Free gigs, band t-shirts, and teen spirit


a gbv t shirt, not the one described below

Once upon a time (well, 2002 in fact) I arrived a bit late (two, three songs?) for a gig by lofi melody touched noiseniks Guided By Voices and ready to fork out the ticket price. “Go on ahead”, said the redhead girl around masters-degree student age manning the entrance. To my pleasant surprise, allowing me in for free. The gig was really enjoyable as expected. High kicking’ shaggy haired frontman Robert Pollard went through the err hits, swigging from a bottle of beer between songs (which considering the songs rattled through about 2 minutes on average, that was a decent amount of swigging).

With the tenner or so that was saved at the door, I thought, I know, why not buy one of those band t-shirts perched on the desk on the way out. When I attend gigs I sometimes, though not always, buy a t-shirt. Over the years I’ve prided myself wearing garments by Mogwai (black with white print, bit tight fit), burgundy coloured, hippy dippy motif in corner Loop Guru effort (bit heavy material), and a comfy white Charlatans (forget the pattern) to name a few. (Oddly, all groups that I no longer listen to).

The one I purchased on this particular nice evening (late summer, I think) was white with the peace symbol, and ‘Guided By Voices’ under the symbol. Neat little thing. Sure it’s free anyway, I convinced myself. (I recall later that year loaning it to then girlfriend for the night. She looked at it a bit disparagingly when first held it up to her. The rudeness. Made sure I got it back the next morning, though).

How many of us have paid, and continue to pay, over the top for a garment with our favourite band’s name on it for the pleasure of witnessing a glancing, bemused public as they walk by? Fifteen, twenty quid for a Fruit of the Loom job with a message emblazoned that would normally cost about a fiver minus the message. The world is full of suckers. Or maybe we’re just being cool. It’s all about the fashion, innit? Those kids with their Ramones and Nirvana t-shirts. I’m sometimes tempted to ask them, “so which is your favourite track off of ‘Nevermind’?” Then again, chances are they’d confidently bounce back with, “easy, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit'”. Damn you chart success! Damn you teen spirit!

Which reminds me, it’s been ages since I last got hold of a band t-shirt to bemuse the public and pretend to know the name of all those b-sides with. Note to self.

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