Skating Babylon with The Trowels

Carly Onofrio

Underneath the overpasses of I-95 in South Philadelphia, on the outskirts of a sweeping public park, in the shadow of the sports stadiums, next to grinding tracks with lines of lumbering freight trains, is affixed a carved concrete world of graffiti and wheels. Desolate to the ignorant passerby, but a mecca to those who frequent it, the territory known as FDR skate park is littered with regulars and random visitors seeking long days of dropping in and out of life. For some, it is a means to lose focus on all reality except skating, for others a day outside, away from the public, a time to drink and slam boards for ballsy maneuvers. For resident locals The Trowels, it’s any of the these and far beyond.

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Consisting of vocalist Murph, guitarists Slim and DE Josh, bassist Johnny, and drummer Adam, these five dudes are among the some keeping skate punk alive and relentless in Philadelphia. While currently in a phase of metal domination, new incarnations of punk are rising from all neighborhoods in the city, a backlash to lack of variation among smaller circles. West and South Philadelphia are common areas for houses whose inhabitants intertwine duties in various bands across the city. Hailing from South, The Trowels formed less than two years ago amongst friends with similar ethics – skate hard, work hard, do it right and get it done, D.I.Y. til death. Holding day jobs, mostly as carpenters, on the side they dedicate time to working on the park, practicing and playing shows as often as possible, fixing motorcycles, and the occasional sudden onslaught of intense games of C-Lo. When the sun goes down and there are no generators or bonfires to light the park, they retreat to local shows, parties, or their homes littered with flyers, records, instruments, dogs, boards and bikes. A common occurrence is an outbreak of acoustic country jam sessions, improvised singalongs of hating Wawa, tributes to the mysterious character known only as “Snake King”, or altered versions of Waylon Jennings songs such as “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Skateboarders”. It isn’t rare to find Josh stretched out on the wooden floor listening to Patsy Cline while Slim digs through the record crates, insisting that Annihilation Time be put on repeat while making fun of Darkthrone, prompting Murph to fiercely defend black metal, while Johnny intensely rants about politics and taking off on a motorcycle, Adam laughing at the bedlam the entire time.

I started documenting the dudes during their home recording session for their first full-length. Set up in the basement, recorded and mixed by friend Aaron Hindorff, The Trowels are planning on again doing-it-themselves for this release, with intentions of pressing a 12” and CD. You can catch them raging on a short spat of shows spanning June 4 through the 11, through the Midwest to the East Coast. A benefit tour for pro skater Brewce Martin (founder of skate haven Skatopia in Ohio) who suffered major head trauma 2 years ago, they’ll be joined by Dude Man Bro and skaters Brandon Martin, Kyle Nicholson, and Mike Maldonado for skate park events along with house and bar shows.

What follows is the visual diary of the several weeks shadowing their days skating and building at the park, playing shows, the captured insight to this group of dedicated skate punks that words alone cannot provide. Here is the wrecking crew.

Skateboarding photography shot by Zoli. Live show photos and others shot by Zoli and Carly.

Messages and slogans are the primary decor
History's recorded in a clutter on the floor
Inhabitants that searched the grounds for roaches or spare change
Another night of chaos is so easy to arrange

House of the filthy, house not a home
House of destruction where the lurkers roamed
House that belonged to all the homeless kids
House of the filthy, house not a home
House of destruction where the lurkers roamed
House that belonged to all the homeless kids
Kids of the black hole

The Adolescents – Kids Of The Black Hole

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