ATH @ X Games Austin 2015

ATH was invited to attend X Games and we agreed based on the strength of he local lineup that graced the big stage during the day leading up to the headliners and then on to the Super Stage mega headliners. The cool part was that my access allowed me to moonlight as a sports photographer. We all have a history of skateboarding or riding a bike or something rad like that, don’t we? I worked in a bike shop to buy my Haro freestyle bike and still have my Lance Mountain special edition in the office. To get to see some guys like Dennis McCoy and Tony Hawk still riding and skating at a high level and catch the innovation coming from so many guys from Austin along with rally car and truck racing and maniacs on dirt bikes, it was an exciting change up to my usual subject matter. I got a little twitchy not shooting f2.8 or bigger and ISO 200? What is that? I don’t leave the house for less than ISO 2500. #concertphotographerjokes

So join me as we take a trip down memory lane and talk X Games…

The whole thing kicked off after a sprint from the laminate pickup to catch A Giant Dog. They should start every day of every festival. Performing for one or one thousand, the same energy is exhausted. Other locals that impressed… A. Sinclair, musically one of the best acts of the weekend. Flesh Lights rule. Blind Pets had the rock star sarcasm edge and made rock and roll happen. The Digital Wild were very impressive, harmonies and a great new R&B vibe. ATX hip-hop was well-represented by Phranchyze; ..and he is not done. Walker Lukens knows how to craft a song, again a new interpretation of a old genre, twisting the blues around. Golden Dawn Arkestra was too much fun to handle. Keep it weird, y’all.

Now, the unavoidable downside of such the giant stage and huge venue, it was out of the way. Crowds for early locals were small and in a venue where 500 people looks like it might as well be ten, it is even more exaggerated. I would offer that we ought to have a locals stage in the pedestrian traffic near the grand plaza. However, every artist I talked to said that the event staff, sound guys and stage hands treated them all like headliners and that is very cool. There were some fun moments, like Phranchyze going combine and timing a 40 yard dash and Flesh Lights playing further away from each other than will ever be possible again.

On to the middle headliners, Joywave is going to be huge. They are energy on stage with style and talent. They can play these songs and the hits fly out, very fun to shoot. Talib Kweli left me unimpressed. Kid Ink was late to the stage and attempted to throw more swagger than he has earned. Deltron 3030 is always rad; the orchestra, the presence, the silky smooth delivery.

As for the Super Stage, I left Nicki Manaj to people who think she is talented. But Metallica? Metallica. When I read the email that I was selected to shoot Metallica, I might have peed a little. I listened to Kill Em All on vinyl when it came out thanks to my brother’s metal head friends. Too fast. Too much metal. Ride The Lightning is a desert island disc. Fond memories of a High School art class that was soundtracked by And Justice For All and Master of Puppets meant maybe our teacher shouldn’t have opened up the music selection to everyone. Bucket list stuff for me, they sounded great, other than the understandable drop in screaming levels from James and the setlist jumped forwards and backwards in time. Our first three was “Fuel” (meh), “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (hell yes) and “Metal Militia” (completely hell yes). Hearing the opening riff from “Sanitarium” caused me to well up a bit.

Metallica gets a dedicated gallery.

Let’s talk action sports. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL I WOULD GET ON THAT BIG AIR RAMP. The last day I saw the whiplash concussion crash everyone fears, so scary. But also seeing the double flair on that giant quarter pipe after a no-handed cork 720 by Colton Satterfield, you understand why these maniacs try these tricks. Rally car racing was very cool, props to Scott Speed for showing the former F1 talent levels apply to any car and Ken Block for proving he is just a show off (that may be a little harsh). Jamie Bestwick came up just short of going ten-in-a-row on BMX Vert. The weekend’s attendance had big numbers and CoTA is a perfect host for this stuff; always room, always a good view. Finally, Twiggy the Water-skiing Squirrel is a star.

Thanks to the ESPN media team for all their hospitality. So many photos, hence the gallery embed from the photo site. Enjoy.

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