a hazy concoction of absentee ballots, hanging chads and unknowable identities of persons most mysterious forever cast an asterisk-shaped shadow over this, the first SOTY of these new roaring ’20s? Let’s read on.

Alexis Ramirez: With a solid grip on curtain-closing activities in Sk8Mafia’s video productions and a pungent tailwind from 2014 SOTY Wes Kremer, Alexis Ramirez has impressed with various IG-ready full-circle planter grinds while covering nearly all bases in last summer’s ‘2020 Promo’, from rooftop bomb-drops to rainbow-ledged SD schoolyards to the big bars. He returned this week, with another six-minute segment that drafts off the life-affirming TikTok of the moment and includes a head-scratcher of a backside lipslide bounce-out.

Louie Lopez: The first line in that ‘Lola’ part from August pretty much says it, 360 flip up a curb, hop up onto a ledge, frontside shove out to backside nosegrind on a planter, precise and easygoing and velvet-soft. Louie Lopez is one of those skaters whose highly nonchalant execution can distract from the hairyness of the tricks and situations, like his backside lipslide shoves-out for instance, and stuff like the tailslide pop to tailslide in his concurrent ‘II’ vid for FuckingAwesome makes it all look like kind of a lark. He’s got a Thrasher cover and likely more on deck, but is he the ‘right’ SOTY for such a grim, tumultuous year?

Mason Silva: Owner of the year’s most beastly Thrasher cover so far, the whiff of inevitability follows yung Mason Silva, hopping from Element to NorCal’s storied Deluxe kingdom and dropping video parts with unsettling regularity. It’s a real shame about the filming on that gargantuan bank ollie, but the dude skates like he’s got plenty of gas in the tank and the sponsorship firepower to make a formidable fourth-quarter press. The remarkable clips in the Nike part, Mason Silva’s effort toward a ‘Dylan’ statement-of-purpose, are too many to fully list — the 180 fakie manual half-cab out at the bumpy NY banks, the halfcab wallride over the rail, the snowboard kicker 360, the #fakiehard — and at this point it seems much like his award to lose.

Evan Smith: The starry-eyed rambler’s seat among likely finalists seems de rigueur in these last few years, as does multiple crazy parts from him within the 12-month calendar. There was his blurred, kaleidoscopic part for Anti Hero’s Grimple imprint, where he at one point did a kickflip backside wallride backside 180 out on a roof, and then another 5 minutes for DC Shoe, including that long k-grind drop down to backside 50-50, kickflips over and down and through a bunch of stuff and the occasional, sort of incongruous Droors shirt. A rumored new board company could provide the platform for yet another Evan Smith vid by early December, but you wonder whether his moment to capture the SOTY trophy is passing, sort of like longrunning runners-up Dane Burman and Clive Dixon, both of whom registered powerful footage this year — Clive Dixon noseblunted the Staples Center ledge to one of our time’s illest-advised musical selections, remember — but seem again like long shots as the time draws nigh.

Tiago Lemos: There is a sort of confusing sequence toward the beginning of New Balance’s August ‘Trust Tiago’ vid where some dudes seem to be cutting/removing a bar after Tiago Lemos skates it, symbolizing the international discomfiture over his not having been awarded top prize, gilded crowns, chestsful of golden doubloons and other special honors corresponding to the skill level required for the fakie flip backside nosegrind shove-it out and other feats that Tiago Lemos has completed for several years now. Hopefully his moves toward deeper-pocketed sponsors over the last couple of years are supplying certain amounts of golden coins. As far as SOTY goes, Tiago Lemos must continue to be included on any contenders’ shortlist, and not for nothing he’s put out two more video parts this year, including the head-exploding emoji repeater hardflip frontside noseslide toward the end of his one for ‘Crupie Wheels.’

Elijah Berle: Flicka was the name of a mysterious mustang with a dangerously waving dark mane, and so we shall call Elijah Berle, who assumes a sort of ‘dark horse’ position with not a lot of footage or coverage to show as the seasons change, but now a bracing cover hinting at the long-deferred promise of video footage commemorating his migration to the lush but increasingly crowded FA stable a couple years ago. Elijah Berle’s teeth-chattering handrails and transition charges are Thrasher-approved, but it seems like he’d need a document of Tyshawn Jones proportions to command the nod after working away in the wings most of the year.

North To Japan, Through Time’s Gelatinous And Quivering Halls

October 4, 2020

Where are the sacred scrolls and ancient tablets kept in a land ruled by subjectivity and the qualitative achievement? A place where stats and standings that provide the written record and ground historical narratives for other physical pursuits instead are relegated to an easily ignored, if well-appointed, backwater? Despite the press release-conversant, gift shop-ready Skateboarding Hall O Fame proclaimers, the permanent record here lives in the photograph, the png, the Hi-8 tape, the video file, and more than any of these, the volatile, flighty and always correct views of the kids. It is a realm made squishy and malleable by time’s passage, where Frankie Smith’s kickflip backside noseblunt once again is an ABD for future pyramid-ledge comers after Adidas re-upped its ‘Reverb’ offering from last winter, music rights appropriately massaged back into place. Hazy memories of decades-old video soundtracks resurface, dreamlike. Keith Hufnagel, gone much too soon, leaving a sterling track record on the industry side of the ledger — started from a storefront, put on generations of quality and often otherwise overlooked skaters, stayed respected with nary a bad word from ex-riders — which ought to be lionized on par with his catapult ollies.

Retro futurist John Shanahan, who knows his history, is in the news again, capturing the November Thrasher cover with a pole jam reversal of the up-rail frenzy from some years back. It is an underdog contender for sure versus Dane Burman’s more cover-ready but ultimately contents-bound Staples Center 50-50 two-step. The strongest flick of John Shanahan’s latest crop however comes in his interview, blasting a Japan air out of an embanked crimson sculpture somewhere within the churning womb of the United States.

Like other lasting works of poetry, various readings can be made from John Shanahan’s Japan air — an even further throwing back to theoretically simpler, or at least more insular, jump-ramp days; a reluctant flyout lover’s lament for cheap and accessible intercontinental travel in these pandemic times. More plainly it can be regarded as 2020’s strongest entry into the mystic annals of celebrated Japan airs of our times — approaching Mike Carroll’s timeless ‘Beauty N The Beast’ Thrasher cover, which remains regarded not only as one of the best magazine covers ever, but also alongside the Caves of Altamira and various Pen & Pixel Graphics Inc. works as the greatest images ever committed by humankind to physical matter. John Shanahan’s proves a worthwhile companion to Tony Cox’s own 2004 TWS cover, Justin Strubing’s lesser-seen version on the same spot, Daniel Kim’s switchstance stabs, the don Tony Hawk, and so on.

However unlikely it may have seemed in the yellow-hatted ‘Mean Streets’ days, with the prospect of a DC shoe part to come by mid-November, must the relentlessly productive John Shanahan be considered a capable and credible SOTY contender? Could such a choice demand a revisitation of BA’s timeless P&P cover? Will the worldwide celebrations of John Shanahan’s Japan air — along with the melon and, in certain slide situations, the crail, continuing as the few acceptable grabs on street — lead to a rereading of history and an ill-considered revival in tuck-knees and stalefishes down gaps by persons with beards and tight t-shirts?