New Red Bull Music Documentary is a Loud Love Letter to the LA Skate Scene

Photo still of Hesh from L.A. Skate Doc (credit Anthony Cabaero)

There may not be two communities more iconic to Southern California than skateboarding and the music scene that goes along with it. For the last six decades, skating’s been tied to LA above and beyond any other city, and it’s helped to support tight-knit music scenes for everything from hardcore to punk rock to trap music from the same locations.

That’s why Red Bull Music asked director Van Alpert to make a documentary about the two, and — although it didn’t pan out exactly as originally intended — LA Skate + Music brings a new level of depth to the everlasting connection and what it means to everyone involved on both sides. The doc was created as part of the Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles, and is tied to the Illegal Civ Movie Motel event from the festival. LA Skate + Music is an extension of that event and encapsulates the symbiotic relationship between skate culture and music. 

“Originally, Red Bull Music had asked me to make a film about the different neighborhoods in LA and how the different people are affected by skateboarding and music,” says Alpert. “Like most documentary films, we set off with one goal and came back with something else. We learned that most of these skaters that we were working with had lived in almost every part of the city — and now they all respectively live in the neighborhood they want to live in right now — so we ended up making a film about owning individuality and being yourself.”

In just 14 minutes, Alpert shines a light on how music and skateboarding come together for everyone from Illegal Civilization’s Mikey Alfred to skateboarder/influencer/musical tastemaker Hesh in a way that’s both approachable and understandable enough for those who would never watch a normal skateboard documentary and thorough enough for the scenes’ diehard fans. But by the time the stylish director had finished the filming process, his biggest takeaway was no longer something that could even be picked up on video.

Illegal Civilization (Credit: Anthony Cabaero)

“When you’re going to meet people and make a documentary about them, they’re letting you into their homes and their lives,” Alpert says. “They’re letting you ask them questions about their family and friends and childhood, and it becomes a very personal piece. I’ve ended up becoming friends with these guys while working on this project, and that aspect of it became way bigger than the film itself.”

As excited as Alpert may have been to develop new friendships through this documentary, the subjects of the filming process were often just stoked to be a part of it with a group of their respected peers. For an artist like Anaiah Lei, the drummer of the LA garage rock band The Bots, there was never a chance he wouldn’t want to be involved once he learned about LA Skate + Music. After all, it’s effectively the story of everything that’s shaped his life to this point.

“I’m from LA, and music and skateboarding are literally the two things that mean the most to me, so I knew I wanted to be a part of it before I even knew who else was going to be in it,” Lei says.. “It came out awesome, and I think they featured a lot of people who aren’t super well-known but are all from LA and a part of that culture. LA sometimes gets a bad rap, but there are a lot of great people here, and this documentary showcases some of the realness going on in LA.”

For Lei, the excitement of LA Skate + Music isn’t only tied to the people involved in the documentary itself though. It’s about further exploring how the connection between two seemingly unrelated art forms has spent more than a half-century feeding off each other, and about how Los Angeles may be the only breeding ground where such a symbiotic relationship could take place.

“LA just breeds these amazingly talented people for both music and skateboarding,” Lei says. “There’s been great music coming out of LA since the beginning of time, and this is where skateboarding started. They’ve always gone hand-in-hand here, and they’re just two things that will always go together.”

LA Skate + Music is available for streaming on Youtube, click here.

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