We Went Back to 1976 at Vans’ BLACK RAINBOWS

Photos by Andrew Peters

When you reach a certain age, birthdays are more of an obligation than a cause for celebration.

Unless you’re Vans, of course. The iconic brand has taken the fine wine approach to aging, and if you need the evidence of that, take a look at their involvement in the art, music, surfing, and skating communities around the world. It comes as no surprise then, that 25 years after Vans released their first-ever skateboarding shoe with Tony Alva, the Vans Classic Era remains as relevant and stylish as ever. If that’s not a birthday worth celebrating with a 10-day event complete with skate demos, panel discussions, film screenings, art and music workshops, live music and an open bar, then what is?

Elijah Berle, Venice Beachfront

BLACK RAINBOWS took over Venice beachfront on the weekend, with legends of the scene—both past and present—returning to their historic stomping ground to discuss skateboarding, art, music, and the shoe that glues it all together: the Vans Classic Era. Kicking things off with a skate demo, Tony Alva, Eric Dressen, Elijah Berle, Rowan Zorilla and did what they do best while the booze flowed and people said ‘Yew’ a bunch.

After the crew had their way with the bowl, it was time for a bit of reflection—but anyone even slightly familiar with legendary tales of Dogtown hedonism, knew a civilised panel discussion would be far from a stale affair. The conversation wound its way from skate culture’s gritty beginnings with Tony Alva, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki and Jeff Ho (skate nerds eat your heart out), to an honest look at the future of skateboarding with Elijah Berle. It was a heavy dose of nostalgia—as was the full-scale recreation of Tony Alva’s bedroom you had to walk through to get to the bowl—but Vans aren’t known for merely dipping their toes in.

Recreation of Tony Alva’s bedroom in the Dogtown days

The rest of the weekend was a full-blown immersion in the worlds of punk, art, and film, and dropping by the spot always resulted in a story to tuck away for future name dropping purposes—take, for example, the punk flyer workshop run by Bryan Ray Turcotte, or the punk panel led by Wayne’s World and The Decline of Western Civilisation director Penelope Spheeris, featuring crowd favourite and icon Henry Rollins, Phranc, and new age punks like Randy Bleu Garcia and more. Sheesh.

Inclusivity, making space, and outsider culture were all on the panel’s menu and while each punk chipped in with valuable insight, Henry Rollins’ sage wisdom on why now, more than ever, we need to push for connection and acceptance of each other was well worth the applause (and Spheeris’ suggestion he run for president at some point). While it’s nice to talk about punk, it’s even better to get a hot-blooded, brain-sizzling live performance of it, which is exactly what Fury, Suicidal Tendencies, The Paranoyds, and X did over the weekend for a packed crowd.

As far as weekends in Venice go, you couldn’t get much better than BLACK RAINBOWS. Vans ability to pull together the best of art, music, film and skateboarding worlds prove that their cultural roots run deep as their all-star guests themselves, and while they’ve got eyes trained firmly on the road ahead, they know the importance of regularly checking the rear-view. They know how to do a mean margarita too.

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