Posts Tagged ‘Griffin Gass’

Due To Skating To An Unreleased Steely Dan Demo And Other Services Rendered, Niels Bennett Hereby Is Named Your 2020 Skater Of The Year

September 6, 2020

Think about the totality of human history. Go ahead. It’s about 200,000 years. A long time, but not that long. Some highs (discovery of fire, the toboggan, automatic bill-pay), some lows (the extinction of the unicorn, alarming levels of space garbage), and in between numerous creamy middles. Yet perhaps the most shocking conclusion over this period is the relatively small number of people have set skate parts to Steely Dan songs.

‘Bro,’ a knowing bro may say. ‘Recall Mike Santarossa, later to be Prime’s most reliable nollie backside kickflipper, skating to “Do It Again” in a demo footage-heavy section for Powell’s “Scenic Drive” that also included the rarely spotted half cab to frontside smith grind 180 out.” This is a fair point, driven home with bloodcurdling abandon by the fact that the terminally smooth Tony Ferguson in ‘North 2’ later would reprise the same song. A deep-thinking bro may go on to highlight how ‘Dirty Work’ soundtracked the latter half of Dan Narloch’s boss level section in the late ’00s Midwestern seminality ‘Boondoggle,’ or that Studio snippeted ‘Boston Rag’ to open its 2012 ‘Mood Lighting’ project. It would have been really difficult for Logan Lara to avoid incorporating ‘Reelin In Tha Years’ into a ‘Boys Of Summer’ release at some point.

And yet all of these choices made by individuals over the last ~25 years fall short in their own ways, for instance by leaning heavily on the somewhat generic if well-executed ‘classic rock’ projections of the early Steely Dan catalogue, before they fully steeped their music in jazz arrangements, kicked off all those other dudes, and plowed through hundreds of millions of dollars in studio time for days-long pursuits of the perfect take. Here in human history, and indeed the planet’s own, Scott Johnston stands apart in Mad Circle’s Bay Area document ‘Let The Horns Blow,’ using ‘Peg’ in a choice that has reverbrated and frequently gyrated through time.

With untold eons yet to go, now comes Niels Bennett, onetime amateur for Girl, this week promoted into the professional ranks via the svelte and vaguely clown-themed ‘Nervous Circus.’ After introducing Australian ripsaw Rowan Davis, some frontside flip reminders from Tyler Pacheco, a couple Sean Malto clips that suggest he could be aging beyond 17 years old, and four straight minutes of Griffin Gass’ thundering, early-Andrew-Allen-meets-Primitive tech, Niels Bennett sails in with a satisfactory-sounding backside 5-0 and a string of high-fives to his forebears. There is a Rick flip, a frontside heelflip bigspin at Fort Miley, a fakie frontside flip the hard way over the Keenan Milton rail in LA, a fakie backside nosegrind 180 out at New York’s pyramid ledges that must for sure have been done before, but this good? The switch frontside bigspin is a post-millennium take on that one planter gap a bunch of those dudes used to skate and he has previously provided Chaffey materials.

Mark Suciu, who may be viewed as a spiritual predecessor to Niels Bennett, embedded similar themes into his ‘Cross Continental’ part in, wow, 2012. But in addition to a vicious and strategically placed fakie ollie and the incredible looking bluntslide to backside tailslide across the Flushing grate gap, Niels Bennett presses humankind forward via the incorporation of ‘Let George Do It,’ a deeply mined demo gemstone cast off by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen early in their 1970s vision quest. The song is in one swoop a sturdy vehicle for Niels Bennett’s loose limbed and cerebral tricks, a nod to his probably more fastidious Chocolate forebear, and a recognition that musical supervision decisions still exist that will stand up across human centuries, while remaining beyond the psionic clutches of Youtube’s copyright beholders.

Are unsleeping and relentless song-recognition algorithms to blame for the Siberian unicorn’s untimely extinction? When’s the last time you turned up the volume when ‘Is There A Ghost’ began bleating out of the speakers? Are switch frontside bluntslides for Griffin Gass similar to a 50-50 grind for everybody else? Does the dreamsicle color scheming of Niels Bennett’s debut OG model fill you with a childlike sense of longing for times past, or an inescapable woe over spilled popsicle sticks coagulating into sidewalk blobs, and guiltridden memories of slain unicorns?

Legacy Maintenance And Mutation In The Days Of Goldfish Focus

November 4, 2018

The time was the early 1980s and in that potent cosmos knowed as Hollywood, stars were aligning so as to align several of music’s biggest stars and birth the greatest musical album ever conceived: Queen frontman Freddie Mercury cowriting operatic party anthems with Michael Jackson, the undisputed king of entertainment. Although their respective musical prowess suggested little beyond certified platinum plaques for days and lofty wages, the artistic chemistry would be fouled by an interloping llama of some description.

According to an interview conducted with the Times of London, Queen’s former manager, Jim “Miami” Beach claims that Mercury called him and said, “Can you get over here? You’ve got to get me out of here, I’m recording with a llama.” Jackson was also reportedly less than thrilled with Mercury’s behavior during the recording session. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Mercury subsequently fell out with Jackson because the U.S. star objected to Mercury taking too much cocaine in his living room.”

On the surface, it’s just another cautionary tale about U.S. llamas, rival species and greedy excess. More deeply, it is a story of personal collaboration, llamas, and the challenges of building a chemistry strong enough to stand through the years. Like many of the 1980s’ greatest lessons, one can draw a direct line toward Element Skate Boards, which recently released its newest video, ‘Peace.’ Twenty-six years into its branded lifetime, the Twigs parent is feeling itself, springing for the considerable talents of Emerica’s Jon Miner to sort a 60-minute full-length from its deep and diverse benches, theoretically to bolster Element’s mystique and power in the board marketplace, while handing a breezy, wet, and flaming hot baton made of dirt to a new guard.

And what of that baton? By the power of the bankroll, Element’s clung to some clout over these many years, overcoming eyebrow-raising maneuvers such as a Billabong-cobranded Times Square outlet store and major-league fan service to corral a talented but usually incongruous mixture of riders, ranging at various times from Julien Stranger to Jeremy Wray to Chad Muska to Ray Barbee to Dennis Durrant to Terry Kennedy to Natas Kaupas to Kris Markovich to Stella Reynolds. Tracing the OG team to Element’s roster as of ‘Peace’ — it is sure to fluctuate again soon — would require several pages for one of Thrasher’s nerds-only company lineage features, and would rival the Bible’s ‘begats’ for reader patience.

Tenuous as Element’s current iteration may be to the ‘Skypager’ lineup or even the prior decade’s ‘This Is My Element,’ Jon Miner gamely coaxes out a cohesive if unwieldy production, strung together with static long-lens shots and a fair helping of psych-rock pulled from the ‘Made’ bins. Bionic Barley heir Brandon Westgate cranks once more down the SF hills to Operation Ivy’s buzzsaw bounce, rocketing over a king-size street gap and frontside flipping what appears to be an entire loading dock. Granola-grimy Tyson Peterson pulls a shocker of a kinked rail dismount and looks as confident sitting on backside smith grinds as he seems to be copping thrift-store trouser pants. Dominick Walker’s TSM cover footage is bananas, Greyson Fletcher catches one of the season’s most lovely and frightening kickflips, the lanky Madars Apse’s Barcelona board bonk and similar antics read like a Polar tryout, or maybe raised glass. Terminally brolic Mason Silva is positioned as ‘Peace’s’ closer, boosting fakie over the back of a rail to 5-0 and uncorking one of the wilder bump-to-bar wallride combos in a while, but it is starry-eyed wanderer Evan Smith, again, serving as the current Element generation’s spiritual core — beautifully switch backside flipping a bench, helicoptering off that silvery wedge for all the Spanish oldsters, and perhaps most dangerously of all, attempting to break Marsellus Wallace’s cardinal rule after a wallie late-shove gone wrong.

Is Element’s perpetually churning team a strength or weakness? Amid the recent media campaign for ‘Peace,’ Tyson Peterson in Thrasher speaks on his longtime Element fandom in terms of Brent Atchley, a dude off the team 10 years ago — and Bam Margera, whose pickup by Element during his ascent to MTV reality television staple marked one of the more surreal team roster mutations from the Chris Hall and Harold Hunter days, or even Reese Forbes and Kenny Hughes.

Meanwhile over at Girl, a 25-year-old entity that has derived much of its powers from maintaining a direct link to its storied pros and past, the dudes seem like they’re trying to tell us something. “We know where we’re going/but we don’t know where we’ve been,” croon the Talking Heads to Niels Bennett’s pre-intro sizzler in Girl’s crackling new ‘Doll’ vid. “I can change,” bleats James Murphy in the obligatory, sentimental-yet-lighthearted closing-credits number, as those yellowy letters scroll. “We sit back on Malayan islands/sipping mixed drinks out of broke coconut bowls, we wilding” croons Ghostface Killah amid Griffin Gass’ punchy, driving last part.

It is the sound of Girl breaking with its past, to some extent; eight minutes of ‘Doll’ unspool before there’s any tricks from a pre-9/11 rider, and then, it’s second-genner Brandon Biebel. The OGs skate for only about 30 seconds in the vid, and whether or not that’s OK is moot in 2018 — the ravages of time and adult living make anything else unrealistic, and Girl’s new hair relaxer-rejecting brood proves more than capable of carrying the half-hour ‘Doll.’

The dozens-deep pro rosters and overwrought theatrica of preceding Crailtap productions mostly are shunted to the side, allowing viewers to marinate in Niels Bennett’s sand gaps line, bounding fakie over one of Venice’s fat ledges, Tyler Pacheco’s loosey-goosey nollie heelflips and frontside bluntslides, Griffin Gass’ brawling rampages through alleys and fountains, and that one kickflip backside noseblunt. There’s winks and nods to past bits like Rick Howard’s dawdling rodent and Keenan Milton’s Rick Moranis moment, but the generational shift at work benefits even the skits — session screenwriter Colin Read, of ‘Spirit Quest’ fame, captures Spike Jonze’s brand of winking creativity using basically a board and a camera for a worthwhile entry in Girl/Choco’s anthropomorphic board series.

As the human attention span shrinks to rival the goldfish’s, ’tis it better, in pursuit of longevity and countercultural heft, to regularly shed teamriders every few years or hold to the original foundation of dudes as long as can be? Did everybody take note of Tyler Pacheco’s fakie flip in this? What about the alternate ending for the board revenge skit? How come nobody ever coined the nickname Matt “Miami” Beach?

Who Wants To Ride For Girl Skateboards?

October 13, 2018

Finally, some shame — Rick Howard, in a sorely missed skate photo for a recent Lakai ad, included a disclaimer specifying that the Anti-Hero setup that the Girl impresario is very visibly tailblocking belonged not to him but rather to photographer Mike O’Meally. Set aside boring questions of professional obligation and instead marvel at how the asterisk is more surprising than yet another appearance by the clean-scalped eagle beneath a Girl dude’s feet. It is 2018, robot cars have drawn first blood, and Kanye West tells us from the Oval Office that “time is a myth.”

For much of the past decade, various Girl teamriders not actively involved in weightlifting and yearslong DL stints have often veered between devoted Anti-Hero fandom and at times making the Torrance empire built from EMB bricks and SoCal picnic tables into an effective subsidiary for the tent-dwelling bowl tribe out of the Bay. Brian Anderson, who would eventually join Anti Hero, has talked openly of riding the boards throughout much of his Girl tenure, while Cory Kennedy in recent years took only cursory efforts to make it look like there was anything else guiding him in, out and around PNW concretes. The van door seemed to fly open for such deck double-dipping with the fabled ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tours — an inspired combination at the time, a clear passing of some subcultural torch in retrospect — and subsequent collabo product runs, while Crailtap employed a team-building playbook that at times seemed cribbed directly from the stripey socks/Dickeys/blaze orange beanie set.

For longtime devotees of the Art Dump, SHT Sound and goldfish-toting retirement home scammers, it’s difficult to separate dudes’ seeming lack of enthusiasm for skating their own boards with the company’s at times painful evolution, as the onetime family has splintered across the FuckingAwesome, Numbers, and other camps. For over a decade, damn near everybody wanted to ride for Girl skateboards. The World defection bomb-drop on the industry set up a 10-year run that elevated the original squad to all-time status and provided the currency, cultural and hard, for acquisitions to set up the next generation — Rick McCrank, Brandon Biebel, Robbie McKinley, Brian Anderson, Paul Rodriguez, Jereme Rogers.

Halfway through the ‘00s though the unthinkable occurred, with Paul Rodriguez stepping out, for a rebooted Plan B of all things. A crack had appeared; more than ten years on, the skate biz has learned that its institutions are not immune to the cultural fracturing that has laid low the top-40 radio hit, the water-cooler conversation-starter, the very special TV episode. The exodus from Girl began with next-generation pillars Jereme Rogers, Alex Olson, and spilled over to foundational names Koston and Mariano.

Tyler Pacheco, Simon Bannerot, Griffin Gass and Niels Bennett want to ride for Girl Skateboards. As per their recent Thrasher interview, they skate the boards. This clutch of curly-haireds, entrusted to guide the venerable company through a third decade, keep the bases covered across wallrides, hill bombs, bowls and those Southern California schoolyards. They feature in Girl’s imminent and anticipated ‘Doll’ vid, an am-focused affair that somewhat lowers the stakes; with 2017’s ‘The Flare’ making no bones about the fact that OGs Carroll, Howard, and others are throttling back with age, ‘Doll’ augurs to present a clean slate that maybe can be judged on its own merits by kids with only a vague grasp of Girl’s weighty legacy. In the Thrasher interview, Tyler Pacheco eloquently suggests that he and his bros aren’t encumbered by the historical gravity of a Girl nod, though they’re down for the cause:

How important is turning pro for Girl skateboards to you guys?
Manch: Not important at all.

It’s not a goal?
Manch: No. I mean, I already know Mike; I already know Rick; I already know Chico and Kenny and everybody. Shit, I’m already pro in my mind! I don’t look at it like that. Yonnie went pro and that’s my fuckin’ homie. When he first went pro I was like What?! Then two months later it’s like he’s my normal homie I kick it with. But it’s amazing. I was psyched when he went pro. ‘Cause everyone else I knew was on the fuckin team, It’s just like Wow, we’re all a part of this awesome fuckin’ company. No matter how far it’s gone it’s just great to be a part of it. I’ve always looked up to it and I’ll always hold it high in my heart.

What is success for Girl in 2018? Will a pro board for the preternaturally talented Niels Bennett at long last put some respect on the Slap boards’ name? Could a slimmer budget, driven by general hardgoods market saturation and rising freight costs, steer ‘Doll’ away from the high-concept, high-def sledgehammer approach of the Ty era and back toward the shoestring creativity that scraped raw the underbellies of ’80s sedans and affixed a Charlie Chaplin ‘stache on Eric Koston?

More 2017 Video Part Life

January 1, 2018

Griffin Gass, ’35th North’ – Future ‘Say My Name, Say My Name’ T-Eddy candidate again raises the question, as the Girl camp dips deeper into the Pacific Northwest for its new pickups, are they indulging in continued Anti Hero fandom or returning to the company’s partial Vancouverian roots? Also, the Pupecki grind on the Seattle rail

Magnus Bordewick, ‘Tigerstaden’ – This dude makes flip tricks look like explosions, with a jacket game to rival SP

Lucien Clarke, ‘Palasonic’ – From the Landscape intro to the Boss seven minutes later, Lucien Clark goes in

Kyle Nicholson, ‘Olympic Demo Reel’ – If there ever was a dude who belonged on ScumCo it’s the perennially overlooked Kyle Nicholson, bouncing back here after the City of Philadelphia robbed him of a Love gap switch 360 flip

Josh Drysen, ‘sml. Wheels’ – Solidly weird tech

Yonnie Cruz, ‘The Flare’ – It’s up for debate whether Lakai lensmen Federico Vitetta and Daniel Wheatly can capture Yonnie Cruz’ skating with the same combination of reckless abandon and high stakes that Ryan Garshell managed, but this part ripped, and James Capps tricks helped too

Yaje Popson, ‘Riddles in Mathematics’ – Whatever headaches were saved thanks to having the least-claustrophobic camera work in Chris Theissen’s latest paean to the uncomfortable close-up were offset by some of the most garish camo going. But Yaje Popson’s skating surpasses all

Kevin Taylor, ’42’ – A deep indulgence from one of the discipline’s true masters

Jimmy Lannon, ‘Shaqueefa Mixtape Vol 3’ – If you’re among those that can watch Jimmy Lannon do bump-to-bars for several minutes straight, you can do so via one of the year’s best-soundtracked videos

Niels Bennett, ‘Awake’ – The catch on the frontside 5-0 shove-it in this is nearly enough to tide people over until this dude’s next clip, which would benefit all involved if it announced Niels Bennett as the next curly-haired wallrider for Girl

Louie Lopez, ‘West End’ – people will debate whether he should’ve gotten Skater of the Year, but he gets points for prioritizing shove-its over kickflips when it comes to bump and gaps. And who’s whipping caballerials out of wallrides?

Tore Bevivino, ‘Sabotage 5’ – Strapping on the face mask for some of the gulliest levels lines ever done at Love Park