The marriage between skateboarding and punk rock goes all the way back to the rise of the first California hardcore bands in the early ’80s, in an area, Orange County, where kids traded their surfboards for streetboards and found an aggressive soundtrack for their aggressive style of riding in bands like Agent Orange, Black Flag, and Social Distortion. The emergence in the ’90s of the now long-running Warped Tour, a traveling multi-stage neo-punk extravaganza featuring sideshow demonstrations by pro skateboarders, BMX bikers, and, most recently, motocross bike jumpers, only cemented the relationship between X-treme sports and X-treme music. And in concert with the rise in popularity of ESPN’s X-Games, the once rebellious and underground pastimes of ramp and street skating have found a semi-respectable spot for themselves in the ever-changing mainstream of American youth culture. These days, skateboarding videos, skate fashions, and skating in general are a rising business, with pro skaters garnering the same kinds of endorsements that supplement big-league athletes’ incomes. But when it comes to touring productions like the Warped Tour, the skateboarders, BMX bikers, and motocross jumpers have generally been a sideshow, taking a back seat on the ticket to the hordes of young and old punk bands who dominate the mainstages.
Tony Hawk, however, has put his name behind a new kind of touring production, one that places the skaters and their brethren center stage. Hawk, one of the current bigshots in the realm of skate sport, is apparently a big enough name to justify a large venue like the FleetCenter, and that’s exactly what he did last Friday night, when his "Boom Boom Huck Jam" filled the FleetCenter floor with an elaborate network of ramps and jumps and at least two-thirds of the FleetCenter’s seats with a mostly young crowd of skateboarding enthusiasts. The inclusion of the veteran Orange County punk band Social Distortion on the bill was little more than window dressing; they seemed to be there more for the benefit of the skaters, who tend to count Social D among their favorite bands, than for the enjoyment of the audience, which didn’t appear to care whether Hawk and his cohort were shredding to the sounds of Mike Ness snarling "Mommy’s Little Monster" or a DJ pumping out generic and mostly amorphous electronic jams.
Indeed, Social Distortion were stuck behind the massive half-pipe that served as the show’s centerpiece, raised high enough above the action that anyone seated close to the ramp itself would have had a hard time even seeing the band. They powered through one of their typical sets, hitting most of the more familiar material they’ve recorded in the past 20 years, almost unaware of the furious action that was taking place just below them as dozens of skaters and BMXers dropped into the half-pipe to begin their routines. By the second portion of the show, which featured both skaters and BMXers shooting down a long ramp on their way to a long jump and a (hoped-for) safe landing, Social D were nowhere to be found.
So it was for the rest of the evening, as Hawk led his contingent of skaters and BMXers through a more choreographed routine of double and triple runs on the half-pipe for segment three, only to be joined by at the end by the motocross bikers, who executed a series of death-defying jumps during which they pulled off tricks with self-explanatory names like "superman" (as in the flying superhero) and "lazy boy" (as in the recliner). By the end of the show, the skaters and BMXers were furiously working their way around the half-pipe as the motocross bikers jumped directly over them; Social Distortion had long since been forgotten.