CANADIAN PUNK ROCK T-SHIRT LAUNCH PARTY with TORONTO PUNK ROCK ALL-STARS featuring the SCREWED and RAVING MOJOS at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, June 29), 8 pm. $3. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Long before the music industry figured out how to turn punk rock into a marketable commodity, people were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the names of their favourite artists. One of those early DIY fans was musician/filmmaker and Rivet zine mainman Stacey Case, who currently runs the full-service mechandising operation Merch Guy, making T-shirts, posters and buttons for bands when he isn't raising a ruckus with his own wrestle-rock masked avengers, the Tijuana Bibles. For Case, T-shirts were always an integral part of the punk rock culture.
"I'm from Niagara-on-the-Lake," explains Case from his workspace, "and even before I was old enough to drink, my friends and I were regularly taking the bus from St. Catharines to Toronto to see punk rock shows at the Cabana and in Kensington Market. If bands were selling stuff at their gig, I'd always buy a T-shirt even before I'd get their record. There was just something about being the only guy in the neighbourhood with a really cool shirt."
Yet despite his abiding respect for the T as a fashion statement and his near-obsessive passion for the screen printing process, Case's day-to-day work delivering a top-quality product to client specifications wasn't entirely fulfilling.
His creative ambitions led to a brilliant new line of fully licensed Canadian punk rock band T-shirts from the late 70s and early 80s featuring the logos and associated imagery of his fave artists, like the Viletones, the Raving Mojos, the Forgotten Rebels, Deja Voodoo and the Diodes, with more to come.
"When I started running the print shop out of my garage, the whole plan was to offer an affordable alternative screen printing service to people in other bands going on tour. Other than the odd Tijuana Bibles shirt, I wasn't really making anything for myself. As much as I love screen printing, I wanted to do something for me.
"So I made these Parkdale, Toronto T-shirts and gave some to my friend Deirdre O'Sullivan, who runs a T-shirt store on Queen West called I'm With Stupid, and they soon became her number-one seller. So we started thinking about what other kinds of shirts we could make.
"That's when we hit on the idea of a line of Canadian punk rock band T-shirts that would be fully licensed, with the artists' consent. I knew Fred Robinson from the Chickens was also in UIC, so I asked him about doing a UIC shirt and he said, 'Sure, sounds great!' That's how it all started. It was like, 'What bands' shirt would I want to wear?' and then tracking down the artists, which has been an interesting experience in itself."
Case debuts his new UIC shirt at a punk-rock-star-studded launch party tonight (Thursday, June 29) at the Horseshoe, appropriately enough the historic site of the great December 1, 1978, Toronto punk scene summit, The Last Pogo.
The show is scheduled to open with a short Raving Mojos set, followed by performances by a series of special guest singers said to include the Forgotten Rebels' Mickey DeSadist and Chris Houston, Lucasta of the B-Girls, Deja Voodoo's Gerard Van Herk, Johnny MacLeod of Johnny & the G-Rays, all backed by the Screwed, featuring John Borra (Change of Heart), Steve Koch (Demics, Viletones), Cleave Anderson (Battered Wives) and Steve Sinister (the Sinisters).
Somewhat oddly, Viletones frontman Steve Leckie is slated to spin classic punk rock tunes from CDs between sets rather than perform with his notorious group.
"Well," sighs Case, "Steve really wanted the Viletones to play, but when he started calling up the other members to find out who was available, they all wanted to appear onstage. That wasn't going to be possible, so he decided against the idea of a Viletones performance altogether.
"As I got more involved in putting together this launch party, the more I found out about the politics of the Toronto scene and all the distinct factions involved. Not having grown up here, I wasn't aware there was an OCA art school crowd and a Kensington Market crowd and those groups just didn't play shows together. So I really don't know for sure who's going to show up on Thursday or what's going to happen when they do, but hopefully everyone will relax and enjoy themselves.
"Hey, it's only three bucks to get in - just like 1977 all over again."