It’s a good day for announcing various new projects — Tom Ewing’s started up another one worth your attention, It Took Seconds, for instance. And as he says there, “this blog project – which, like all blog projects, is as likely to fail as finish – is based on a very simple idea.” Since that could just as easily describe my own new project, keep that sentence in mind, especially the ‘as likely to fail’ part.
Not Just the Ticket is the first of three projects I hope to launch this year — this is the easiest to get going so I’m starting it now, in large part to act as a writing prompt for me for the new year. Call it as close to a resolution without actually being one, though I am going to aim at a generally set schedule of one per weekday — I will allow myself weekends off, though, at least for now (then there’s vacation and etc. — point being, pacing is something which I’ve learned through experience is just as important for self-directed projects as it is when you’re working following another guideline).
The general inspirations of Not Just the Ticket more or less come courtesy of two writers and their examples of making blog projects work — Tom Ewing is one, thanks to the success of Popular in particular, and Christopher R. Weingarten is the other due to his 1000TimesYes effort on Twitter last year. But the goal of Not Just the Ticket really doesn’t claim to follow directly in either of their footsteps, most importantly because it’s not as wide-ranging as either of them — Popular thrives on the function of the UK charts over decades, 1000TimesYes addressed a broad swathe of new albums released over 2009. Not Just the Ticket draws on one specific path of listening and life, an accounting stretching over twenty years of time.
So having said all that, I should explain exactly what it is.
In my apartment, all I have to do is look around and see things that I’ve literally had all of my life, or at least my conscious memory. There’s a small bookcase right next to my desk that now holds DVDs and a few last VHS tapes, while in my bedroom is a dresser; both of them were in my bedroom as a three or four year old boy in Hawaii. Meanwhile, under the bed (which is far newer, I should say) is a now empty bulletin board that was also in that room and which hung on the wall of nearly all the places I lived before I came to this apartment — it too was in that Hawaii room, and there’s still a couple of marks on it from where I scribbled with chalk back then, or shortly thereafter. It’s boxed up under the bed now because when I moved in there wasn’t any room to put up the bulletin board — a basic cork affair with red metal framing, shaped like a much larger piece of 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper with the longer sides at the top and bottom.
Various things were attached and pinned up and posted on it over the years, photos, pictures, scribblings, but starting in 1988 it also started holding something that eventually took over the whole bulletin board — tickets from shows I attended, specifically basic old Ticketmaster stubs, uniformly sized and therefore easily arranged to fill up the entire board over time. When it was full, I started maintaining a separate stash of tickets in a desk drawer, but the original spree of tickets continued to sit up on the board.
I suppose it was the music geek equivalent of the trophy collection for athletes or hunters or whatever, some sort of ‘hey look at this!’ calling card. Another manifestation of a list impulse, some kind of validation, who knows. But it was also fun to look over them, think back on certain shows and memories.
Anyway, the board itself had been packed away for some years, while newer tickets kept accumulating in my desk. A couple of months back, as I drew towards the end of my main archiving project of all the CDs, I started getting a bit of a very early spring cleaning itch and started cleaning out a lot of unnecessary stuff and junk in my desk and elsewhere in storage in the apartment — still an ongoing process but I’ve already seen a lot of difference. Somewhere along the way I organized all the loose tickets, wondered where all the old tickets were, and finally found the bulletin board packed away with all those tickets still attached to them by pins. Some while of sorting later, I had a nice little rubberbanded pile of tickets a couple of inches thick sitting up on a shelf in my closet, where they sit now.
Around this time I was still figuring out what to do once the overall music archiving project was complete — and it’s not quite done yet but I’m definitely well into the final stretch — and a couple of specific ideas were prompted by that which will play out later this year. Somehow I got the part-and-parcel idea of doing something with the tickets as well, since in the act of organizing them and looking them over, they all seemed like such curious artifacts in some way — both for what they stood for and also in and of themselves. There’s a vague romanticism in my head that lingers over these things as so many shows now rely on tickets that are created by home printers or on lists printed out at the door of the venue or the like — a romanticism that actually irritates me because it mistakes a necessary creation of the time and place for what something must ‘always’ be (see also: classic rock, vinyl fetishism, etc., but those are well trodden grounds). Also there’s that sense of simply recreating the ‘trophy’ impulse mentioned earlier, and finally — and perhaps most pointedly, especially given my forthcoming Stylus revival essay, now due to run with the rest of the overall effort on Monday — there’s an inevitable sense of wallowing in nostalgia again, not the healthiest of mental modes.
With these caveats in mind, though, there’s still something I wanted to try with all these things. So a few weeks back I went ahead and scanned them all for this project, the visual cue for each piece as it appears. What each piece will be won’t be some sort of accounting of the show in a strict factual sense, ie, the amount of tickets sold, the exact set list, stuff like that. For some of these shows that information is out there and lovingly collated by dedicated fans, for others at most any specific, ‘real’ information would be a long lost shrug and vague detail for all participants from band members to bouncers and bartenders on duty that night.
Each piece instead will be…something else. I’m still not sure exactly what, part biography, part music discussion, part refracted memory, part an analysis of the trick of memory. Part of me is deeply suspicious of the idea of this simply being ‘shows that I’ve seen part 4331’ or whatever, though inevitably the course of this project will make that lens the easiest to view it through. (Also, keep in mind that not every show I’ve seen has such a ticket attached to the memories — but I’ll occasionally step out of the flow of the tickets to note a show here or there that I know I attended but lack any ticket of any sort for.) Ultimately this will be a story of impressions, a history of afterechoes, something that focuses on the fact that artifacts like these tickets stamp times and dates very specifically when so much of the past becomes this overlapping flow of memories and emotions and ideas.
I’ll begin the formal pieces on Monday with a one-a-weekday goal as mentioned, but Sunday I’ll begin with an introductory piece that hopefully will set something of the tone of the whole effort. But who knows where it will all lead? I’m not sure myself — and that may be why I’m writing this.
All thoughts and feedback will be welcome. I hope those who do read it find it of interest.