Philadelphia, perhaps more than any other major skate city, exists in a bubble. It ignores the superficial signifiers of “cool” that we have created for ourselves. Whatever aesthetic we come to expect of a video made by a bunch of twentysomethings in the 2010s doesn’t reach Philadelphia. People from Philly will claim its four or five years “out of touch.” That number could be doubled or tripled depending where you look.
Philly kids make videos for people in Philly, where the decade-plus since Photosynthesis and The DC Video never happened. People still rock the shoes Kalis wore, do lines the way Tim O. did, and nosegrind how Wenning once nosegrinded. There’s a cult around that era and its videos, in a way that’s incomparable to pretty much any other mythologized skate scene — right now, dudes in S.F. aren’t going out of their way to track down Rob Welsh’s Aesthetics pro model or Scott Johnston Lakais.
Most skate videos reward the viewer in a simple way: you watch them to get hyped, try a trick, or maybe copy someone’s style if that’s your thing. Sabotage 4, after sitting with it for a month or so, unpacks footnotes and homages with each viewing. Just as a sample in a hip-hop song has an invitation to try and put your finger on the original sound, or The Simpsons will wink at classic movies, Sabotage 4 comes from a similar place. The video pokes the viewer in the ribs, testing the geek-levels of anyone well-versed in the folklore of peak Alien Workshop-era Philadelphia skateboarding. It celebrates its inspirations beyond the tricks.
Acknowledging history in skate videos isn’t a new thing. Muska was just talking about the Gonz and Duffy homages in his Fulfill the Dream part, and anytime someone does back-to-back regular and switch variations of the same trick at the same spot we think “Arto.” Except Sabotage ramps up the nerdery tenfold — the framing of tricks, the careful curation of cameos, the tracking down of 7.4″ boards that haven’t been printed since the Twin Towers were still standing, and the recreation of once seemingly disposable minutiae of earlier videos. There’s more to it than “this trick at this spot.”
Sabotage 4 is as much a nerd scavenger hunt for references as it is a video of incredible skateboarding. Philly isn’t out of touch as it is justifiably still in love with itself and its rich history. Why look elsewhere for inspiration when they more-or-less steered the evolution of street skateboarding on this side of the country? People in New York didn’t start learning switch back tails ’til like ’99 ;)
Of all the micro-“controversies” that get aired out on skateboard Instagram throughout a given week, the Kalis noseblunt ad one was maybe the most confusing. Here was a fifteen-year-old pro model shoe ad of an honorary Sabotage member being reworked to promote the pro model shoe of another Sabotage member. Its intentions came from the same place as the framing on Sourbeer’s nollie nosegrind shove, or the 2001 Kalis pro model under Panebianco’s feet. Maybe the corporate sponsor had something to do with the nod missing the target, but its hard to believe Suciu didn’t have some hand in its creative direction. Just one nerd bigging up another, from the most unforgivably nerdy regional skate crew operating today.
If Sabotage 4 ends up being the last Love Park video ever — and it very well might be — this chapter of history couldn’t ask for a better swan song. There’s nothing about the video the seems the least bit concerned with the fickle outside world of cool-guy skateboarding. They might skate at J. Kwon or even Madrid but its sensibilities remain charmingly Philadelphia. Love will forever be the most storied spot in the narrative of this silly thing we do. It is only right to keep one foot in the past if you’re still fortunate enough to skate it every day.