An Evening of Incomprehensibly Epic Technical Virtuosity

August 3, 2010

On July 20, in the year of our lord 2010, two North American Tours collided in the NoVa/DC/MD area, resulting in an assault of firepower that the region had not seen since at least The War of 1812 (or perhaps the Marion Barry administration). In a twist of fate perhaps preordained by some mystic force, the Plan B squad and the Iron Maiden/Dream Theater tour both concluded their summer tours in the same area on the same day.

Unfortunately, due to the logistical constraints, I was only able to attend one display of epicness. However, even were I not burdened by such constraints, I am not sure I would have tried to navigate the worst (L.A. folk might beg to differ) traffic in the nation to make it from  demo to gig. Much like Guy, I try to keep it way simple these days. At least, through the magic of the internet, I am able to watch video highlights. Pit Crew is cool though; I always used to see random dudes at the banks wearing those shirtsand I thought they were tuff, even though I didn’t know what a “pit crew” was. I also back that Where I’m From video hard as fuck.

Speaking of the banks, if you missed “banks week” at quartersnacks you blew it. One of the most poignant statements, out of all the text in all those interviews, is when Steve Rodriguez said that what makes a skate spot truly magical (I’m paraphrasing here) is people hanging out there. That’s it. When was the last time you went to an actual skate spot (not a park or “plaza” or whatever) and people hung out there? Is there anywhere like that in America anymore? I think Rodriguez also emphasized the whole sitting on the wall thing, watching dudes try shit over the channel. That was critical. In a way, though, it’s a good thing that the small banks are dead; seeing dudes sitting out the wall texting, filming dudes skating the channel, tweeting “hey! i’m sitting on the banks wall right now!”  and uploading lil’ yfrog videos and shit would probably bum me out.

ANYWAY, even though Danny and Colin were not on this tour–I think the closest vert ramp was in Woodbridge or some shit–the two extremely valuable brands have a relationship dating back almost two decades. Although Maiden did not play the Colin McKay song, they did open with the second song from that Live After Death promo. Along those lines, by simply titling the promo Live After Death, Danny and Colin drew a seemingly obvious parallel between Plan B and Maiden, and also possibly between Way and the venerable “Eddie.” Plan B is pretty much the only company that, in terms of music supervision, has capitalized on the power and majesty of live recordings. Besides Chris Cole skating to that Joan Baez cover in the Fallen video I can’t think of any other examples at the moment.

Some dude on the SLAP board once said that metal doesn’t lend itself well to skate video music supervision; they explained by noting that unless one is on a Chris Cole level trick-wise, it is almost impossible to match the intensity. However, somehow it works in this promo. The heroic nature of the fast, technical music amplifies the majesty of the fast, technical skating. Kind of like how the frequent use of the Beatles in all those World/FTC vids emphasized the out-of-nowhere genius of those dudes.

More importantly, the Live After Death promo is the closest thing to an actual PJ Ladd “street part” in the past decade. Also, has anyone even come close to duplicating Wenning’s perfectly balanced fakie b/s ng sw heel out? Indeed, It is hard to escape the black hole of mid-00’s nostalgia created by Lynx-footed ABC ledge footage.

ANYWAY, while Plan B dudes killed the Frederick park, sixty or so miles to the south, Bruce Dickenson was completing his pre-show vocal calisthenics or whatever the fuck. Even further south than that, I was en route to the show with my friend, a dude with whom I skated the local EMB-type spot (Shafer Court) in the early Nineties. You may recall it from Ali Mills’ gap ollie and first-ever frontside flip on flat in Useless Wooden Toys. Apocryphally, Sheffey ollied over a car there–one of those lil’ MG’s. Although, looking back, that seems highly improbable.

As you might expect, the road trip conversation reverted, much like Rocco and Rodney Mullen’s Rubbish Heap commentary, to the “what the fuck happened to that guy?” game. We covered a proto-Kalis type dude who wore crazy Fila’s, did switch 360 flip noseslides in 1993,  and moved around a lot with his mom to sketchy apartment complexes. We also recalled a dude who went to my high school–a Jovantae Turner type; by all accounts he basically quit skating after Shafer Court was remodeled, rendering it unskatable.

My friend doesn’t skate anymore; he is currently a legit “shred” metal guitar dude–white high-top Reeboks and all that shit.  He was most psyched on finally seeing Dream Theater guitarist John “JP” Petrucci live. Dream Theater, of course, comes from the place from which emanates approximately 80% of the cool shit in American history–Long Island.

Although Maiden emphatically opened with the song from the Live After Death promo, they did not play the Colin McKay song, nor that Adrian Lopez song from that one Zero vid. Of course, it goes without saying that they threw in the Jamie Thomas song. However, over the course of the show, so many of their songs start with that same four-hits-on-the-high hat intro as “Hallowed Be Thy Name” that I got prematurely psyched like seven or eight times. This led to my friend and I deducing the formula for an Iron Maiden song. It is as follows:

  1. high hat intro
  2. mellow guitar part
  3. “galloping” verse, bridge and chorus
  4. two (sometimes three, because they have three guitarists now like Skynyrd) guitar solos
  5. outro (same mellow guitar part as before)

This is an extremely effective formula. It enables Maiden to write compelling material about seemingly asinine subject matter like a grown-ass man that is afraid of the dark.

To revert to the “skaters as guitar players” analogy, a deconstruction of Rodriguez’ career reveals several parallels to Petrucci.  Although he does not hail from Long Island, Rodriguez pulls off insanely technical shit in a smooth-as-fuck way; consequently, casual observers sometimes criticize his style as “boring.” However, the shit that both dudes pull off is so complex that it almost defies explanation; for example, this does not, on the surface, sound that crazy, but the string-skipping technique he uses would probably take the average “shred” dude a week to learn how to play–not to mention getting it down as smooth/clean as Petrucci. Similarly, Rodriguez doesn’t look like he’s “trying” that hard when he sw 360 flip n/s ‘s (back to switch) a knee high ledge, but it’s the kind of thing that is impossible to explain to someone whose practice is unrelatable. Kind of like how someone on the SLAP board said how teaching in the inner city is like k/f crooked grinding a ledge. In all honesty, I consider his part in the Nike vid, consisting of hard-ass tricks going fast as hell landing bolts, one of the best parts of the past decade. Hopefully footage of that mind-exploding sw back tail at Newport and Fedex b/s noseblunt will surface in that mysterious 8.9.10 video.

As for Mr. Ladd, the guitar player he most closely relates to is EVH. Although dudes were doing pull-off stuff to a certain extent before “Eruption,” that specific artistic statement of purpose cataclysmically shifted the paradigm. Similarly, dudes were flipping in/out before PJLWHL, but no one had put it together into a coherent statement. Like EVH fucking with his Marshall amps to create the “brown sound,” PJ also did unprecedented things in seemingly common environments (window ledge).

Unfortunately, with four dudes on the team coming out with full parts this summer, the likelihood of an actual, canonical, Ternaskian PJ Ladd video part coming out before I die decreases day by day.  I  feel like Bill Simmons’ dad–pre 2004 of course–waiting for the Red Sox to win the Series.

Dear lord, just let me live one more year.

Until then, I will be watching this while listening to this.

Or maybe the Shatner cover.


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