Tour is all we know.
In the early days of metal, the tour shirt was viewed as a prize, coveted by those who wanted to say, “I was there.” This was from a time where for most people, the only way you could get a band shirt was to see them live. They were specially designed with dates, cities, tour names, and all sorts of unique identifiers. A search of tour shirts on places like eBay show that these tour shirts are still in high demand.
Tour shirts today are still enjoyed by fans, but that “special” spark has been diminished for a number of reasons. The number of bands touring frequently has reduced the one-time chance to pick up a special shirt. It’s now possible to grab shirts at brick-and-mortar stores and the local flea market. They are now easily purchasable through various online auction sites, music-centric merchandise stores, and even the bands’ own websites. Missed the tour? No worries, here’s the same shirt that was on sale. Wait a few months, and it will be on clearance. Wearing a tour shirt no longer means “I was there” in the general sense. Of course, some tour shirts are so bad that they’re less a badge of honor and more a target for ridicule.
Anthrax – Tourship Music
Anthrax never really took themselves too seriously. Their affinity for Bermuda shorts is well-known, and this MTV Headbangers Ball tour commercial is insane. They appeared on an episode of Married With Children as well as a skit with Jay Leno. Despite being not super serious all the time, this still doesn’t excuse the band from having cartoon versions of themselves on a tour shirt. Appearing as cartoons on your shirts is never a good look. Never. This isn’t even the first time Anthrax has done this on a shirt.
These cartoon versions of Scott Ian, Joey Belladonna et al. aren’t even cute or silly. They’re just a little too detailed for comfort. It’s like they might jump off the shirt and start attacking people like that scene from Tales From The Hood where the dolls attack the former KKK member running for Senate. They even have a baseball bat. Why does Frank Bello have his hands in his pockets? What’s he hiding? At least they captured Belladonna’s svelte Crypt Keeper-like figure.
The giant bulging text for New York is the only respite for the eyes in this clearly-cursed shirt. This shirt is evil, I tell you. Wearer beware, you’re in for a scare. Throw the bones and cut off the head of a snake to cast it back into the ground from whence it came.
At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Sanders
People were pretty excited when At The Gates got back together and decided to tour. Fans were there for the music because if this shirt is indication, no one was there to buy this shirt. What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here? I think that’s supposed to be the outline of a human being. Judging from the tuft of white hair in the back, it may actually be presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. From the looks of his body, he may have felt the “bern” a little too much. This guy is either the victim of a horrible chemical accident or he’s filled with delicious nougat. Is he choking himself with his own outline? Where did those bones come from? Is this supposed to be a cartoon-version of someone in At The Gates? It’s these thoughts that keep you up at night.
The back is only slightly better. Up close, the windows/spires look pretty cool. From far away, though, it looks like a dong trident or possibly a bunch of hidden dicks like in the Little Mermaid poster. The main problem with the shirt is the strange mirrored text for “AT WAR WITH REALITY”. From far away it doesn’t even look like it’s in English. Up close, it looks like a knockoff Magic Eye that you would find under a pile of old Highlights For Kids magazines at the walk-in clinic. It was nice of the band to include the tour dates and locations. Too bad you need a magnifying glass and Clear Eyes to see them. At war with reality? Oh, no, At The Gates. You’re at war with healthy vision.
Between The Buried And Me – Pedal to the Metal
I know it’s hard to read, but trust me, this is a Between The Buried And Me shirt. While the calligraphy makes the name pretty, it always makes it a little difficult to read when it’s so small and printed on top of something. That “something” is a double bass drum pedal. Why is a double bass drum pedal the main design for their tour shirt? Was the artist commissioned for this shirt unable to draw anything other than drum pedals? Did they have a notebook exclusively full of drum pedals, and the band just assumed that the artist could do other things? Did the artist try to draw the band and realized he was Rob Liefeld and could only draw giant sacks of potatoes instead of chests and bodies that contort like nightmare Twizzlers? Yeah, the band uses the pedals, but so do thousands of other bands. It’s not wholly unique to them. Weird, right?
The back reveals that this shirt comes from their 2004 Silent Circus tour. It was most likely their first major tour, so the band was pretty excited to have merch to sell. Apparently, they were so excited that they played approximately 200+ shows. Why is the writing so small? They have plenty of room on the shirt! They didn’t need to cram everything into a tiny square. I know they were just starting out and money was probably still tight, but you shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to read it. More like Between The Cataracts and me, amirite?
Ozzfest – Toilet Of Hell
Ozzfest 2005 was arguably the best Ozzfest (seriously, let’s argue about it). Original line-up Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden (before the egg-throwing incident), Shadows Fall, Mastodon, Killswitch Engage, Soilwork, Trivium, The Haunted, and um Wicked Wisdom. So how did the festival organizers commemorate this big touring fest? With a giant devil (or a lesser demon/imp if you prefer) taking a big, steamy Fronz. It’s poetic justice that such a stupid design should show up on a site named Toilet Ov Hell.
Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of the back of this shirt, which is a shame, because it’s worth mentioning. Despite having a stacked lineup with lots of up-and-coming bands, the back of the official Ozzfest 2005 shirt just mentioned Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. No other bands were on the back. This embarrassing shirt cost $45 and couldn’t even be bothered to squeeze in a mention for bands like The Black Dahlia Murder or Rob Zombie.
The bootlegs of this monstrosity improved everything about it. It cut out the toilet part, zooming in on the upper half; it had all the bands on the back, and it cost $10. One can only assume that this shirt helped speed-up the demise of Ozzfest.
Pantera – Anselmo Pride
When President Trump dumps Jell-O mix into our oceans as a way to prevent immigrants from coming to America, I hope this shirt is the only remaining artifact of Pantera’s existence. When Kanye West finally becomes self-aware, I hope this shirt is the only remaining artifact of Pantera’s existence. When nuclear war ravages the planet and the only living creatures are insects and giant radioactive death-sloths, I hope this shirt is the only remaining artifact of Pantera’s existence. When the sun is blotted out by volcanic ash, plunging our world into a frozen wasteland from which the Yeti King rules with an iron fist, I hope this shirt is the only remaining artifact of Pantera’s existence. When giant sentient butts from the planet Tooshbunz 9 descend upon the Earth and devour us with their gaping anus-mouths, I hope this shirt is the only remaining artifact of Pantera’s existence. They deserve it.