The Skating Superhero
Rollerblading Onto the Musical Scene in the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine
Updated: Dec 23, 2018
Mar 24 2005
by Daniel Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer
A debut song draws attention.
The dynamo behind a song on two Village Voice “Best of 2004” lists rolls into her store off Kelly Drive.
“Glide, slide, save your hide,” chants Jen Goldstein, demonstrating her approach to falling – bending her right leg, dragging her padded knee along the carpet, and reaching forward with her hands.
“I call this ‘grabbing my imaginary magic table.'”
Don’t figure this diminutive whirl spouting instructional rhymes for being a little flighty. She’s a Wharton grad who breaks most things into simple equations.
Owner of the gear shop called Drive Sports, at 26th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Goldstein describes herself as a natural klutz who learned to roller-blade by trial and error, analyzing her missteps. “If this happens,” she says, “it’s because of that.”
The analytical mind and a love of funk made it natural for her to write an instructional skating song.
What isn’t so natural is landing your first recording on the Voice’s prestigious Pazz & Jop poll.
Goldstein, had an idea for some learn-to-skate songs and started looking for a collaborator. Through Taxi.com, a site for unsigned talent, she found Peter Panagakos, a Montreal-born multi-instrumentalist who was living in Philadelphia.
The first song they worked on became “Boogie Back Rap,” which Goldstein wrote to teach roller-bladers how to skate in reverse.
“As soon as they say it’s time to skate backwards, everybody clears the rink,” says Goldstein, a native of Gainesville, Fla. So she tells how it’s done in an infectious dance number with lyrics like:
Stand up first, point arms ‘n’ nose.
Turn heels out, weight on toes.
The duo, who record under the name “phat sk8trax,” dropped off a copy of the single at the Voice’s front door in Greenwich Village in late summer.
It found its way to music editor Chuck Eddy, who was moved. So was critic Don Allred. Both named it in their top-10-singles-of-the-year lists.
“Just the idea seemed pretty cool,” Eddy recalls. “I actually like the way she rapped. I didn’t think she was attempting to be anything. Just the energy and exuberance immediately grabbed me.”
When he got the CD, Eddy wasn’t even sure if phat sk8trax was the name of the artist or the song until he played it.
The track reminded him of “this really brief post-disco genre of roller-skating music that existed for two months in 1980, records like Vaughan Mason’s ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll.’ ” At a time when artists are self-consciously trying to re-create the sound of the new-wave era, the track worked “without making too big a deal about it,” Eddy says. “Once in a while that will happen. This record from nowhere that seems to have no connection with what are supposed to be the ‘important’ trends will show up in my mailbox. Partly because of that, I found it really endearing.”
The CD single runs 30 minutes, with seven versions of the song, including old-school, new-school-acoustic, and karaoke renditions.
Next up is a full-length CD with 11 songs about roller-blading, due out next month. A video and instructional DVD may be next. The Pazz & Jop mentions prompted music-industry moguls to start e-mailing Goldstein.
But she is focused on her rental and teaching business, and the return of color and people to the Schuylkill.
“Spring is coming,” she says, talking fast and spinning slowly. “Soon.”