(this piece was published by Planet Jackson Hole)
“NO SNOWBOARDS ALLOWED!” The more those words become a faint recollection in the history of snow sports, the less obvious it is that snowboarding is still a progressive subculture, an underground microcosm of radical and a proud community that has risen with an international as well as local voice that is heard around the world. Like the steadfast anticipation of Christmas Day 50 years ago in Muskegon, Michigan, when Sherman Poppen invented the predecessor of the snowboard — the snurfer — obsessed riders await the far-reaching podium that is Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine, edition No. 11.
After 10 sold-out magazine release parties marked by epic performances from Yelawolf, Zion I, last year’s Talib Kweli with Immortal Technique, even a Justin Timberlake impromptu beat-boxing show with Brother Ali in 2013, it’s apparent that every year is an attempt to outdo the last. Go bigger, right? But just like rationalizing a gnarly line that holds imminent danger with the desire to outdo another is weak, going bigger would be a shortsighted justification when considering the underlying reason for a release party in the first place—the magnetization of like-minded people celebrating a lifestyle and a means into the mountains.
Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine’s editor Robyn Vincent wittily compares snowboarding to her teenage raver days in her editor’s note, which opens the magazine: “In the rave scene, there is the anthem, ‘Last night a DJ saved my life.’ Today, I can’t help but say this about snowboarding and I bet in some way or another you can, too. I traded dialing the rave line after sunset for dialing the snow phone before sunrise. I went from lingering in smoky midnight queues that wrapped around warehouses to waiting in a sunny tram line that snaked up to the Bridger center. I became more mindful of what I put into my body and how it might affect my ability to climb a mountain or revel in the relentless rhythms of a bell-to-bell powder day.” Vincent also takes note of one of snowboarding’s greatest virtues: “Beyond the self-improvement that inevitably occurs when you wriggle away from your comfort zone, I am most indebted to snowboarding for the people I’ve met along the way.”
Headlining the dance vibe at this year’s magazine release party will be Blackalicious, Phutureprimitive, Lateef the Truthspeaker and Jumbo from the Lifesavas.
Blackalicious is the classic, timeless hip-hop duo of multisyllabic technician Gift of Gab with DJ sidekick Chief Xcel, high school friends who met in a home economics class arguing over which emcee was more dope: Ice-T or Too Short. Take one listen to their classic single, “Make You Feel That Way,” and you’ll quickly realize that the Sacramento pair are on the flip side of their gangsta heroes, instead favoring the positive tip, even pulling the heart strings. “Make You Feel That Way” was created in a Houston garage for 2002’s seminal release, “Blazing Arrow,” which featured psychedelic-soul production and positioned the group on the fringes of a genre that was about to change dramatically. Some were calling it “alternative rap.” Around the time gangsta rap seized in 2005, Blackalicious released sophomore album “The Craft” before going the artists went their separate ways into solo careers.
“The group has been doing a lot since we last did an album together,” Chief Xcel told Consciousness Magazine in October. “We have been touring, creating and building our brand. Gift of Gab and I have done numerous solo albums. We have matured. We are grown men. We came into the music scene during our high school and into our college years and are now at the Ph.D., post-graduate level of our creativity.”
Blackalicious played the Pink Garter in 2013, preceding the release of its first album in more than a decade, last year’s “Imani, Vol. 1.” The album has a theme of connection, with nostalgic mentions of the past and seemingly life-coaching lines like those in its opener: “Never let life’s troubles block your flow/Have faith and get where you’re trying to go.” The theme of being inspired by relationships and embracing the goodness around one’s peripheral is apropos when considering the underlying reason for this party, this sport.
Phutureprimitive’s 2011 “Kinetik” remained on the iTunes Top 100 releases for a whopping three years after its release. A moniker of Bay Area producer and songwriter Rain, Phutureprimitive creates downbeat “psychill” compositions, often textured with female vocals. With the second installment of a pair of EPs, “Searching for Beauty in the Darkest of Places Pt. 2” released last fall, the solo artist puts listeners in a trance-like state utilizing classical routes, tribal vocals and dark, danceable, bass-heavy electronic beats.
DJ Cut la Whut will step away from the turntables for this soiree to lay down stunning creative visuals as BANGIN!, and a silent auction teeming with gear and a massive selection of snowboards from Never Summer, Lib Tech, Gnu and Franco SnowShapes happens from 7 to 10 p.m. A portion of the auction proceeds will go to the JH Ski and Snowboard Club.
Of course, let’s not forget about the labor of love that is this year’s Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. Check out the current issue at JHSnowboarder.com or pick one up at the party.
The magazine is sectioned into art, photography, gear, features and bios while digging into the characters who inhabit and keep the pulse of our local snow culture. The vibrant, bio-surrealistic cover of Jackson rippers slaying a cowboy-powdered snow wave spilling out of the tram is courtesy of artist Kelly Halpin. Beyond the opening conversation with Halpin, Travis Rice sounds off on his art baby, Asymbol Gallery, there’s an ode to Darrell Miller and Storm Show Studios’ 15 flicks, a shout to young pow warriors, a cool “Where Are They Now” article by Jeff Moran on Cam FitzPatrick, and a piece on one of the top progressive freestyle riders of his era, Bryan Iguchi, on the best and worst of times. In the article, Guch remembers Jackson feeling free and wild compared to other places he had visited before moving here in 1996. Here’s to the wild and free mentality 20 years later. Let’s ride. PJH
JH Snowboarder Magazine party–featuring Blackalicious and Phutureprimitive, auction begins at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m with DJ Grand Canyon followed by a special DJ set with Jumbo– Friday at the Pink Garter Theatre. Video mapping visuals by BANGIN! and a colossal silent auction of snowboards and gear. 21 and over. $25-$45.
Aaron Davis is a Kentucky-born snowboarder, songwriting troubadour and founding member of bands Screen Door Porch and Boondocks.