(Very sadly and coincidentally dedicated to the memory of Andy Kessler. Also, the DVD apparently ships next week, so just order it)
The lost art of skateboarding documentary is definitely demanding. So demanding that most of them tend to go the easy route : drama. Trying to make you cringe, or cry, or feel, to keep you interested. Jay Adams should have had it all, but he went to jail. Gator had it all, but he went to jail. What about Hosoi? Well, he went to jail -but he did have it all before. Jason Jesse? Let’s voyeur a bit into his depraved mind in order to feel safe and fuzzy, outside. And so on. At some point, some mental imbalance is required, it seems.
That’s why Deathbowl to Downtown is so refeshing. No rise and fall of a pop hero here. Just a straight-up journalistic tale of how New York City (and city in general for that matter) skateboarding was born, period, by the dynamic Rick Charnoski/Buddy Nichols duet. To top off all the early Shut footage -James Brown “Superbad” board reissue?- and rare sightings of a talkative Ryan Hickey, it’s a documentary with a more thoroughly thought through soundtrack than the usual litany of Top Of The Pops hits from whatever period it’s talking about. Peep this…
Hard to surpass Fela Kuti’s mastership over the Afro beat genre. Even his own son Seun gave up and just chose to imitate, to the perfection by the way, his dad’s music, frantic dancing and tight, red pants. Seeing a Seun show, at least, ships you straight to Lagos (Nigeria) thirty years ago for cheaper than investing in a time machine -ask Dyrdek, these don’t come off cheap. Anyway, it could have stayed this way forever until a Brooklyn-based, 11-members bulletproof (“anti-balas”) outfit decided at the end of the 20th Century to incorporate some originality in Fela’s legacy, using jazz, funk and improv elements, and not having listened to Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive Orchestra with adeaf ear, it must be said.
After the initial 7″ Uprising in 1999, Antibalas released their first album the following year, probably their most iconic so far. Funny how slept-on Afro Beat has been as far as skate videos go.
When a band’s first LP is called Frontside Grind and was recorded in 1987, just expect exactly what it’s supposed to mean : classic, lowfi skate rock, in the Thrasher Skate Rock cassette tape sense that is. No wonder, as the Drunk Injuns’ singer, a certain Mofo, sort of directed and created the Thrasher Skate Rock series in question, and even coined the term “Skate Rock.”
Urban legends aside, taking bits from this one plus pieces from their original 1983 tape My Bad Dutch, not to forget two tracks from Ancestors : Gods Of Sound, this album with a title of Morrissey-esque proportions itself is kind of a documentary about the masked band’s early career -the only one they knew, as of course they only recorded four albums. From Where the Sun Now Stands, I Will Fight No More, Forever will pose as the perfect, semi-comprehensive compilation of the band’s statements. And will also remind to those who forgot that Mofo’s actual name is Mörizen Föche.
It’s pretty sad, but a lot of people in the highly intellectual skateboarding circles will never know anything more about the NY-based label Truth And Soul than this : it’s one of the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars. The fact to even know that is scary.
Anyway, if DFA label’s honcho Tim Sweeney still has a hand in picking the music for the GTA series, it pretty much can’t go wrong. Exhibit two, all the Truth And Soul tunes present in Deathbowl to Downtown, and particularly the Bronx River Parkway’s Mas Y mas, out of either their Deixa Pra La 45’s B-Side, or, for the poor turntable-less souls -the ones who probably invested in GTA instead- from T&S’s 2006 compilation CD. Whatever way works though as a reminder that latin music got soul and makes sense in a skateboard video, even if it’s been thirteen years already since Chico Brenes skated to Joe Pinto.