Nitro Circus's bus-bound barnstorming of Kiwi country rolled into Hamilton at full speed on Saturday night and absolutely tore this quaint little city by the river to pieces. At the midpoint of the two-week tour, the boys and girls of Nitro-ville hit a peak tonight -- coming at the capacity crowd of 25,000 for thre straight hours like a multi-headed action sports hydra on speed. It was a night of firsts: Andy Buckworth boosted a flawless double front flip with a no hands variation and Jaie Toohey ferociously stomped a triple-tail whip backflip, to name a couple. It was also a night of lasts: the crew leaves the North Island in the rear view after this and heads to Christchurch. And, above all else, it was a night to remember that blasted all those in attendance with an undeniable charge. Soaked with the celebratory Steinlager being sprayed in the locker room after the show, Travis Pastrana summed it up with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, "I don't think people fully understand what got thrown down here tonight. I mean, a lot of that stuff doesn't even get attempted in practice. The energy and progression was just plain incredible."
Funny enough, for most of the day Saturday it seemed that the show wouldn't even happen in the first place. Rain poured most of the night on Friday and by the time the crew turned up to Waikaito Stadium for practice runs and assorted psyching up on Saturday afternoon, weather forecasters were all but guaranteeing a repeat performance of the wet stuff. But Nitro's luck so far with weather has been straight up rabbits feet and four-leaf clovers and a cancellation wasn't in the cards. As the storm clouds danced around the edges and the humidity rose, the buzz began to build.
Hamilton is widely considered the gearhead capitol of New Zealand and for the past 10 days, as the Nirto tour has been building steam in a whack-a-doodle north-to-south-to-north-again route, the folks along the way have all been saying the same thing, "Just wait until Hamilton." Walking the outside of the stadium some two hours before the first blast of pyrotechnics, I began to understand why. The crowd was easily the most impressive we have seen yet. Kids of all ages frothed against the fences, surging forward for a glimpse of Pastrana and crew, beer-loaded chilly bins dotted parks and parking lots for blocks in all directions, girls in short skirts and high heels with inked-up dudes on their arms hurried to get in line as the bluegrassy-twang of Nitro's soundtrack pumped out of the stadium's speakers.
The knock against show-pony tour's like this is that it is easy to get jaded or, even worse, bored. You see alot of the same faces doing the same tricks in roughly the same order night in and night out. But for some reason Nitro, with their stable of world-class BMX, FMX and whatever-else riders and family-style approach, is able to take the same ingredients each night and cook a truly compelling and entertaining new dish. In Hamilton, Bilko happily turned the crowd against him by spouting Australian pride about his country's recent dominance of New Zealand in both rugby and crickett before launching a hump-motion "jackhammer" air. Jim Dechamp stacked hard on a mountain bike double backflip, ran back up the Gigant-A-Ramp, tried again, and stacked even harder. Clinton Moore busted out Vaults all over the place and made a serious case for himself as the next big thing in FMX. And then Nitro founder Greg Godfrey convinced his 18-year-old daughter to take the three-wheeled trike down the five-story jump, despite the fact that she'd never tried it before. And because she's a Godfrey, she didn't just try it. By the end of the night she was trying to flip it.
These are athletes of the highest pedigree with a spontaneous flair for the dramatic that is seldom seen elsewhere in the sports world. On nights like the one in Hamilton, when the audience is right there with them and the two-way street is paved with pure progression and stoke, the end result is something that we have yet to come up with a proper word for. Simply put, it's awesome.