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T-Shirts I’ve Lost That I Miss Dearly

If you know me, you know I have a pretty deep collection of t-shirts, with a rather large subset of tees from the 80s and 90s. I am somewhat obsessive in tracking these down and have key search terms like [redacted] on the popular website [redacted] to make sure I alone can scoop up the coolest ones. It’s good to have a broad palette to paint with, so I never throw any away. I have t-shirts everywhere.  The absolute best shirts are hanging in my closet. I don’t really wear them often and I wash them even less. I do, however, look at them all the time. They are my coolest shirts, and I lose sleep making sure they stay in great shape. I have to be careful putting these on over my bulbous head. They are works of art, should be handled with white gloves and would be kept in climate and humidity controlled vaults if I was so capable!! A good vintage black t-shirt’s black is like a mellow grey-black, which is my favorite color in the galaxy. That simply can’t be replicated artificially. Then, I have 2 drawers of usably cool shirts that see more frequent rotation. When a shirt is too delicate or worn out, it gets archived to an old suitcase I borrowed from my mom like a decade ago, my personal t-shirt Hall of Fame. But I digress…

This post is about the ones that got away, devoted to 6 shirts that fate said I must part with.

Roadrunners Baseball Shirt 

Purchased: Somewhere back in 2002-2003 at a thrift store in Santa Cruz, CA.
Lost: Perhaps a week after.
Story:  I was very excited about the fit of this shirt. It had a picture of the looney tunes roadrunner on the front and said “Roadrunners.” The back had a simple number. It was a green shirt with all the print in white. Not as complex as the picture to the left but still very fun and playful, like me. I wore it on a first date with a girl I had a fat crush on and then it disappeared.  Gone before I even got to know it.  I hadn’t even finished making the girl a mix cd. There would be no second date.
Where is it now:  I remember washing it at a laundromat, but I never remember picking it up. It’s a blow that still hurts. I think some Santa Cruz hippy picked it up out of the dryer and walked away with it.
Miss Factor: 9/10

Dilbert Shirt 

Purchased: Lawn Sale in Santa Cruz, CA., 2004.
Lost: Somewhere in New York, maybe around 2007?
Story:  Dilbert rules. Especially now that computers are a pain for everyone, we are all Dilbert with dreams of letting our inner Dogbert shine. This had a very tongue-in-cheek vibe to it, seeing as how I did not have a computer when I first got to New York. In my days as doing a lot of computer troubleshooting work, it would have been great to wear.
Where is it now:  It may have disintegrated in my first apartment in New York. We were super poor then, and used t-shirts to clean things or mop up messes.  All my shirts were torn / stained / in tatters. I feel fair Dilbert might have been lost to necessity. These shirts pop up on ebay frequently (and in a lot of funny other styles!) but very rarely in a Medium. There are a lot of plus sized Dilbert fans out there, evidently.
Miss Factor: 7/10

IBM Computers On Campus Shirt 

Purchased: Same Lawn Sale in Santa Cruz, CA.
Lost: Probably in early 2005.
Story:  This shirt was a lot cooler than it looks in the picture. It was super thin, really nice quality and that old IBM looked less kitschy and more old school super rad computing power. It was from like 1986. It said “IBM Computers On Campus” on the back.
Where is it now:  My girlfriend at the time loved it and would always steal it from me. I would take it back but to be honest, it fit her better. It was pretty tight on me. And I bet she still has it. Angry emoji.
Miss Factor: 7/10

Fête de l’Humanité Shirt (not the one pictured)

Purchased: Didn’t
Lost: Never Had It
Story:  The Fête de l’Humanité is a yearly festival in France dating back decades. It is put on by a liberal newspaper, formerly tied to the Communist Party. Every year the fest unleashes a flurry of awesome, stick it the capitalists shirts. The shirt I (almost) had was kinda like the one pictured but had a cartoon of sleazy guy grabbing a girl who is trying to balance a glass of wine and a quote about how the Bourgeoisie was a bunch of assholes or something. It must have been from the late 90s. It was amazing. This shirt was stolen from me before I could buy it! It was hanging at a flea market in the Paris suburbs and I didn’t have enough cash for it. A friend of a friend saw it, she liked it too. When I returned a few hours later, it was gone.  It wasn’t for a few months, when I was safely out of the country, until she confessed that she bought it for herself.
Where is it now:  Most likely on that young lady in France, right now.
Miss Factor: 9/10

Eliot Smith Basketball Camp Shirt

Purchased: Somewhere in San Francisco, 2005ish.
Lost: Somewhere in New York
Story:  I know what you are thinking, Elliott Smith played hoops?! Maybe he did. But this was a shirt from Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. Evidently they have a coach there named Eliot Smith? And he teaches basketball at christmas? Because this shirt had a picture of a tiger with a Santa hat dribbling a basketball. And it said “Eliot Smith Basketball Camp” on it. And that’s it. This shirt used to make all you indie kids blow an irony gasket.
Where is it now:  Tough to say. I fully knew of its power so I took good care of it. I know I’m wearing it in some early New York pics but it probably left me around the time that Dilbert did.
Miss Factor: 10/10

Sonic Youth Japanese Astronaut Shirt

Purchased: Same Lawn Sale in Santa Cruz, CA!
Lost: Some time in 2005, it never made it to New York with me.
Story:  As you now notice, I really cleaned up at this lawn sale. I also got the Bob Dylan Lyrics book there. The dude living there was just a pretty regular seeming dude in his 40s with a collection of amazing things. I bought this shirt before I had ever heard a note by Sonic Youth… but Chinese and Japanese characters and hovering astronauts with rayguns, count me in.
Where is it now:  It is very possible this shirt was too cool for me to begin with and simply walked out on me. This shirt is on ebay right now for like $500!  I think I bought it for $5 max.
Miss Factor: 8/10

Other shirts of note: my “Folk It Up!” Shirt which is now archived that I wore at many an early gig… and my “Chinese Center Hoopsters Camp” shirt which, I guess, was a Chinese basketball camp? That shirt I still have (it was one of my favorite shirts of all time) but I literally wore it until it had thousands of holes in it, was a thin as a tissue and my friends had to have an intervention with me about letting go of.

I miss you lost shirts!

Here’s a group pic of some of my favorites that I luckily still have. A warning: never has so much t-shirt heat been assembled into one picture. You may want to put on sunglasses.

From upper right: weird japanese levi's shirt, kinks word of mouth tour shirt, high tops shirt, dylan petty grateful dead tour shirt, eddie money tour shirt, bobby and the midnites shirt, desert shield clip art shirt, bruce springsteen tour shirt, original star trek next generation shirt.

From upper right: weird japanese levi’s shirt, kinks word of mouth tour shirt, high tops shirt, dylan petty grateful dead tour shirt, eddie money tour shirt, bobby and the midnites shirt, desert shield clip art shirt, bruce springsteen tour shirt, original star trek next generation shirt.

 

 


Phil’s Rules of Stage Banter for the Musician

Thinking both as a audience member and performer, I want to humbly offer a few suggestions on stage banter.  I know it’s not a musician’s focus and most take it with a grain of salt. But there is a subtle art here to come across in a way that doesn’t detract from the music.

Here’s what you must avoid at all costs:

Never refer to an audience by the name of their city.  This is my #1 pet peeve.  “LA, you’ve been great” “how you doing, Houston?” There is not a way to refer to a group of people as the city they live in that doesn’t make you sound like you’re disconnected to the people.  Think of it this way: would you like to be referred to as your geolocation?  There must be some other distinguishing character you can come up with for the mass of people standing in front of you, no? “You guys” and “folks” might be an acceptable starting point.

Never say “this is a new one” unless you are, like, the Stones.  I’ve seen bands play to venues filled with 10 people that the band before them brought in. They tell these people that “this is a new one”.  News flash: they’re all new ones.  Keep the nerves and anticipation of the debut in the song.  Let that energy do the talking.  This is your new magic trick.

Never tell your audience to dance.  Don’t even suggest it.  Strike the word ‘dance’ from your vocabulary. I heard this one recently, in New York City of all places, and literally saw 400 people take out their phones in unison.  Your audience is not cattle, do not tell them to move.  This is actual people’s leisure time. Don’t give them a job.

Second tier… but I also don’t like repetition (i.e. saying the name before every song), using the mic to ask the soundperson to tweak your wedge, or saying how many songs you have left.  Would Bob Dylan say “We’ve got two more”?  Remember, when you’re up on the stage, you’re a god.  Some gods are assholes, others can be mysterious, natural and genuine.

Here’s what you could say:

You don’t have to say anything.  It’s generally fine, unless you go out of your way to non-verbally convey that it’s your thing.

Say thank you, BUT NOT until the audience begins to applauds. Do not thank them for what you are assume they are going to do. Let your song breathe. Negative space has a function. Silence has many mysteries.

Convey how special it is to be playing for them in this beautiful venue.  Do it in like four words.

Be personal.  If you were in the back of the venue, mere steps away, on another night, with your buds, how would you talk?  HOW matters more than whatever it is you may say.

There are a few bands who banter phenomenally.  Sleater-Kinney comes to mind.  But I think the best is Johnathan Richman.  He’s funny, engaging, relatable and consistently humbled by the experience.  Even though he’s a legend, he comes off as approachable. He wants to form a connection with you, a singular person and not part of a crowd, even if for a fleeting few seconds.

 

Thank you Chicago, you’ve been great.  I’m going to get on my jet now.


Catch Phil as Buddy Holly on HBO’s Vinyl

Phil played Buddy Holly on the new HBO show Vinyl.  Set in the 1970s, the main character Richie often has flashbacks with musical icons.  In episode 6 of the show, Buddy Holly’s “Rave On!” was playing on the radio as Richie’s car crashes across the street from Coney Island’s iconic Cyclone rollercoaster. As chaos ensues, Buddy Holly appears…

Philip Radiotes as Buddy Holly