Gnarlytown Legends Talk Bikes, Boards, Bands and Broken Bones

You Got This Tour 2019 [Photo by Nitro Circus]
A new one-day action sports music event Gnarlytown is coming to Southern California next weekend. Taking place on Saturday, June 22nd at the LA Waterfront in San Pedro, the 95.5 KLOS sponsored festival features entertainment from Nitro Circus and Chris Cole’s Rail Jam Invitational.

Punk rock fans will get a heavy dose of live performances provided by Hermosa Beach favorites Pennywise, NorCal’s Rancid, New York rapper Action Bronson, OFF!, Madball, Rotting Out, and more.

Nitro Circus is bringing high adrenaline action to Gnarlytown. Featuring a star-studded cast of top tier athletes from FMX, BMX, skate, and more. Nitro Circus athletes will put on four separate shows during the festival. The shows will include the notorious Giganta ramp that towers more than 45 feet high. The Nitro Circus FMX riders will also be in full effect throwing down choreographed tricks over a 75-foot gap.

Chris Cole’s Rail Jam Invitational is personally curated by professional skater Chris Cole and will feature a number of his favorite skaters today, including Ryan Sheckler, Tom Asta, Chris Joslin and plenty more. The course appears as a neighborhood skate park. The main obstacle is a level change in the center, with stairs, a rail, and a hubba ledge designed as a never been seen oversized guitar.

The Weekly spoke with two key players leading up to the inaugural event: FMX rider Blake “Bilko” Williams and skateboarding legend Chris “Cobra” Cole.

Travis Pastrana (Photo by Nitro Circus)

Bilko, the 34-year-old freestyle motocross athlete was born and raised in Baxter, Australia, outside of Melbourne. A true innovator, he was the first international rider to win an X Games Freestyle gold medal in 2009. With 6 X Games medals from Best Trick in 2006 to Speed & Style in 2015, he has seen it all. In 2009 Bilko was crowned the Transworld FMX Rider of the Year.

OC Weekly (Michael Silver): How long have you been part of the Nitro Circus crew?

Blake Williams: I started with their first ever show in 2010 (in Australia), and have done 330 or so since then. I’ve been in it for the long haul.

What’s your relationship with the leader Travis Pastrana?

Yeah I’ve learned over the years that all he does is try to convince people to do dumb shit, so I don’t listen to him anymore (laughs).

What is the Nitro Circus atmosphere like and what can fans expect if they haven’t been to a performance before?

It’s something you’ve never seen before, it’s a circus but without the safety nets. Dirt bikes, BMX, skateboards, and a bunch of random stuff, anything that you can push down a ramp. It’s quite entertaining. Fast, action packed, but a slow enough pace if you don’t get action sports you’ll be able to pick up on it and understand what’s happening. If you’re a hardcore fan you get to see all the big tricks. It’s a show for everyone and mixed in with the bands, I think it’s going to be awesome.

What inspires you, what makes you want to do this type of stuff?

At first it was just me having fun on my dirt bike, then I got invited to the X Games in 2006 and that made me want to push myself to invent new tricks and do good. The reward is landing tricks and crowd screaming and cheering, that’s what motivates me the most.

Do you live here in the States or back in Australia?

I pretty much live in a suitcase to be honest. We travel a lot of the year; I spend about three or four months at my house in California and three months in Australia. The rest of the time I’m on tour buses, hotels, and planes.

Let’s talk injuries. What kind of damage have you incurred from this lifestyle sport?

Until a week ago I was only at 27 broken bones, but now I’ve bumped it up to 30! I actually landed my trick but wasn’t paying attention after and skidded off the plastic sheets they have on the baseball field. I broke my thumb, finger and chipped my elbow. We’ll see how my bones feel in a few weeks if they’re strong enough to perform. Come on down, it’s going to be an awesome time.

Cole, the 37-year-old professional skateboarder grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and now calls San Marcos, CA home. He won Thrasher Magazine‘s “Skater of the Year” award twice (2005 and 2009) and has been featured in video games like Skate 3 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, in addition to winning various contests around the globe.

How long has the Rail Jam Invitational been in the works?

Chris Cole: About a year now; skating and music has always been a big part of my life and upbringing. It goes hand-in-hand with any action sports athletes. It’s something we have a mind for, its inspirational and all your own. We had an idea to do different types of music meets skating for a long time. When Nitro Circus came in, it really added fuel to that fire.

How did you select the riders for this event?

Being in skating for a really long time, I have a lot of friends in this world. Many of them have different schedules and things going on all the time. I picked a handful of people who I thought would be awesome for the event and then cross referenced that with who would be in town. Our list started with 50 names and we narrowed it down from there.

What can fans expect if they haven’t been to a skate contest before?

Just excitement really; being almost like an action sports live art piece. Keeping people entertained for the day with different lanes. Much like songs, they evoke a certain emotion. The best songs if you think about it, “Freebird” for instance, it goes up and down, and has a bunch of different emotions through it. That’s how a really great day should be as well. You’re there to see bands, but also get to see Nitro Circus and this skate contest.

Chris Cole (Photo by 6Line Management)

Can you describe the course and this oversized guitar that’s at the center of it all?

It’s funny, I’ve always wanted to have some sort of item in the middle of a course. I’ve had the idea of a guitar for a really long time because I like a theme. The photos will be really cool and distinctly from this event. A long time I skated a best trick contest and it was on a handrail that looked like a gigantic medieval sword. It was so rad, all the photos on it were rad and everyone remembers it. I wanted that and a lot of the guys showing up are stoked for that item. Being a skateboarder its very hard to pin down what skateboarding is, weather it’s a sport or an art form. I believe it’s both of those things.

Which bands did you grow up listening to?

I listened to punk growing up, a very wide range of music. Now like your average person who says ‘I listen to a little bit of everything, except for country.’ Music feels like it flows through me more than your average bear. Growing up I listened to Rancid a lot in my early skate years, right around the time that I was learning these fundamental tricks. It should be noted that Pennywise was featured in a lot of skate videos around that time, so their record Unknown Road was well known in the community.

Will the bands be playing at the same time as the contests and shows?

For band switchover in between sets, during that time Nitro Circus and the Rail Jam are going to fill that void. We will be on the jumbotron or you can come over and watch us live at the spot.

What do you think about skateboarding being introduced to the Summer Olympics next year in Tokyo?

I think that it’s really cool, a great thing for skateboarding as a whole. With every great change there are always growing pains and it’s nothing skateboarding hasn’t gone through before. Inevitably there will be companies who want to jump on skateboarding being in the Olympics and then they will realize it’s not their thing and bail shortly thereafter. We’ve gone through that before.

Skateboarding will be brought to so many homes. It’s hard to see bad in that, you know? The exposure to skating for some kid who might not have seen it before in another country is now going to be exposed through the Olympics and find this treasure that I found and enrich his life. You can’t pull back progression right? It’s going to keep going. With skateboarding, it’s going to keep growing and all you can do is try to guide it in the best way so that it is represented how it actually is.

Gnarlytown takes place June 22nd at the LA Waterfront Berth 46. The large outdoor space offers 360-degree views of Cabrillo Beach and San Pedro Bay at the Port of Los Angeles Outdoor Harbor. Tickets are on sale and available here.

Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer based in Southern California. He covers music, sports, technology, and streetwear. Tips & pitches: michaelsilvermedia@gmail.com

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