In 2013, I was lucky enough to visit one of the world’s most iconic skateboarding destinations: LOVE Park.
It was here that I met Brian Panebianco (pictured above: far right): local skater, filmer, and pretty much LOVE Park custodian. At the time I was travelling with over a dozen rowdy skate tourists from Australia and New Zealand. While some might find this sudden influx to their local threatening, to say the least, Brian and his crew were more than welcoming. This was probably best shown by the gesture of Brian helping us ‘pop a tile’. He knew the exact tile, the perfect technique to use as not to crack it, and where the brick was stashed to prop it up at the perfect angle: “I got these Dimensions off Kalis…”
When I heard LOVE was being demolished, Brian was the first person who came to mind, mainly for the fact of how devastating this would be for him, his crew and the skate community of Philly who treat Love Park as their second home. Within 24 hours of the fences going up and the bulldozers moving in I gave him a call…
Yo, Brian, what’s good? Dude, I just captured 10 tapes for the past three or four hours. It’s all from the past two weeks. Earlier I went to LOVE for a little bit and filmed them doing some construction.
So what’s been happening the last few weeks? Particularly the last week leading up to LOVE Park getting torn down? Well it was weird because on the Wednesday they announced that we could skate LOVE again until it closed on the Monday, so we had five days.
Did you find that kind of a shitty offer or did you feel lucky to have that time to session it without getting chased by police for the final week? Oh, it was a terrible offer because the weeks before when we knew it was getting torn down we were getting chased and it was crazy. We knew it was only weeks away from it being fenced off. It was like they weren’t giving up, the cops were like trying to get their last licks in too, you know. That’s how it felt; it seriously feels like a game sometimes, even for them.
What happened on the last day? The last day was sick. Well, there were a lot of last days [Laughs]. They actually announced the last day was the Sunday, before that Monday. It was 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) all day, freezing, and Saturday was worse because it was windy, too. It was fucken insane. It was the worst weather you could ask for, but at least it was still dry. Even on Saturday it snowed for an hour but we just broomed off the snow and it dried up real quick somehow. Anyway, Sunday: a bunch of people did lines. It wasn’t that crazy because some of the younger kids kept the gap blocked off for most of the day.
BRIAN PANEBIANCO AND FRIENDS | SABOTAGE III – 2014
How come they blocked off the gap? Well, Saturday [official second last day] was insane because people were trying to jump down the gap all day, which meant you couldn’t skate the top because people were flying by and you couldn’t skate the levels [around the fountain] because people were flying over you. I’ve got footage of almost getting hit by people skating down the gap. A couple of kids got hit and people trying to film lines got pissed so they blocked the gap and I guess these out of towners got pissed or whatever…
They didn’t understand, huh? Yeah I just kept telling people “come back at four, I have friends that want to skate it too; we’ll do it at four”. So at four o’clock a wall of people stood around the gap and it was fucking crazy, people just started jumping. Not much went down though. You have to remember it was 15 degrees (-9 Celsius) and it was crazy people were even trying shit. This local kid did an ollie north down it – I’d never seen that before. Julian Heller stuck a bunch of front big-spins and broke two boards. Ishod broke a board trying an impossible down it – he almost did that. This kid Antonio from New York almost switch tre’d it. That was crazy. It was more crazy how many times he tried it. It was longer than an hour, dude. Kid couldn’t even walk afterwards.
Holy shit, so that was the last chance? Yeah, he had to do it but couldn’t get it. He actually came back two days later when we heard the fence didn’t go up and tried it again at like seven in the morning and we had some problems with some guy that didn’t want us there. A park manager or something. So then we tried to light it up that night and he was still pretty sore from already trying it before and I’m pretty sure he needed at least a week to just chill before doing it again.
That’s dedication. Yeah we were both so tired. I felt like I was up for, like, five days. I dunno, I felt like I was trying to be there for as long as I could everyday. And then on Monday when the fence didn’t go up I was there all Monday and then on Tuesday the fence didn’t go up and I was there all Tuesday and I remember Tuesday night I was like I can’t do this anymore, I gotta go to sleep. So, I left early on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the fence went up. There was people that wanted to film stuff and I was like ‘let’s just try tomorrow, I’m so tired.’ I feel like I blew it a little bit on that.
No way! If you’ve been up for five days…. Yeah, I was probably sleeping like three hours a night. But it felt like I’d been up the whole time.
“It was like they weren’t giving up, the cops were like trying to get their last licks in too, you know. That’s how it felt; it seriously feels like a game sometimes, even for them.”
Have you always lived in Philly? Nah, I’m originally from Ambler, Pennsylvania. I moved here a little over a year ago. Before that I lived like 45 minutes away and just drove here everyday. Sometimes at night you can get here in a half-hour.
When did you first start skating LOVE? I tried skating it when I was a lot younger in like 2001 but there was always a cop there, so I skated City Hall a lot. First time I actually skated it was 2004, at one of those ‘Free Love Park’ protests. We didn’t really start skating there the way we do, or did until about 2008. For some reason they had a cop parked there forever and then suddenly the cop just wasn’t parked there, so that’s when we really started skating it. It’s still gone through ups and downs but mostly it’s been good since 2008.
So up until then, everyone was just skating City Hall and Municipal Plaza? Well, you couldn’t even skate Municipal. It was always that spot you’d walk up to with a board and a security guard would come right out, and yeah City Hall was good to skate whenever until they took it down.
What changed with Municipal, in regards to being able to skate it now? I don’t know what changed, but I guess I have a theory… I think it’s because we just started trying. We’d go up there, get kicked out instantly and eventually we would just try not to leave and tell the security to call the cops and get some time there. I think the older security guards either retired or got fired and the new security guards came in and they were brought into the place with us already skating there. So, it’s like they knew they were supposed to kick us out, but they didn’t realize how strict it was. So all the security guards that are there now are actually quite young and you can get a few hours in. They know the deal, they tell you to leave and then they go back inside. I mean they’re doing their job, it’s just we’re not listening [laughs].
It was a few years ago that I came to Philly with a bunch of Australians. It was great to feel so welcome, thanks to you. Is there anyone in particular that comes to mind when I say ‘Australian Skateboarder’? Well, Dane (Burman) I’ve seen him here so many times. Bryce (Golder), he was here, he’s sick. His frontside 180 over the planter box was sick. Besides Mark (Suciu), no one has really messed with that, because the tile is in such a weird spot for that, like the angle you gotta go.
BRYCE GOLDER | FRONTSIDE 180 | 2013
Were you there when Dane did the Thrasher cover 50-50 at Municipal? I was there the first week he tried it and rolled his ankle. When he came back two weeks later and did it; I had gone to Washington DC for the day. One of the random days I left Philly [laughs].
You haven’t traveled to Australia yet, right? [Laughs] Nah, I gotta get out there. I wanna go everywhere. The only place I have been outside of here is Madrid, Spain. I didn’t even go to Barcelona. I’ve gotta save up some money and get some tickets booked, that’s for sure.
Would you say you just kinda stick to Philly? Yeah, definitely. I don’t really leave that much, but I mean I guess now I can, because LOVE is gone.
“…at four o’clock a wall of people stood around the gap and it was fucking crazy, people just started jumping. You have to remember it was -9 degrees Celsius… it was crazy people were even trying shit.”
So where will everybody be skating now that LOVE’s gone? I guess Municipal. It’s not as good, but it’s still fun.
What will they do to LOVE Park now? The end result is gonna be a grass field with a path through it leading to a small flat fountain. It’s not gonna be filled with water, I think it will be one of those fountains that spray out of the ground ‘n’ shit. It’s gonna be lame. I don’t think they’re gonna have benches ‘n’ shit. I don’t think they want people to like, hang-out, you know. They wanna get rid of that, the whole hanging out thing.
Is that to do with all the homeless people? Yeah, they want them out of there, too. They just want it to be a public space to use for whatever they want. The council wants to be in full control of it, rather than have people doing whatever they want in there.
JOEY O’BRIEN | BACKSIDE TAILSLIDE | 2013
Does this mark the end of the Sabotage videos? Uh, I’m not sure. I was just talking to Ryan (Sabotage P.I.C.) about this. We’re definitely doing something right now with the footage we have. We don’t know if its gonna be Sabotage 5 or if it’s just gonna be a short video like an internet video. I don’t know if there’s gonna be anything after that, but there’s definitely at least one more thing coming out.
Right now in Melbourne we’re in a similar kind of battle with our council over one of our best skate spots – Lincoln Square. The city is investing $300,000 to make it un-skateable. We’ve done all the standard petitioning and council meetings but we’re pretty much fighting a losing battle. Any advice for us? Well, it’s all on them. I feel like in Philly, when you show your face in meetings like that, if you’re fighting against it, it just pushes them so much harder to get rid of you. I always try to stay out of that shit. I went to one or two of those meetings and it definitely felt pointless. I’d rather them not see my face and rather lay low and not bring attention to what we’re doing until after it’s done I guess.
Yeah it’s pretty sad to see it go. It’s the meeting place for skateboarders in the city over here. Yeah, I know how that is. That’s not a good place to lose.
That’s all I got man. Thanks for your time. When you gonna get that ticket to Australia? When someone buys me one or when I win the lottery or something (laughs). That’s like the farthest place to go right? Fourteen hours, that’s crazy. I definitely want to travel. Now, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something by leaving here. That’s how I always feel, like if I go to LA and I see Snapchats or Instagram of everyone skating LOVE, I’m like, “What the fuck am I doing in LA?”.
I guess I’m never going to get that feeling again.