Some junk wood, a dry room: sometimes the spots born of necessity are the best spots. Is this crappy quarter pipe (ramp? bank?) necessary? Cincinnati’s got winter’s, undoubtedly, so who am I to question someone’s truth, man? The basement is sometimes all we have and sometimes we’re lucky to even have that. Besides, not too much was piquing my interest till I saw this grey beard against a pale palette. A quick look at the profile page only revealed the words “jj fad.” But it really doesn’t take too much to get me going, if the ingredients are right. In the “set-it and forget-it” method of filming, most of the tricks in this are shot on a static camera placed on the ground in a stark, basement office of a clearly adult skater. With cameos from his daughter, peers, and a booty-shaking lady (Mom?) this basement-dwelling skate-rate dad’s internal flame is burning strong. His moves, a handful of stall/manual combos and some low-ledge doinkers, hint at a diverse, rich skate life in the world outside of his basement and indeed his Vimeo profile, “A Pinch of Cincy,” proves this is the case. Getting Yours and sharing it with the world, this is what SOTW is about. Thanks for sharing your personal scene, jj fad.
(sorry, y’all, embed code from thrasher doesn’t seem to work on wordpress. If it does I can’t figure it out right now.)
Last week Nike released their screen-warping Nyah opus; this week, a quietly released follow-up from JB Gillet on Thrasher. Not a bad strategy: get all the raving followers of Nyjah and his taste-bending bangers hyped while simultaneously riling up a generation of skaters who have difficulty considering a round bar if it’s down stairs, then while you have their attention blindside them with a part more their speed. It certainly worked on me. The thrill of seeing JB in his favored stomping grounds, Parc Hôtel de Ville in his home city of Lyon, is like seeing the cast of your favorite sitcom back on set for a new season. What’s he going to do with the space? Surely he’s maxed out his material here? How does this place even grind still? The monument pyramid looks smoother than ever, the ledges and ground are certainly still cooking (as evidenced by JB’s opening 3-trick, no-push line), and, yes, some parts needed a bit of a makeover to join in on the party, like the piece of angle-iron placed over the eroded center-stage ledge. Like that piece of angle iron, JB has only gotten sharper with age. I got so stoked on the tasteful precision, trick selection, and finesse tying them together that I went back and watched every JB part I could find (16 – I couldn’t track down his parts in Logic 3, Puzzle 8, or a smattering of Lakai/Cliché tour videos). In the process, I was reminded of this Quartersnacks ode to him a couple of years back, rightly recognizing his Freedom Fries part as a true opus and including a remix part of his later footage. Definitely read that – it’ll pick up the slack of getting hyped on JB Gillet that I’m surely leaving behind.
For my part, here’s a bunch of random notes I scribbled down while watching JB’s oeuvre. Consider it more of a set of stream of conscious notes than any actual map of his video part history. You’ll have to watch them all for yourself. Luckily I made a YouTube playlist of all his parts that I could find for you.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think JB was from California. I forget that to make any name for yourself back then, especially as a European, you really had to get yourself out there.
His body of work skating Wallenberg like a ledge rivals that of many SF natives.
In at least 3 of his parts, including this brand new one, all of which can be neatly labeled as “ledge-tech” by those who feel the need to categorize, he throws a viciously lofted trick over that one tiled volcano. We’ve got a frontside grab in New Deal’s Promo 96, a freakin airwalk in his Freedom Fries part, and a robustly tweaked backside grab in this new Nike joint. This volcano really does JB service in throwing in some pure stoke/gnar in parts that may otherwise be labeled as overly or purely technical (by maniacs) – a tiny but potent dosage, just the necessary amount.
This dude stays skating to French rap and why not, obviously.
Does he really have a part in Rodney vs Daewon Round 2? I completely forgot about this. Of course — the Deca connect. It’s easy to forget how top tier of a skater JB was and continued to be in his career. This video was ubiquitous to me coming up, of course he had a part in it.
Over the arc of JB’s career, what started out as a mixture of French and Californian spots with a heavy tilt towards the latter (I’m talking like 70/30) is now all France. He was gradually headed towards that balance by the time he got on Cliché, which of course pushed it over the edge, but in this day and age why wouldn’t he stay in France?
A lot of people tend to group JB and Lucas Puig together (for obvious reasons) but the teammate I always associated him most with was Daniel Lebron. He and Lucas share a part to Daniel’s Spanish guitar plucking in Clé, though.
Footage really went a long way before the internet. I’ve seen the same footage popping up in Deca projects, Lordz videos, and 411s, especially his earlier work.
Was his 2nd to None part the same as his 411 rookie part or is that just a mislabeling from the internet? At this point I’m freaking swimming in JB tricks, I can’t sort it out.
Nollie front 180 nose grind 180 out, both ways (approaching the ledge frontside and backside) was a major signature move for JB. While I noticed these more in some of his earlier work, variants of 180 nosegrinds still are.
You know, not too many people can hold your attention to a looped, instrumental 8-bar hip hop beat. You really need something special. JB’s got it.
He shows the same knack for taste in trick selection as he’s always had but manages to evolve and barely repeat any tricks in this new part. It’s as if he has a tried and true process for picking tricks that always ends up with great results while not necessarily using the same method.
This guy’s the official handler of Hôtel de Ville, right? In tricks on the top of the bench alone he’s untouchable. What have I seen so far? Switch tailslide, noseslide to noseslide on the bench, crooked grind land on the bench backside 360 off, noseslide nollie heel out, the ones in his new part. I’m forgetting a bunch. Unreal. He still manages to use the pyramid, benches, stage, flat – every aspect of this spot, in unique ways. Truly inspirational.
As Quartersnacks tells us, this Freedom fries part is a masterpiece.
The only other backside 360 manual I’ve seen on film is in this Freedom Fries part. He does a backside 180 out – does that make it easier or harder? It’s on a level, much shorter manual pad, though, which definitely makes it a bit easier than Roslyn.
His trick selection really is impeccable. He always throws in a handrail/hubba/shoot out ledge/big pop flip trick at just the right time with just the right amount of precision to show you he got it like that / how deep his trick bag is / his skill level.
More people should aspire to skate like JB, though I guess it’s so hard to pull it off it’s not even worth it sometimes.
BONUS – Politic – Transmission One
Since I try to stay away from the bigger publications but couldn’t this week, I felt the urge to toss in a non-Thrasher clip as well. Here’s the shrewd, jittery grime aesthetic we’re used to from a few Politic team riders including a bevy of footage from Dave Caddo, which practically amounts to a full part. Always a good one for activating adrenaline and getting the blood flowing.
Against all odds, what first read as an unveiled grab at authenticity actually got me most stoked this week. On this occasion, it’s a grab by an original of New York nineties nostalgia: Eli Gesner of Zoo York founding notoriety. On exhibit is a Young Thug music video he crafted out of his hi-8, mid-90s b-sides and crossed with contemporary hi-8 footage of Young Thug, A-Trak, Falcons, and 24hrs in the streets and at the Brooklyn Banks. A friend relayed the observation that “Hypebeast bought The Berrics so that’s why Young Thug is at the Banks” from a native New Yorker and at first I found it a hilarious, true way to write off this blatant reach for legitimacy: the logical end of the trend-ification of skateboarding in pop culture, when post-Lil Wayne skate-forward rappers finally dip into the well of ‘90s skateboarding. While not a direct correlation, Hypebeast buying the Berrics is as apt a metaphor for the complete commodification of skate culture as I can think of. Though The Berrics were there holding the door wide open from the start, at least it’s an organization founded and ran by skateboarders. Hypebeast is not.
So there’s a lot to be annoyed with here. That was my first reaction when a friend who doesn’t skateboard, but admittedly laughs at the commercial use of skateboarding to be “cool”, showed me this video. The ensuing web of links I was sent through (Apple News > Hype Beast > NY Skateboarding > YouTube) to actually see the video was another indicator of far mainstream publications will go to capitalize on the culture. At the bottom of it all was a fun but unspectacular Hi-8 video, though one which did seamlessly blend contemporary and past hi-8 footage.
I wanted to see the video as a blatant attempt to exploit mixtape-era Zoo York cool, as personified by Harold Hunter. Indeed, Young Thug’s music gives no new perspective on the era, but I soon couldn’t deny the small pleasures of the unseen footage. Tre flips into the Banks, Soho street fireworks, Jefferson Pang rolling a blunt, and Harold ripping a noseslide down the Banks 9. These nuggets and the irony of seeing a rap video shot in a late 2010s Brooklyn Banks kept me going. I also read the NYSkateboarding.com interview with Eli Gesner, one of the links I had to sift through. For a short interview it gives a lot of insight into the video’s process and explains the ending call-to-action for the Harold Hunter Foundation, an undeniable highlight in this commercial production.
Even so, what was Young Thug doing at the Banks? He doesn’t skate, or at least didn’t in this video. An also skateboard-less 24hrs seems dreadfully uncomfortable existing in and singing at a location surrounded by skateboarders. We’ve seen this attempt to use skateboarding for validity many times. When it bleeds over into the mainstream and a friend who doesn’t skate sends me a skateboarding-related thing my usual response is “oh yeah, that was awesome, of course I’ve seen it” or “oh boy, what have they done now?” When the subject of such incredulousness became Mixtape-era (read: early-mid ’90s) footage, I was influenced to look harder.
While Young Thug didn’t do the work of connecting the present and past to show us a new perspective, Eli Gesner actually did. In being the keeper of his own archive as well as the director of this video he is drawing lines between artists of different times and communicating that, according to him, they deserve to be observed on some similar plain. When the final shot of the video; a closeup on Falcon’s face that reveals, genuinely surprisingly, the hi-8 camera to be mounted on a drone that rises up above the Brooklyn Bridge overpass, for which the Banks get their name, to look East out onto the river, Brooklyn, and the ocean beyond; I experienced a genuine emotional feeling. A wistful tenderness for the place – the Banks, downtown Manhattan, the East Coast – that left me feeling a little bit off, embarrassed even. Had I been duped by the machinations of music marketing? Or has my skateboarding circle collectively reached an age where we begin to create our own nostalgia in an ongoing, intergenerational exchange between person and place? The genuine inclusion of the Harold Hunter Foundation and the visceral feeling of hope and warmth I felt from the hi-8 drone shot, a literal combining of past and present technologies, did the work of beginning to shade in some of the lines of why Young Thug might be at the Banks. It’s never always black and white.
If the increasingly requisite “rough cuts” are a sort of behind-the-scenes documentary accompanying most new, high-profile web parts, consider this offering from Chris Jones and filmer Jake Harris the Burden of Dreams to Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. Before these, apart from slam sections, after-credits shenanigans, stand-out mishaps, or maybe a DVD bonus feature, most skate video viewers are left to imagine the physical work that goes into tricks. If my memory serves me, I recall the first of these rough cuts being the B-Sides to Emerica’s MADE Chapter 1, first released via their own dedicated app and then on Thrasher, who proliferated the practice to many of their big brand partnerships.
For anyone who’s ever stepped on a skateboard even once, we know this stuff does not go down first try. The B-Sides were the first time in the internet era of skate videos that, on a large level, a company shared a chunk of the footage that went into some of the makes from the video. The sometimes excruciating to watch contortions of Jerry Hsu, gravity (and height) defying antics of Brandon Westgate, and nearly stubborn commitment to, well, committing of Leo Romero were available to see in seemingly non-curated form. Turns out: skaters love seeing how the sausage gets made. No surprises there.
So other brands started following suit, no doubt realizing that these raw cuts offered a chance to double their exposure under the guise of a new release. Vans’ RAW Files, Foundation’s Unwashed Cuts, and Creature’s Coffin Cuts are just a few of the other iterations of the B-Side I can think of off the top of my dome. There’s something very special about seeing the raw footage of a trick, stripped of it’s context in a whole video, without music, that brings you that much closer to the feeling of being in the streets. You can focus more on the technique and style of the skater or the aspects of a spot you may otherwise have overlooked. It’s a delight for the viewers and easy work for the button-pushers behind the scenes, who have no additional work to do but organize and export the best raw stuff.
Why, then, is the practice getting stale? The predictability is part of it; when any anticipated web part comes out you know there will be a rough cut following shortly. Oftentimes these are obvious marketing grabs, a few uninteresting attempts at a trick strung together before the makes. Other times they’re transcendent insights into the level of skill some of our favorites are gifted with. I’m thinking back to Hsu or, in a less bone-crunching sense, any additional footage of Tiago Lemos. When these work, they really work: I’ve heard some people say they prefer watching a rough to an actual part. That’s cool, but also a possible harbinger for the state of the skate video. It’s always been a marketing tool, but is it being stripped of it’s merit below the bottom line? With videos slowly being reduced from hard copies to the web, full lengths to single parts, thoughtful projects to Instagram explore-tab-fodder, why even bother thinking creatively about skate videos?
For the past few years, Free Skate Magazine has taken the lead on original, effective, creative, thoughtful, and impactful content. In an effort to make a global stamp on the WWW of skateboarding for the European scene they represent, they’re sure to not just throw out some raw footage. This clip – or film, or documentary, really – is not a rough cut of anything. It’s not just the slams that precede a make or the celebrations after. The car parked at the spot, the train rides, the tricks that got away: the minutiae of getting out in the world and getting on your board. It plays cinematically; jumping around in time, setting us up early on for a payoff later, building mood, establishing location, introducing characters. It portrays the joy, love, hardship, relief, and compromise of existence. There’s nothing rough about this, and as a result Free doesn’t call it a rough cut. It’s part two, the follow-up to what will surely be one of the best parts of this budding 2018. Jake Harris and Chris Jones show us that these tricks do not exist in a vacuum without people; they fill up the numbered days of our lives, impressing interactions with families, parked cars, and far-flung neighborhoods as moments, experience, and memories. It’s the persistence of a life lived the way you want, not just of making your tricks. Where were you on New Year’s Day? Probably not revisiting a spot for at least the third time to get a trick you never end up getting.
Sorry for never going back to the Herzog comparison, I just wanted to get that in there.
Like an old childhood friend you don’t get to see as regularly anymore, there’s times in any skateboarder’s life when they may drift apart from their board. Days, weeks, months, even years may go by without even looking at the thing. But the hallmark of any true friend is revealed after such periods, when you reconnect after years and feel you haven’t missed a beat, easing into a comfortable exchange of experiences in a conversation you’ve really been having all along. For many people, skateboarding is such a friend. I don’t know Jérôme Chevallier’s relationship with skateboarding – I’ve never heard of him before this part. Did he start young? Did he ever quit? Was he pro? Is he pro? Does he work in skateboarding? That he’s European may have something to do with my having never heard of him. That’s OK, when you’re making and releasing a part to celebrate your 40th birthday, I don’t need to know who the skater is. The simple phrase “______’s 40th Birthday Part” alone is enough to get me stoked, let alone the straight-up innovative moves he packs into this thing with all the panache, historical trick knowledge, and casual skateboard ability that someone who’s made it to the big 4-0 on a skateboard has earned. Whatever may have happened in the past, it’s clear Jérôme’s relationship to skateboarding is strong, way stronger than many’s.
Someone at TransWorld must be from New York. Between their regular Lurk NYC Mean Streets/New York Times series and their championing of John Valenti’s NY Archive short video, they keep the city well represented for a magazine based out of Southern California. This friends section from the latter really recalled an NYC filming legacy best epitomized by R.B. Umali’s NY Revisited (not too far off a name from NY Archive…) where no spot is left unnoticed and the camera skirts across the ground. Rather than doing a trick just for the sake of the spot, the skaters in this montage elegantly use the terrain to showcase what, in each case, seems like the best aesthetic move for it. I’m thinking of Bobby Worrest’s locked in but wondrously casual frontside flip on the bump to can and Dave Caddo’s equally nonchalant kickflip over a raised cellar grate. I love when a skater does the same trick twice for two angles. The editing choice of slowmo on the kickflip’s second angle mirrors the kind of carefully calibrated visual acumen that the skaters display with the terrain. This friends part felt more Scorsese –Mean Streets-’70s era than the Lurk NYC clips of the same name but is updated, via the music and impressively up close HD fisheye filming, to be firmly of the late two-thousand teens, or whatever this decade is called.
Note: Upon writing this, I found that the full video was uploaded a few days ago, which includes this friends section, already individually released parts from John Francomacaro and Charlie Cassidy, and a not-yet-released Tyler Rennard part.
The problem with maintaining a blog like this can be summed up in a simple question – What happens if nothing got you that stoked this week?
“NOTHING got you stoked this week?!?!” Well, not nothing, but you don’t need me to be linking the new Spitfire Arson Department clip or the Mark Suciu adidas part, so I’m not going to.
What I’m going to do is point you in the direction of two important skate media institutions on similar but almost opposite ends of the same spectrum. The first, a young crew of girl skaters from New York called The Skate Kitchen, has been making louder and louder noise in our community. I’ve written about them before, but you may already know them from their Nike collaboration, Miu-Miu short film, New York Times article, or Vogue shoutout. Most recently, they were the subject and stars of Crystal Moselle’s (dir. The Wolfpack) narrative debut Skate Kitchen, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews.
The hubbub and media attention they’ve garnered caused me to raise an eyebrow amid worries of commodification and exploitation of skate culture but, after closer inspection and a conversation with my friend Zach, my superciliary arches have evened out. Young, outspoken, attractive women like these are the ideal subjects for corporate commodification of growing youth cultures and the “female market” in skateboarding is wide open for companies to find a way in. Instead of being taking advantage of, the Skate Kitchen is using this interest to their advantage and vocally and vociferously carving out a place for acceptance of women in skateboarding. We need look no further than the web output of Rachelle Vinberg, a founding member, and Kabrina H Adams, their most prolific chronicler. Kabrina aka MoonbearDiedHere made a quick montage of some skating she’s shot throughout her vlogs for the Sundance parties they were attending, as well as the first release of footage she shot throughout the shoot. There’s much more to be said about their handling of image and expression through the lens of feminism but that’s for another, more thought out time. For now, I’ll leave you with these two clips which I hope will inspire to dig deeper.
Next is young skater Aaron Yant, a goofy high school senior skate rat who’s skating has been described to me as “cutesy.” I met him over the summer and have been following his media since. He clearly has insane talent and the passion that puts him in the streets as regularly as his YouTube clips show us. Posting 2-3 times a week, every clip has the low-key skate it-shoot it-post it mentality that almost seems the same as not posting anything at all. He’s out there skating for fun and sharing it with the world for his own enjoyment. He’s young, he’s got some funky sponsors, he’s having fun, he’s doing it right in my book. Stay cutesy. I’m looking forward to what you do after graduating.