WORDS BY : OLIVER LINDOP

Sticking through this tough time is a challenge that everyone is facing right now. Stores are closed, businesses are dying and everyone’s hair is massively out of control. But a silver lining appears as we had the pleasure of chatting to Chris Gronowski, the owner of California-based Programme Skate & Sound. We take a look at how his incredible store and music venue is adapting to this time, and speaking about the long-held bond between skateboarding and the California punk scene. 

California is the Mecca for skateboarding. Dating back to the 1960’s the sport began as an early alternative to surfing. Today, skateboarding is a global movement with a huge influence on pop culture, and with a skate store in near enough every city in the world – it’s not going anywhere any time soon.  You could say that growing up in Californian makes you destined to skate, however for Chris he wasn’t always based in his home state. “I took my board from So Cal to Spain then to Chicago than back to California as my Dad’s work led the way”. Chris recalls, “My guess on the whole California thing is obviously the weather is always nice, and I just think the original heroes of the scene came from here; its enriched in the soil so to speak”. These heroes that Chris speaks of are the pioneers who made skateboarding what it is today: Stacey Peralta, Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Mike Vallely who is also the current front man of Black Flag.     

You can see the parallels between a rowdy hardcore show and skateboarding: full of adrenaline and danger “It’s such a physical and mental release that helps keep you in a better place

If you ever have the chance to visit Programme you will immediately notice that there is something slightly different about this particular skate store. Skateboard decks hang on the walls providing a hypnotising backdrop to the room, and with a typical checkout counter you would be non the wiser to this store’s special significance in the Punk/Hardcore community. This unassuming room has come to host some of the biggest names in Hardcore: Bane, Terror, Turnstile,Trapped Under Ice and Dare.  Chris explains how this harmonious combination came to life “I had a skate shop that was only skate/shoes/clothing prior to this, but around 2009 I got the itch to combine the music element. So in 2011 we opened Programme Skate & Sound with the idea of bringing those worlds together”. Bands and artists faces “light up” says Chris whenever they walk in, with their jaws hitting the floor.

As we are all aware the music industry has taken a devastating hit since the lock down started, with venues feeling it the most stopping all live shows for the foreseeable future. You can see the parallels between a rowdy hardcore show and skateboarding: full of adrenaline and danger “It’s such a physical and mental release that helps keep you in a better place”.In the world of skateboarding local authorities in LA are taking the drastic step of filling skate-parks with sand to stop people using them.Is this extreme method the best way to handle the situation? Advice from Chris is “If you’re a skater you’ll find a way.  I tune into Instagram and I see all the usual guys and girls staying razor sharp. Some of the better spots have less security than before so take advantage of it but stay safe” 

I’ve seen kids that are so at odds with the norm, you would think they’d make a perfect punk band member…Skating is big enough that there’s room for it all

During this testing time, Programme has been selling: skateboards, band themed face masks, records and exclusively the feisty new Drain album allowing for customers to have a drive by service. Still providing for the community is at the core of Programmes ethos “We will still be there for the kids. We have to, because they’re still there for us. Also we can’t let the boys in DRAIN down or our friends at Revelation”. This sense of community runs parallel between the skate and punk scene being an attribute to their long-held relationship.

What is it about skateboarding and punk that keeps these two sub-cultures intertwined? Is it the DIY attitude of either playing a house show or skating a sketchy street spot ? Or maybe the freedom of breaking away from the norm, and as Chris puts perfectly “ready to spit in the eye of convention.” He adds “I’ve seen kids that are so at odds with the norm, you would think they’d make a perfect punk band member…Skating is big enough that there’s room for it all”.

No matter what your background or where you come from skateboarding and punk will always accept you for who you are.

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