Go Your Own Way

Ottawa XPress, May 11, 2006

The bands are good ’til they make enough cash
To eat food and get a pad
Then they’re sold out and their music is cliché
Because talent’s exclusive to bands without pay
Know it all – did you really listen to that song?
Could you ever write what you call wrong?

~ “Know It All,” Lagwagon

Home ownership and health. Things society checks off when it decides you’re an adult now.

Add to that list a clean-shaven face.

Nothing says “I deserve a promotion” like no sideburns. As if looking like Jesus in a trucker cap is a setback.

I’ve been reaping benefits from looking like a skid myself this month. I didn’t grow a beard, but worn-out Levi’s and a scary Baphomet-like, winged-humanoid-goat skull with curly horns à la ram on my black and white Maximum RNR band T-shirt seem to be doing the trick.


It could be thanks to this outfit that I’m making nice with all sorts of wonderful people. If clothes make the man, then my gear makes me a happy (wo)man, indeed.

First I got the attention of a bandana-clad, longhaired biker dude. He nodded as me and my chest strolled by. Not the hooters, the horns! Did biker dude know the Toronto band on my T-shirt, or was it the logo uniting rockers of the world?

Next, it was the young chap with the spiked mohawk at the Second Cup on Bank and Somerset. He gave me a discount on my steamed milk as Johnny Cash played on the sound system.

Wearing my special T-shirt also got me a free club soda at Zaphod’s and a complimentary cranberry juice at Dominion Tavern.

The moral of the story: Have Maximum RNR T-shirt, will travel.


Okay, well, a better way of putting it is like this. Homosexuals have their rainbows, and others their skull and crossbones. It’s nice when you recognize someone who looks like they’re travelling a similar road. But are we?

Perhaps my eagerness says I’m just a poser looking for validation from the counterculture to justify my existence as a decent-paid public servant sellout – who likes to rock out.

Maybe I need approval from “cool” cats to compensate for my “responsible” lifestyle that I sometimes wish was crusty enough to impress the rough blokes and fit in with the tough chicks who look like they could drop-kick and rock my ass to Camden Town and back in a hand clap.

I’m not saying the biker, the punk and those bartenders are my best friends either. But having a pleasant exchange with them is more rewarding than getting checked out in “grown-up woman attire” by some fuckass in Hugo Boss driving a flashy convertible on his way home to 700 Sussex.

Then again, why is Flashy Fuckass a sellout just because he can afford nice shit?

Let’s channel the spirit of Angus MacLise for this one. Yeah, MacLise: Why’d you quit the Velvet Underground when the group accepted an offer of $75 for their first paying performance in New Jersey back in 1965?

Selling out means compromising your integrity for mass appeal. But let’s say you’re true to your ideals and can sell your skills because they are massively appealing. Well, you invest in your future.

But still, some of us are uncomfortable with success lest it should separate us from the underground, and hell no, don’t say “condo”!

Toronto Star writer Melinda Mattos spoke to this in her April 29 article, “Owning a home changes your life,” in the Condo Generation column.

Mattos writes: “I had lunch with an old friend recently and actually heard the following words come out of my mouth: ‘Interest rates were low, so it was a good time to buy.’ We used to talk about punk rock and hair dye; now I sound like a bank commercial.”

I too had lunch with a new “friend” in Toronto recently (three guesses what band) and actually heard the following words come out of my mouth: “I’m no longer sexually frustrated and my mental health is really, really good.”

Uh, what?

Hey, Mattos openly admitted switching to 10-grain hot cereal for breakfast because it’s economical and nutritious even though it “tastes like watery, fruity couscous.” Who’s the loser now?!

Gee whiz, upgrading your nutrition, sanity or lodgings shouldn’t be so embarrassing – it just sounds geeky compared to punk rock, and weirder when the info isn’t solicited.

Growing up shouldn’t mean growing out of all the things you love most, or away from people fundamental Christians call scary. Nor should “cool” be exclusive to a dysfunctional prick with a kick-ass record collection.

In the Googled words of my lunch date, when it comes to life’s road trip, he says, “my personal highway has taught me that if you stick to what you love, you won’t get lost.”

Just be sure what you love loves you back the right way – and doesn’t leave you homeless!

And along the way, may travellers always find the “real” you. Regardless of what T-shirt you’re wearing.


“Sucking Satan’s cock” is the term comedian Bill Hicks used in the 1990s to describe musical acts who make bland music to maximize sales, or allow their music to be used in advertising.


Heads (and horns) up: Maximum RNR rawk Doberman Bikes in Aylmer, Quebec, on Canada Day.

Maximum RnR


Lagwagon plays Métropolis in Montreal on July 25, 2006.

– Sylvie Hill