What's the best gig merch you've seen?

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 11:26 19/06/2013

I went to Killing Joke on Friday - as I mentioned on Monday. In fact here's my review from the Dominion Post. And of course last week I ran my interview with Jazz Coleman and that linked to my review of the documentary about the band (definitely worth a watch). And so all this Killing Joke love all of a sudden eh? Well this post isn't about the band as such - though you'll see from my review I did (really) enjoy the gig. No, this is about the merchandise. 

You see I left the gig with a painting by Youth.

Yep, Youth, bass player of Killing Joke and legendary producer/collaborator who has worked with so many of music's greats - and also The Verve - painted a few blocks up on the day to sell on the merch table.

They were like a budgie too - cheap. Cheap.

It was $10 for the small ones, or $30 for a rather large original artwork, all of them signed and named. Each one different. And I thought that was a very cool idea - far better than just the old badges, posters, stickers and T-shirts eh?

So the guy at the merch table tells me that, last night of the tour, the band is out of merchandise - well, just about. They've sold all the t-shirts, they have a few tour posters left for sale and they've signed up some bootleg DVDs and live CDs and they're out there for sale. And Youth slapped up a few paintings too.

I liked the approach. A bit punk-rock, creative, and a nice personal touch.

I might have told you this before - in one way or another - but I'm a big fan of the merch table. I always have to have a look. But I hardly ever buy. I used to buy t-shirts, back in the very early gig-going days. I've bought a couple of posters - not the most practical thing to hang on to at a gig, best picked up on the way out.

But I always want to see the merchandise display.

Most recently when seeing Kraftwerk perform Autobahn in Sydney I queued up to buy a tote bag and t-shirt. I don't get flown to Sydney for a weekend of gigs all that often, and figured my chance of seeing Kraftwerk - in 3D, performing one of my favourite albums - won't come around again. It was a long queue; well in fact it was a scrum. One lone guy behind the table, people thrusting cards and cash at him from every angle. It was mad. Fortunately I had just under an hour to kill before going in to see the band play another of my favourite albums in its entirety so I was happy (enough) to rub shoulders with the cashed-up fans buying box-sets of all eight albums from the show-series. Fortunately it only took about 38 minutes to get served.

But most often I'm a tourist when it comes to the merch-table, I pop by the merch stand as if it's some information centre, I have a browse, sometimes a quick chat, and I'm done. I just like to see it's there. I like to check in and I'm always curious about how much of an effort has gone into pitching merchandise to the fans. Posters and t-shirts only? That's boring. Get bags, key-rings, get the right thing for the right audience.

Heck, when the WWE brought its pro-wrestling circus to Wellington's cake-tin on a super-freezing night in March several years back you could buy WWE cufflinks. Because nothing says weekend-warrior quite like sliding up a sleeve to check what time Friday drinks are due to start and showing anyone else around the table that your smart business shirt's been capped by the WWE logo. And look out the person who mocks WWE cufflinks, it'll be a very firm foot to the floor to provide the soundtrack for a punch that is most often confused for a hair-tousle.

At last year's Morrissey show they were selling pillowcases with the line "Last night I dreamed that somebody loved me" next to a picture of his face. I had a little chuckle at that - nice prize for a fan, right? Perfect bit of fun, plays to his crowd, plays up a certain aspect of his image.

It's a bit better than (just) a t-shirt with the band's name. Boring.

I like hearing about interesting merchandise. And I thought a wee painting by Youth was interesting. A nice reminder/keepsake from a gig I very much enjoyed. Something a bit different from the tour-programme or the latest album; the booby-prizes of the merch table.

Somewhere, I still have my Dinosaur Jr key-ring that opens up to provide earplugs. My painting by Youth - it's called Not Born Again - replaces that as my favourite piece of gig-merch.

Do you have a favourite piece of gig merchandise? And anyone else always-interested in a perusal of the merch-table, a tyre-kicker of sorts; more likely to chat than buy?  Do you - therefore - have stories of merchandise from gigs that you did not buy but you like the fact that it was there for sale? Anything take your eye - or ear - as being far more interesting than just the latest album, the live album, the hits album, the t-shirts, hats, posters and hoodies?

And do you think that now - more than ever, perhaps - good merch is about the experience, about creating a story, or offering something just a little bit different, hand-made, signed in person, something exclusive?

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