As a kid growing up weird in a town that didn’t really like weird, I found myself drawn to those sectors of society that didn’t even try to fit in.
For example, I didn’t really become a punk, but I listened (voraciously) to the music, understood the culture, knew the history, and was influenced by the artistic and political movements that punk drew from. I still am, in some ways, even though I’ve changed so much over the years.
Another example is skateboarding. I only skated hardcore for about seven years, but I firmly believe that skating is a “once, always” kind of culture that never really leaves your system.
Maybe that’s because skating makes you see the city in totally different ways. Or, maybe it’s because once you choose a pastime that requires you to repeatedly smash into concrete to get better, you never really forget it.
Either way, there’s a rich continuum in skateboarding that most skaters choose to learn, add to, reference and build upon both inside and outside skate culture that goes on long after you quit. “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks” showcases this continuum quite nicely.
Nowadays, Mike Vallely is a bit of a celebrity on the Vans Warped Tour side of things, a pro skater who also fronts a punk band. When I skated he was just a skinny kid with a shaved head and combat pants who had lyrics from the Smiths on his grip tape. In other words, he was just like me. Key difference: Vallely is an insanely talented skater.
The short video, below, could just be an indulgence to me, but maybe there’s something in it for everyone that has ever been immersed in an underground culture. I found it fascinating to hear Vallely talk about being changed by the same videos, photo spreads and scenes that I was impacted by, and I think there’s a neat fold-in that Vallely eventually became one of these influencers too, inspiring kids to try things they’d never thought of and learn from those who came before them.
You may not know who any of these people are, or why the Brooklyn Banks were important to youngsters living hundreds of miles away (in my case, living in a different country), but in the age of instant access, I hope a video like this touches again on the raw inspiration that we used to feel when we were fully immersed in the underground and had to consume VHS tapes and print (that’s right, print!) magazines to get our fix.
These days I’m feeling like the things that used to be so critical to me are more important than ever, especially as the tools for creative expression become more ubiquitous and varied. I may not want to crack a kick-flip over a set of stairs (well, I may still want to…), but I do still want to be tuned in to why that felt so important, in both the small and large scale of things.
Check out “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks”:
Have some gritty underground inspiration of your own (or others’) to share? Let me know in the comments!