Paperless, print at home, show your mobile at the door to gain entry… Is the era of the paper concert ticket stub at an end?
I have been keeping my concert tickets for 27 years.
Every since my first gig-going days at the world’s greatest venue - Liverpool Royal Court.
I keep them in a massive binder. Hundreds and hundreds of these wonderful pieces of pop, rock and indie history.
All my musical heroes are in there: Morrissey, The Cure, REM, Gene, James, The Sundays and er Chris Issak.
These stubs are in chronological order and plot some of the most formative, exciting and moving nights of my life. They trail a route through different eras from baggy, Britpop through to stargazing (whatever that was?) through to fresh waves of indie acts.
When I first started attending gigs as a teenager in the late 1980s, the ticket stub meant everything. From the moment you acquired a gig ticket (usually by going to the venue box office in person) it sent pangs of excitement to the soul.
The ticket would get you inside the gig, remain with you throughout that magical evening and then be kept as a vital piece of pop memorabilia.
The problem now is that over the last few years my prized portfolio of stubs has had few new additions. And its not through a lack of attendance at concerts. Far from it.
Throughout 2014/15 I attended dozens of gigs, and yet only a handful of these concerts have involved a physical concert ticket. Most have involved a print-at-home monstrosity. An email confirmation. I mean, I’m all for convenience. But an email that acts as your entry is hardly something I want to keep for eternity.
At some recent gigs any real ticket stub has been handed over at the door for a wristband. While these wristbands undoubtedly feel reasonably cool and hip, it is of zero match for a paper ticket stub.
Maybe it's just nostalgia. But as a teenager I remember waking up the morning after gigs and the first thing I’d do was turn to my bedside table and see the ticket stub from the night before. This tiny piece of paper would be the one tangible item that tied me to the concert hall at that particular moment in time.
I’ve lost a few stubs over the years, especially from sweaty Royal Court gigs. The first thing you did when you got back from the sauna of the stalls was throw all your wet clothes into the washing basket. And oops, sometimes the concert stub bunked into the washing machine too.
My prized INXS stub went that way, it emerged nicely ironed three days later. It was now ten times smaller and smelt of Daz. “Mum! my concert ticket! what have you done!”
I can’t be the only one out there who still holds a flame for real concert tickets.
Some people now turn their old concert tickets into tea coasters. Some people frame them. I’m yet to see anyone frame an email confirmation…
Anyway, as we witness the death of the concert ticket, I unveil my top ten gig stubs.
These ten are here based on (mostly) how they look. IE the art, the aesthetics. Not necessarily for the drama of the night.
10/ The Cure, Liverpool Royal Court 1992
This stub was from the Wish tour of 1992 and is modelled on the first single from that album - High. This is a thing of beauty, simplicity and style. Red while and blue used as main colours with very straightforward details about date and time. I queued for four hours to get into this gig. And held this ticket close for two weeks or so before the show. It was the first time I’d seen the Cure. The played for three and a half hours and I missed the last train home. This design for a Royal Court ticket was a departure from the usual stubs at this venue. I presume that The Cure just decided to do this design for all their UK shows on this tour which took place in small venues.
9/ REM Manchester Move Festival 2003
Those nice people at the Manchester Move Festival always do lovely looking tickets. A dramatic design depicting an atmospheric city carriageway with a stellar-ish list of bands. This stub would easily work as a poster. Superb. The day itself was played out in glorious Manchester sun.
8/ Morrissey Aberdeen Capitol Theatre 1991
This is the smallest ticket in my collection and one of the most significant. The first time I saw Morrissey live. I love the very basic nature of this one and that’s why it makes my top ten. And, ok, because it’s Morrissey. This stub is smaller than a case of tic tacs. Obviously part of the ticket was handed in at the venue. All that is left is “…SSEY” to give you indication of who the artist was. I didn’t stay in Back Stalls very long. They let seated patrons run to the front to stand for the gig. Morrissey was so close. I could even see his shoes.
7/ The Stone Roses Liverpool Royal Court 1995
Like the Cure ticket from earlier, this stub sees a band produce a particular design for a certain tour. This was the return of the Roses following years away through record company disputes. The Second Coming tour tickets feature this fantastic design (taken from the cover of Love Spreads single). When you bought a ticket which looked as good as this (largely down to guitarist come artist John Squire) you know you are in for an unbelievable night. It’s a ticket which says: We mean business.
6/ James Alton Towers 1992
Yes they even let us use the rides during the day if we wanted. (I didn’t). Again, an atmospheric work of art featuring elements of the unique venue and the cover of James latest album Seven. I sometimes think its a shame that support acts very very rarely get mentioned on ticket stubs. I once saw James supported by the then little known band called Radiohead. And what did they do? For this gig PIL were the support. They were fantastic. James were pretty good too as they ventured from concert hall to huge open air gig era for a few years.
5/ Chumbawamba Liverpool University 1994
At initial viewing this looks like a very bland stub. But I think it’s so bad that it’s good. Uni stubs were always basic in keeping with the often no-frills environments these gigs were held in.
4/ The Charlatans Liverpool Royal Court 1990
This was the very typical Royal Court stub for many many years. They must have printed a job lot of them, in different pastel shades. The venue heading is a bit art deco. The music notes a fantastic addition. Again, I like the simplicity of this style. £6 for the Charlatans. Can’t be bad. It was a great gig.
3/ Blur Liverpool Royal Court, 1997
At last a ticket stub which lists some support acts. Sneaker Pimps set the scene superbly for this show. A wonderful black on white creative with the usual Blur emblem dominating. Queued for a few hours to get this ticket. Managed to meet Damon Albarn after the gig in the foyer of the Adelphi Hotel.
2/ Paul McCartney Kings Dock, Liverpool, 1990
Wow. “What a ticket!” I hear you cry. Or maybe “what is Macca wearing?” I hear you screech. This ticket has everything. The artist in dramatic Bill Shankly-esqe arm aloft pose and then images from the city he was born in. There’s the docks, shipping cranes and Ferry Cross The Mersey. This ticket came with a lovely information leaflet too. The whole family went to this show held essentially on wasteland which is now occupied by the Echo Arena and giant car park.
So, that’s my top nine. Here is my top ONE:
1/ The Verve Haigh Hall, Wigan, 1998
The opening strings of History reverberate around my head when I look at this piece of paper. A stirring stub from the Verve’s 1998 hometown show. If memory serves me right, there were around 30,000 people at this gig. The image on the ticket is wonderful. A person alone in the woods which I presume are the grounds of Haigh Hall. I have vague recollections of coming out of this gig with thousands of others in the pitch black along tiny country paths. Not an entirely comfortable experience. The support act, not mentioned on the ticket, was Beck. In Verve terms this really was their “Spike Island” moment as they were at the top of their game, on the verge of greatness.
Dickie has written two books about Morrissey fan culture. They are available to buy on this site. Buy his first tome: The Day I Met Morrissey here and Dickie will also ship his second: Morrissey International Airport. Two for one. Dickie will sign them both and ship anywhere in the solar system.