Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"This is concrete warfare we're talking about. If you're going to ride you gotta get on that shit."

Being a young lad at the turn of the 21st century, I was subject to some interesting pop culture trends (Furby, Tomagachi, Tickle Me Elmo, Britney Spears, etc.). As I grew up, most of these came in the form of TRL and its firm grip on my pre-teen mentality. However, one of these cultural phenomena that still holds my interest to this day was the explosion of extreme sports. I continue to enjoy most of them, but skateboarding is my hands down favorite. As I was doing some Internet-scouring before writing this, I think that I can trace the specific spot skating has in my heart to the year 1999.

This year sticks out for three reasons. One of them was most definitely this, the second was this, and the third was this. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is still one of my favorite games. Sure, the graphics are comparatively terrible to what we've got now, but the gameplay is totally awesome. As an 11-year-old kid, these were the kinds of things I wanted to be able to do, which is why Tony Hawk's doing the first 900-degree spin was equally important to me. As for blink-182's Enema of the State, it led me deeper into a whole new type of music and culture of which I had only a vague prior knowledge (more on this in a later post, I'm sure). A large part of the "punk rock" culture of the late 90s/very early 2000s also happened to be skateboarding. So these three just happened to pass into my cultural radar at the right time to make me a skateboarding fan.

While my own foray into skating was (extremely) short-lived, the sport still has an effect on me, considering that I still listen to some of those same bands from when I was 12 or 13, and also because my closet is full of apparel from companies like Element, Globe, Volcom, and Quicksliver. Since I also love history, I recently Netflixed Stacy Peralta's Dogtown and Z Boys, a documentary about the Zephyr Skate Team of which he was a part.

I had previously seen Peralta's Riding Giants, a documentary about the history of surfing, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and had been meaning to catch Dogtown and Z Boys for a while. The Z Boys, who came together at the Zephyr surf shop in Los Angeles during the 1970s, are skateboarding legends, as they were the first to ride in pools, thereby inventing vert skating. The team also played host to some of the very first world-renowned skaters, many of whom are still prominent in these circles today (Peralta, Tony Alva, Jay Adams). So, for skateboard enthusiasts, this is a must-see.

However, even as a non-skater, I could appreciate Peralta's tale of friendship and sport. I actually think this is one of the best sports movies I have ever seen! Being such an active piece of this period of time helps Peralta tell the story about like very few others could. He is unafraid to touch on the more rocky subjects (commercialism, the break-up of the team) and you can tell that the interviewees, most of whom were his teammates and very close friends, were very comfortable letting the director know how they really felt. Peralta also makes sparse use of Sean Penn's excellent narration and lets these frank interviews really tell the story. The soundtrack is also top notch, making use of timely tunes by Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix just to name a few. I really suggest you check this out.

On a related note, I have been listening to Odd Nosdam's T.I.M.E. Soundtrack a lot lately. The hip-hop producer created the album to be used in the This Is My Element DVD for the Element skate team. The sweet thing is that he apparently created each song to coincide with the style of the individual skaters. While I have never seen the video, this album is great. The production is highlighted by the kind of fuzzy, washed-out tape loops that make me absolutely love a lot of the beats on the Beastie Boys' first four records. Amid these soundscapes there are also some really great samples and excellent detail to these songs that has kept them in heavy rotation in my iPod. For instance, my favorite track, "We Bad Apples," has an opening drum part that sounds like it came right off of a Kinks record. Or how about those sweet sitar-like lines drawing you into a trance throughout "Top Rank"? If only commercial hip-hop were more like this, I probably would really like 50 Cent.

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