060311 Phish, Clarkston, MI

Posted by

I’ve always loved irony, though I despise ironing, which is slightly ironic I suppose.  But as I say, I love irony, so I maintain a lifelong commitment to continue hating ironing.

So anyway, a long time ago I was struck by an ironic thought: imagine selling a t-shirt that says “Capitalism Sucks” at 100% profit margin?  Heck, for a double entendre of irony (a double irondre?) you could even print it in all capital letters.


I just had to do it, and I did.  

I contacted an old friend who was in the t-shirt game and got a couple hundred printed up for five bucks a pop, just in time for George W. Bush’s first visit to Ottawa.  I hawked somewhere between sixty and eighty shirts at the protest downtown so I came pretty close to breaking even in one afternoon.

After that I had them hanging in a record shop on Rideau Street and it was their biggest selling shirt.  But like I say it was a record shop so they didn’t really sell a whole lot of t-shirts anyway.  Other than that I’ve never really actively sold them, except once.

I was heading down to the US for a quick Phish run that was starting at Pine Knob on June 3rd, 2011.  M’lady had mentioned that the Pine Knob lot was actually a collection of grassy fields and it sounded pretty fun.  I’ve always quite liked the relaxed hustle of the jammy parking lot independent merch scene and the few times I’ve sold dollar-beers or Jager shots at shows I really had a lot of fun doing it, so I thought I’d bring a handful of shirts with me to Pine Knob and kill the afternoon spreading the irony around.

I figured that nobody would get the joke more than this crowd and I was right.  As I cruised the rows of parked cars and their accompanying lawnchair gatherings I got plenty of laughs and high fives.  Really, it was more performance art than it was a sales pitch.  Of course I got called out often for being a hypoocrite, to which I delivered my standard rebuke:

“I’m not selling t-shirts, I’m selling irony at ten buck a pop.  And with every ironic purchase you get a free t-shirt to commemorate the occasion!”

My word, I can be so droll.

Believe it or not, the line actually worked on one guy, who handed me ten dollars and marked my only actual sale of the day.

Easier to believe is the fact that my line didn’t work at all on the parking lot security dudes who confiscated my remaining shirts.  “But it’s performance art!” I pleaded.

“It’s irony!  I’m not selling shirts, I’m selling irony!”

Of course they were having none of it.  They offered me a choice: hand over the six shirts I had with me or they could escort me to the police tent and I could discuss it with the Sheriff.  The fact that I had accidentally flashed my wares to a uniformed police officer earlier and got nothing but a smile and a wave made me actually consider it.  But showtime was looming so I let these guys steal my irony and shrugged it off over another lot beer before going into the show.

Phish raged it.  Totally heady Down With Disease.  I was hoping they’d play Makisupa Policemen to honour my pre-show travails but they didn’t.  But like I say, pretty sweet DWD.

Somehow or another I’m down to just a dozen or so Capitalism Sucks shirts left in the closet.  I’ve only given a few of them away – not counting my donation to the Pine Knob Security thrift sale bin – so I guess I’ve made a few bucks on them by now.

To be honest, I’ve always planned to sink the profits into an even better, even more ironic product that I’ve had kicking around in my head for a few years.  Would it be ironic if I never got around to it?

(Ironically, CAPITALISM SUCKS t-shirts are currently available right here.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s