Anyone who knows me knows that my wardrobe (if you can call it that) mainly consists of band t-shirts.
I’m not sure what it is about the humble tee, but it is a mainstay for me. They serve as reminders of places I’ve been, people I’ve met and music I’ve enjoyed. Some I picked up from bands that I shared the bill with over the years, others were from random nights attending random shows.
Each of my band tees is sacred. I love them all, but word counts and attention spans limit the number of memories I can share in one article.
Here’s part one of my fashion-forward look backward.
Back in the ’00s, Angry Agency was THE ska-punk band to see in London. Complete with a brass section and a high-energy stage presence, Angry Agency used the stage as both a platform and a pulpit.
I remember admiring their anti-everything rage. Angry Agency’s songs were all very politically-charged, with lyrics that raged against consumerism and the erosion of democracy – all the stuff that a 20-something Gerard related to at the time.
I got this shirt as part of a swap I did with them at Lee’s Palace in Toronto back in the mid 2000s.
My band at the time was opening for them and Down With Webster.
As I did at most shows, I offered to trade one of our shirts for one of theirs. To my delight, both bands were happy to oblige.
To my disappointment, my DWW shirt immediately lost its shape in the dryer. I still wore it, but it looked like a white baby dress with yellow armpits.
Angry Agency’s shirt was far more durable, but its demise is not far off.
I can no longer wear it as just a tee. The shirt is now reserved for sweater and jacket weather.
Note the severe holes in the armpits and general rubbery deodorant stains. That’s what love looks like.
Because I loved (and still love) the design of their logo, (and the colour combination of the red arrows and white font against a navy blue shirt), it remains one of my favourite pieces of clothing to date.
FUN FACT: In 2013, the band did a reunion show at Call The Office. The last post on their facebook page dates back to December, 2013, with the unanswered question – “Should we do this again in 2018?”
How cryptic is that?
If they decide to go through with it, I know exactly what I’ll wear… bare pits and all.
I met The Nicest in and around 2013, at one of several rap shows they did in Bayfield. In fact, I may have also been on the bill. (Yeah… I rapped once, but I didn’t inhale.)
I always loved watching The Nicest, because they were just a couple scrubby dudes who made no claims about being the best, even though they definitely had enough talent to stand out from the pack.
Paired up with the amazing DJ Hullewud and Mad Hattr, they were unstoppable.
Their songs were sarcastic, witty, and their delivery was tight.
More than that, they captured low budget living.
Still Going Nowhere is a great anthem for the young and broke, but it was the hook for No Swag that really spoke to me.
“Throw your hands up if you ain’t got no swag.
People buy the packs of cigarettes you buy them in the bags.”
I smoked bag smokes! They were speaking directly to me and my Putters!
Back in my Sun Media days, I did an interview with Tim Tansy, Kyle Kanevil and Mad Hattr for the Clinton News Record. I remember the living room of their Adelaide house was incredibly cramped and poorly lit, so my photos of them rapping suffered from low shutter speed and bad angles.
However, I left with this Mad Hattr disc for my efforts.
Full confession – I did not pay for this shirt. I happened to be living a few blocks from the guy who silk-screened their merch. I popped over for a visit just as he finished doing the Nicest job.
I forget what colours they were printing on, but I selected a pink cast-off shirt to make a one-of-a-kind model.
Alas, the pink has faded to a murky grey, and the armpits are yellowing. I still wear it, I just can’t raise my arms when I do.
Mikey Chuck Rivers
Most of you will probably know this guy as Celebrated Folk Icon Ivan Rivers.
He’s a great artist with a tremendous amount of depth, both in songwriting and in soul.
I bought this shirt at The Docks in Bayfield. Coincidentally, I also saw The Nicest that night.
If memory serves correctly (and it may not due to copious amounts of Labatt 50), I got this shirt at a Christmas rap show in and around 2013-14. While it may seem strange Ivan was on the bill, he definitely owned the stage.
At the time, he was pumping out music on his own label – Eternal Bummer Records. He was a huge musical mobilizer in Huron County, and gave so many groups the chance to record and perform.
Fun fact: I was even on one of his Christmas compilations!
I got to know the guy pretty well, and every time I met him, I was more and more impressed with his combination of confidence, intelligence and humility – though it’s hard to be humble when you call yourself a Celebrated Folk Icon.
Ivan – sorry, Mikey – was a big deal. Still is. But back then, having him on the bill meant you were going to have a packed show. Have a listen to his music and you’ll understand why.
This shirt has an amazing graphic – a bearded MCR surrounded by nature and songbirds. I bought the classic black and white, but unfortunately for me at the time, the only size left was large.
I say ‘at the time’ because 2018 Gerard has added a couple dozen pounds to his frame so the large is now perfect. Foresight? Maybe.
I consider this Mikey Chuck Rivers tee the shirt equivalent to traveling back in time and investing in Microsoft.
Into the fold
For every shirt I still have, there are at least two that died on me. Some became so threadbare that the seams fell apart, others were so deeply pit-stained they were fit for the pit.
Still, whenever I have cash on-hand (minus beer money), I continue to add to my collection. For every gallon of sweat, for every pint of spilled beer, for every hole and tear, a new memory is made and the legend of the humble t-shirt continues.