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Snow gypsies bring tales from other lands

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring is here and besides the longer days and warmer temps, the snowboarder-skier-filmmaking crews have returned to our mountains to take pleasure in the fruits of the Alaska winter - pure, puffy, creamy-white snow on steep, radical terrain.

When the snow gypsies are in town they bring interesting perspectives from around the world and good music on their laptops and iPods.

Last year one of the riders introduced me to Swiss hip-hop musicians Sektion Kuchikäschtli, Blusbueb and Big Zis. I also learned about the Austrian rock group Ciela and picked up on Air from France, and De Phazz from Germany.

This season, though, I've been more interested in scouting snowboarders who play and write their own music.

Whereas surfer Jack Johnson brought a laid-back surf style of music to the mainstream, no snowboarder seems to have done that, yet.

Fine, I think. It's always disappointing to see something unusual and cool become Madison Avenue-ized onto billboards and TV shows.

Trevor Andrew, aka Trouble, will likely never have that problem. He's a pro-snowboarder who's ripping it up around the world. He rides for Burton, Oakley and a few others. His style is edgy, like the sport itself.

Andrew's MySpace page describes his music as "synth-programmed beats and danceable skate and punk rock - crunk rock." He makes points like, "You chase money for love, does your money love you ... is it nice to talk to, does your money hug you?"

His music appears in snowboarding movies and he performs at snowboarding events, like the X Games and the Toyota Big Air in Japan. Listen to him at www.myspace.com/troubleandrew.

Scott Sullivan is a singer-songwriter-surfer-snowboarder-photographer who shoots for Snowboarder Magazine and travels with the Absinthe Films crew. His photos are everywhere in the snowboarding world. Check him out at www.scottsullivanmusic.com.

When Scott gets on stage with his guitar, he tears it up with charisma, energy and high-powered playing. We've played together at the Pioneer Bar in Haines, and recently in Juneau at a dinner party. His style is to include listeners and tell them stories through poignant lyrics.

The last few years he's performed at snowboarding events worldwide and distributed one of his CDs in the same box with Absinthe's "More" snowboarding DVD.

Another snowboarder-musician, Todd Anders Johnson, playing with the band Salem (see related story on page 8), has found a niche contributing songs for soundtracks on Warren Miller films. He doesn't sing snowboarding songs, but weaves socially-conscious lyrics with reggae-Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies that are appealing to the socially- and environmentally-conscious snowboarding culture.

Obviously, there isn't just one style or genre that says "snowboard music." Like everything, there are as many musical tastes as people out there. But I see a common thread in the music the snowboarders bring. It often has something important to say, some social or political message that isn't just lamenting a broken heart or lost love.

Spreading the word about injustices, the shenanigans of corporations, climate change or harm done to the environment is not a bad thing to feature in music. It's refreshing.

And part of being in the culture is not making a big deal about it. Most riders I know aren't interested as much in the fame, the money or the limelight as much as living the lifestyle, being around good people, listening to good music and, of course, being on the snow.

That could be a good idea for a song.

• Teri Tibbett is writer, musician and snowboarder living in Juneau. She can be reached at www.tibbett.com



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