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Kurt’s Magic Box: A Life in Ticket Stubs

What would it take to locate the ticket stubs of every concert you’ve ever been to? In some of our cases, that would probably involve going through the pockets of our jeans and carefully unfolding little wads of cardboard that have almost turned to dust-balls after a few  times in the wash.  There aren’t a lot of people out there who carefully preserve all their ticket stubs, maybe because they don’t want to have so much of their personal musical history preserved in one small space.

Our own Kurt Davis is one of those intrepid pack rats, whose collection is tucked into a plastic box about the size of a sardine can. There you’ll find the stubs for hundreds of shows that he’s seen, and one that he hasn’t. He’s not exactly sure how a Chick Corea ticket stub from 1978 got in the box, since he’s never seen Chick Corea. Probably he decided it looked cool at the time, and after 30 years it’s too late to throw it away.

Since we know Kurt as a punk-rock potentate, we were surprised to discover lots of arena rock in his roots, and even some prog: I personally drooled over a stub for Yes in 1976—That would be the Relayer tour with the short-lived Patrick Moraz on keyboards; probably the band at its absolute height. But like many children of the '70s, Kurt simply tried to see everything halfway promising that came through town. Like, why did everyone I knew back then see the Charlie Daniels Band, when we’d never been further south than Waterbury, CT? No idea, but Kurt saw him as well, in the very non-redneck city of Indianapolis.

He’s especially careful with the tickets for the shows that changed his life. One of those would be KISS in December 1977: “Seeing them was totally like being put in another planet. It was a little more dangerous than they got to be—at that point they still had the mystique. Parents still hated them.”

He also witnessed his share of Spinal Tap moments. One was the band Angel, which aimed very hard for arena-rock grandeur. Kurt saw them on a triple bill with Starz and Piper (whose singer was a not-yet-famous Billy Squier). “Angel has this really elaborate stage set, with the big cubes that the bandmembers would bust out of, and a projection of their huge Angel logo. The animated lips were supposed to move, and the voice was supposed to come out—but the recording screwed up and he started talking at a really slow speed. It was one of those moments where the magic of rock started to break down.”  Another such moment happened at an outdoor radio station event that Pat Travers headlined; and skydivers appeared from the clouds during one of the big numbers. Looked great, until one of their parachutes got caught in a tree.

The '70s rock experience also involved a whole lot of head-scratching double bills: Heart opening for Peter Frampton! Trickster opening for ELO! Rush opening for everybody! And it seemed that a lot of those odd matchups happened when punk rock was starting to take over the world. Kurt once saw Graham Parker opening for Cheap Trick: Parker now has a rep as one of the new wave’s great songwriters, but it sure didn’t help him much that day. Pub-rocker Bram Tchaikovsky was slated to open an Alice Cooper show and got axed from the bill; Kurt was one of the only people that recognized Bram when he was hanging out between sets. Another Alice Cooper show had the great punk band the Dictators as opening act: “That one totally kicked my ass, I was just getting into punk rock and there was no turning back after that. I saw Handsome Dick Manitoba [the Dictators frontman, who now owns a bar in NYC] at Manitoba’s many years later, and he was great—He said ‘Yeah, caught that one, did ya’?”

Musical tastes may change, but some traditions always remain: Kurt didn’t save the ticket for one of the first shows he ever saw, Edgar Winter on the day he turned 14. But he did save the one for the next time he ceremoniously went to an Edgar Winter show…on the day he turned 41.

And the really sad part? If you add up everything Kurt spent on the tickets for the shows mentioned above, and throw in a few more besides, it probably wouldn’t get you a parking space at an arena show today. The times, they sure are a-changin’.