I sift through the oversized box, full of band shirts in different shapes of wear and tear, tour shirts with the date emblazoned on the back, women-sized shirts bought at merch stands, old, old shirts from decades ago, bought with money I scrimped and saved ahead of time. Widened neck holes, arms cut off, some teeny tiny that barely fit over these breasts I have since grown, kept out of nostalgia and memories and a faint hope that once my breastfeeding days subside I will comfortably fit in them again. Band names that no longer exist apart from in memories of basement bars and long nights, good looking guitarists always shredding my heart into pieces. The soft feel of the material between my fingers, the smell of bars and booze, Chanel no 19, coconut and cold vodka still in my mind, conjured up through the long-lasting lavender softener scent.
Music you own me, you are the rhythm of my memories and haunt my future, hold me up and pull me down, bring me back and push me forward. The Siouxsie shirt that went from office stress to DJing til early in the morning at Midway, fence down low so the sunlight wouldn't bother us. Years gone by and I can still taste the air, jager and stolen kisses in the DJ booth up high, Bonnie Tyler for a laugh, the electric slide along the floor. The tiny Secret Machines shirt, so tiny I don't even know how it fit, fills my soul with a swaying happiness, because despite everything it was always going to be OK, right place and right time, a moment in time which would slip away from us, both moving along and thanking each other. The one Cure shirt from back in the day, proper vintage, a perfect gift from a perfect friend, a mutual love of The Cure framing a friendship, an appreciation of the deeper impact of music drilling it deeper.
The pale green Sonic Youth tee, the eye staring, knowing, watching, a time of sitting back and listening, observing and not participating, a time of sunshine and beaches and sobriety, where the drunken stories were no longer my own bit those others told me. Barcelona wanderings leading me to moonlight ramblings from a balcony I will never see again, chain smoking with one hand, furiously writing with the other. The black Interpol t-shirt, purchased many, many years after my first Interpol show, that one in Staten Island, new to NYC, embracing my new life with an old but new friend, a door opening towards Ludlow and Orchard - Darkroom, Motorcity, and then The Skinny and later 200 Orchard. Pianers on Sunday, and so much stomping up and down those streets, heels worn down on my Fryes, eyes bright with anticipation or ivresse or both. The first time I met them, these people I fell in love with through my headphones, I was shy and intimidated, and then it was just all home anyway. The streets, the people, the music. Interpol and Calla and Dead Combo, my Ludlow, maybe yours.
Oh look there is my Spiritualized t-shirt, washed and worn so many times, so many memories of shows, Terminal 5, Radio City, Webster Hall... Hotel Rivington, watching the sun rise over the East River, a glass of red wine in my hand, having meaningful conversations with musicians, wishing I had more to offer, constantly feeling less than others, undermining my own value and feelings, a warrior fighting my own demons, while fighting my own self-worth. Spiritualized, weaving through my life, my firstborn's first show, a little secret in my womb, a pregnancy announcement whispered from one side of the balcony to the other. Come Together, before our lives all fell apart in an explosively wonderful manner. Spiritualized, always a cleansing, beautiful way to raise my soul, my happy music, sealing broken hearts, lifting me towards love. And always with my best friend, together even when we weren't. Surprisingly only one Nick Cave, my love now worn by my true life love, but so many moments in his presence from Lyon to the Beacon Theater, standing over me, that voice that transcends all others, whispering, goading, flipping your stomach inside out, grabbing you by the heart. There is no other, no other like him. The Kills, the one band I have seen more than any other, every time better than the last, never failing to grab me by the guts and shove me in front of my emotions.
And then there are those shirts that are only left in my memories, the original Ride the Lightning, paper thin with age, hash holes along the bottom, Metallica. I finally saw them 18 years later, Megadeth-Slayer-Metallica, teenage dreams coming alive in my 30's, jammed against the fence by the pit, screaming along to old songs with unknown new friends next to me. Strangers but together with the music. Seasons in the Abyss alive and well, lyrics taking me back to my teenage room in France, while standing on the soil of NYC. A 200 franc note blowing down the street, landing at my feet. I kept it for a week in case anyone claimed it and then ran to the shop in the center of town, spending half an hour deciding between two Nirvana shirts, finally opting for the one that wasn't the yellow smiley. My first own music t-shirt purchase, teenage uniform with my mismatched Doc Martens and ripped jeans. The Nine Inch Nails shirt, bought in the US on the Fragile tour, worn into the ground on a kibbutz in Israel, Trent’s voice’s effect on my heart lasting so much longer than his merch.
Hundreds of shirts, all neatly folded in a box, all waiting to be worn again, telling the stories of a lifetime of music, of lifetimes of music, memories dancing to the beat of a drum, twirling towards a crescendo, caught in time. Right there, that high note, Leonard Cohen's smile as he dances across the stage; the smoke surrounding American X, still true today BRMC; Peter, white faced and dark-eyed, once again reunited with Daniel, David, and Kevin, and me standing from that balcony in the Times Square venue, wondering how I had finally managed to make a teenage Bauhaus dream come true. Red wine and Lit, running through the streets of NYC, places that now only exist in my memories and maybe yours. An unfinished story of places, people, and the music that brought us altogether.