On Deck

The wheel deal: Robert Fitzgerald (kneeling) and members of the Brickyard skate crew.
Anthony Camera

In the summer of 2002, three punks from East High School and their Brickyard skate crew (BYC) gained sudden and unexpected notoriety. At the Tony Hawk Skate Park Tour, BYC member Alex Calvert sneaked the crew's banner into a prominent spot on the stage, hanging it among the high-dollar-sponsor advertisements. An ESPN announcer picked up on the interloper and gave the crew a shout-out on national television. Then, as if to honor their balls, professional skateboarder Mike Taylor agreed to join the crew -- as long as he didn't have to do anything.

It was the ultimate in props for a once-nameless three-person clique of skateboarders from Denver.

"We were kind of the lower crust of society," says East High senior Robert Fitzgerald, who formed Brickyard almost three years ago with Tony Saab and Aaron Smith. "The skate scene wasn't very strong, and we were like the outsiders in the freshmen class doing it."

The trio embraced their skater-punk status as freshmen and christened themselves Brickyard after the brick ledges they skated on in East's teachers' parking lot. As the three met more and more people, Brickyard's size began to swell; unlike other Denver skate crews, they never rejected anyone from joining or engaged in painful initiations. "It's always been a crew in every sense of the word," Fitzgerald explains. "If you wanted to be in Brickyard, then we wanted you in it. A lot of other crews are too die-hard, and people are in it just for the name. Here, there's always been a real camaraderie."

Soon the letters "BYC" could be found scrawled on classroom desks and backpacks, on the soles of worn-out Converse shoes and on homemade pins; the crew began making stickers and T-shirts, which they occasionally sold around school. In the intervening three years, Brickyard has become Denver's largest skate crew, encompassing more than forty members from four different area codes.

While skateboarding is the obvious thread connecting the members, music has played a pivotal role as well. "The music we listen to is as eclectic as the crew itself," says fellow Brickyarder Nick Brown. "Out there skating, you can hear everything from hip-hop and punk to classical music, jazz -- even a jam band or two. We all listen to everything. A lot of us play music, too."

Recently, Brickyard decided to get entrepreneurial with that passion, and BYC member and Regis High School student Peter Rice launched Brickyard Records to support his band, Three Card Monte. "I got sick of waiting around for another label to call us back or notice us," he says.

This summer, Three Card Monte recorded a four-song EP at the Denver punk studio 8 Houses Down. Titled Safe and Sound, the EP was produced by Gammits lead singer Chris Fogal and is the type of punk music that "will make fans of NOFX, Rise Against and Pinhead Circus feel right at home," Rice says.

Rice and his partners, Fitzgerald and Ryan Hyde, also recently delved into hip-hop, selling several local groups' albums on the Brickyard Web site, But the trio is still looking for other bands to represent. "I've been going through all the people I've met through Brickyard, mainly, a lot of punk music," Rice says. "But we're open to anything. We just want to help out bands who are kind of in the same position we are: no real resources and needing a little bit of exposure."

Inspired by the start of Brickyard Records, BYC member Alan Shields is forming a skateboarding company. He designs his own skateboards and sweatshirts with the help of member Daniel Fadness, who supplies the original artwork. The two are busy churning out clothing and boards as they work out deals with skate shops around town and wait on a retailer's license; they hope to have boards available in stores soon.

The crew itself made these ventures possible. Brickyard Records and the skate shop are both being seeded by the group's community pot. The boys are close-lipped about their finances and how selling videos and $1 stickers can fund the start-up of two businesses, but they say it's their take-a-penny-leave-a-penny mentality that has made it happen. "If we can use Brickyard as a means of pursuing all of our interests, then I'm all for it," Fitzgerald says. "There's such a strong bond and camaraderie among us that there's really no problem if you take some money here, give some money there. If you have a good idea, run with it." Fitzgerald hopes that in ten years, Brickyard will be a strong employee-owned business, a name that people will recognize and appreciate.

For now, though, most of the members are just trying to graduate. They still see each other in class every day and try to skate together after school every evening, but their heads are filled with thoughts of SATs and where they'll be next fall. They're emphatic, however, that college won't mean the end of Brickyard.

"If anything, [leaving] will just help us out," Fitzgerald says. "We will meet more people, and the crew will spread and grow like it always has. Plus, I'm making everybody get BYC tattoos before they leave, so it's all good."

Fellow Brickyarder Scooter Sackerson agrees: "We have members that we see maybe once, twice a year, and when we do, it's like not even a day has gone by. The bond in this crew is so strong that a little time apart won't hurt us at all. We'll all come back to Denver and just keep this thing going."

Not long ago, some of the crew took advantage of the warm weather and skated at the pavilion in Cheesman Park, where they inducted their newest member: Randy, the cockeyed bum who allowed them to jump over his prostrate body on their skateboards, much to the delight of his hippie accomplice. Business as usual for the BYC.

Irreverence pervades every aspect of the crew, something that is abundantly apparent on its skate video, The Yard, which sells for ten bucks on the BYC Web site. The result of nearly three years of videotaping their efforts -- some of the footage was filmed before any of the crew members were even in high school -- The Yard is a grab bag of skateboarding tricks, from backside 180s to nollies, set against Denver's abandoned factories and parking lots, playgrounds and narrow alleyways. It's a slice of the life the crew has been living for the past few years, a frenetic yet polished presentation of a skateboarder's high school existence.

In one segment, Calvert taunts a hostile security guard, who covers her face from the video camera. "I can't see your eyes, and they're so pretty," he coos as she storms away. "Come back! You're so beautiful!" In true Brickyard style, the video ends with a montage of the members' most painful falls: shot after shot of skaters crashing to the pavement, writhing in agony, doing their best to laugh away the pain. For many high school crews who slapped a name on themselves and tattooed their logo around the school, such a video would be the culmination of all they had done, a tangible memento of their time spent together. But for the Brickyard Crew, it's just the beginning. The members are already working on a second video, to be titled either Stationary Movement or The Cosmic Extraordinary Experience.

"When you get down to it, it's always been about the skateboarding," Fitzgerald says with a grin. "The skateboarding and the money."

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