James Griffin: Been there, got the T-shirt - or the bag

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I went to see David Byrne last week. He was fantastic, but this is not a concert review. If this was a concert review it would read something like "David Byrne was fantastic", which would leave much of the page blank.

Sure, people might put this blankness to good use by, say, drawing pictures of David Byrne being fantastic, but I suspect my editors would get a bit peeved at the ratio of words delivered to fees paid, if all I wrote was "David Byrne was fantastic". So, instead, the point of this column is to muse on the nature of concert merchandising. I'm a bit of a sucker for concert merchandising; as the bag I purchased at the fantastic David Byrne concert will testify.

It was $20 and is perfect for carrying round all my old Talking Heads records. Yes, it is a fair call that I very rarely, if ever, need to carry round my old Talking Heads records, but that is of little or no importance here.

What is important is that the bag is mine and I paid for it, at the fantastic David Byrne concert, even though it broke one of my major rules concerning concert merchandising. Any concert merchandising, be it a bag, a T-shirt or even incontinence pants (a big seller at Rolling Stones concerts, I'm told), should, in my book, have something on it that links it directly to the event.

Even the tour name on the back of the shirt will do - The David Byrne is Fantastic Tour '09, for example. And if it has the name of your city and the concert date emblazoned on it, that is just the icing on the cake - even if the venue is the Aotea Centre.

Without any such identifying logo it is just a generic piece of merchandising, with no proof you bought said merchandising at the actual concert. This is way less satisfying than having written proof on the actual bag or other item, because most of the concert merchandising I have gleaned over the years is not bags. It is T-shirts. And T-shirts bring with them a whole different set of rules regarding the usage of official tour merchandising.

For starters, you must never wear the T-shirt you've just purchased at the gig where you purchased it. The message this sends is: "Look at me; I am a more devoted fan than you. I forked out $45 for the T-shirt on top of the vast ticket price." This is a futile attempt at attention-seeking, in a room full of people who don't give a damn.

Also, there is the problem of what to do with the shirt you were wearing before you put on the T-shirt you just bought. Some people solve this problem by putting the T-shirt on over the top of their other shirt. This looks lame and tragic and potentially puts you at risk of heatstroke in overcrowded venues with little or no air-conditioning.

Also, T-shirts should always be washed before you wear them. It is also deeply uncool to wear T-shirts from a previous gig by the same artist. This is just showing off. This is sending a message: "I am the true fan that you are not, losers." These people are to be avoided after the gig because they will always be comparing the gig you've all just seen to the one only they (in their minds) saw - usually in slightly disparaging terms: "Yeah, this one was okay but you should have been there when..."

The best thing that can happen to these people is the moment it's revealed that they were never at the earlier concert and that they bought the T-shirt off the internet. The exception to the T-shirt rule at concerts is, of course, heavy metal music. Not wearing an AC/DC T-shirt to an AC/DC concert is simply a bad wardrobe choice which invites many derogatory comments regarding one's sexuality. Wearing, say, a vintage Culture Club T-shirt to an AC/DC concert is tantamount to inviting death.

Merchandising, therefore, is a rather tricky area of rights and wrongs. When push comes to shove, however, I guess the safest path is to wear a nice shirt that has nothing to do with the band/artist playing or any of their immediate musical influences.

Under no circumstances should you wear a T-shirt proclaiming your allegiance to any of the following acts: Celine Dion, Lionel Richie or Westlife.

Oddly, a Vanilla Ice T-shirt would be acceptable on so-bad-it-is-kind-of-cool grounds. It's good that we've sorted this out. David Byrne was fantastic, by the way.

- NZ Herald

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