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The Art of the Concert Shirt


I've been wanting to check out Derek Hess' gallery in Cleveland for quite some time, because I've always been a huge fan of his artwork. Growing up going to shows in Cleveland in the nineties, you couldn't escape his beautifully crude drawings on every handbill from the old Euclid Tavern. I still covet the Pearl Jam poster that he did for their show at CSU in 1994, simply because I was at the show, and I couldn't afford to buy it at the time.


I saw a listing for a one night show called "The Art of the Concert Shirt", and knew immediately that I had to go. My own concert shirt collection is pretty epic. Most of it currently resides in my mom's basement, and some of it, I plan to sell off (great news for you third wave ska fans!)


The woman who collected the shirts in the exhibition worked for a rock station in the 70s-90s, so all of the shirts are from that era. There were Metallica shirts that I had never seen. Shirts that were exclusive to radio sponsored events. There were satin tour jackets, which I wish like hell were still cool.


I really enjoyed the exhibit, because concert shirts are their own form of communication. You wear the shirts of your favorite bands so that people know what you're all about. For example: i went to see the Pearl Jam PJ20 shows in Wisconsin with my ex, who was a huge Pearl Jam fan. I had abandoned Pearl Jam after Vitalogy came out, and I mostly hated it. I was lucky enough to see their first show in Cleveland, where they opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers. Smashing Pumpkins also played. I was at Blossom when they played Lollapalooza in 1992. I met Eddie Vedder and he wasn't nice to me. I've still never forgiven him. But I went to the shows because I will go and see anyone, and I love road trips.

I wore my favorite The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me shirt. As I was walking through the crowd, this guy said "oh my god, I would've never expected to see a Hold Steady shirt at this show!", and we stopped and discussed the band that we both loved, and why we ended up at a Pearl Jam show. It was a nice chat with a stranger who shared the same insane love for The Hold Steady that I did.


My wardrobe is comprised of concert shirts, jeggings, cardigans, and my favorite Doc Marten boots. I spent a lot of my time at the exhibit thinking "oooh, i'd wear that" or "that one is perfectly worn in".

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