“It’s not a political thing for me,” Dischord Records co-owner Ian MacKaye told me in 2013. “I just don’t give a f**k about T-shirts.”
That quote has context — MacKaye was talking about his old band Minor Threat’s if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em solution to shirt bootlegging — but in general, D.C.’s best-known record label really doesn’t do band swag. You won’t find any accessories, posters or clothing in the official Dischord store, not even from non-Dischord bands it distributes. If you want to buy a Dischord tee, you’ve got to go elsewhere, like Pedestrian Press, a company owned by the imprint’s other founder, Jeff Nelson.
But most touring D.C. musicians probably don’t share MacKaye’s position, and if they once did, they are probably rethinking that in the age of tepid physical sales.
So what D.C. bands and labels make the best merch-table fodder, besides records? Tough question. Bandwidth contributors put their heads together and came up with this list of creative standouts from local artists and record labels.
If you’d rather get your music from Soundcloud or Bandcamp, fair enough — you can support local music by buying this swag instead.
Note: We can’t guarantee that all of these items are still available.
The D.C. dance-pop ensemble calls its music “a soundtrack for the children to watch the first world burn” — and this T-shirt won’t assure wealthy urbanites that they’re safe from the flames.
The uptown MC christened his crew the Washington Slizzards, a name that even he acknowledges doesn’t mean much. Nebyu says he came up with the Wizards pun when he was joking around with his friend, and they thought it was funny, so they rolled with it. Then it blew up on Twitter. So Nebyu recorded a song by the same name and cranked out some T-shirts. That did it: the Washington Slizzards are totally real now.
The D.C. hardcore label makes its own sweatpants, probably for cozy roundhouse kicking in the pit.
Marijuana paraphernalia from Weed Is Weed and Dying Fetus
This shirt makes no attempt at subtlety. Then again, neither does the over-the-top metal band that commissioned it.
From the band that wrote “Burn Down the Brixton” comes D.C.’s most black-humored merch: an official Jack On Fire matchbook — complete with a disclaimer, in case you get any funny ideas.
D.C.’s biggest street-rap up-and-comer takes a utilitarian approach to music: He said in a Fader interview with Bandwidth’s Briana Younger that he raps to make a living, calling hip-hop a “last resort.” His song “Fxck Rap” makes that much clear. “I know how to hustle, so f**k rap,” he says on the track. It’s all a little meta — a rapper rapping about the uselessness of his own rapping — and this rap beanie (yours for $10!) doubles the effect.
Dig stoner rock and D.C. sports history? Caustic Casanova has got the shirt for you.
D.C. hardcore stalwarts Coke Bust sell an elaborate hand-drawn T-shirt designed by Brazilian punk rocker Xavero. Mind the nudity.
I wouldn’t doubt that the Syracuse/D.C. indie-pop band has loads of fun on tour, but this 40-page Lemuria comic book has them “travers[ing] the vast landscape of Russia, dodging roves of violent Nazis, crooked cops, mobster shakedowns, gunshots, a tropical storm, rabid dogs and a substandard German pizza.”
You can’t play most releases on the D.C. garage-rock label without one of these little guys.
Accidental Guest’s “Morrissey Still Sucks” button
Record label owner (and Bandwidth contributor) Sean Gray seems to take glee in bashing musicians he dislikes, and these (free!) buttons make that contempt wearable.
Ex Hex tote bag
D.C.’s best rock band doesn’t sell any swag online, but catch the three-piece on tour and you’ll probably spot one of these simple tote bags at the merch table.
Andrew Morgan’s boutique funk record label makes excellent merch for vinyl obsessives, including slipmats and record bags that come in two sizes — for 12-inches and 7-inches — but I can’t think of another D.C. label that makes its own glamorous leggings like these ones designed by Lisa Stannard.
If one day our world is destroyed by an exploding sun, our oblivion will probably sound like blackened death-metal band Gloom — and we’ll want to be wearing these shades to go out in style.
What merch did we miss? Drop us a comment or an email.
Photo by Flickr user Barb Crawford modified and used under a Creative Commons license.