“I got a presale code!” my teenage daughter exclaimed, her eyes lighting up at the prospect of buying concert tickets to see the latest artist du jour.
I smiled and flashed her thumbs up. However, my outward display of enthusiasm did not match how I felt inside. I felt, well, weary.
After all, it hadn’t been long since being waitlisted for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. My recovery from that rigamarole, plus other recent concert ticket-buying experiences, was ongoing.
Because from presale codes to Verified Fan status to digital wallets, I’m kinda done with how we go to concerts nowadays. I miss the way we went to concerts in the 80s.
Going to concerts was just better in the 80’s. (Photo credit: Katy Clark)
In the 80s, I saw iconic acts like Madonna and Huey Lewis and the News with nary a presale or Verified Fan status in sight. When the TicketMaster phone lines opened at 10 am on a Friday, we called repeatedly until the heavens smiled and a real-life human answered.
Maybe we had a few seconds to ponder where to sit and what price to pay. But you usually grabbed the best available seats, even if those were the second to last row, where I sat for U2’s Joshua Tree tour. But, hey, I was there!
And if the busy signal never stopped and we didn’t get seats? We didn’t go. There was no Stubhub or Seatgeek with huge markups and exorbitant fees. I didn’t consider buying from a scalper, aka Mike Damone from Fast Times, either. I’d heard undercover cops posed as scalpers, and there was no internet to debunk that as an urban legend.
The last concert my teenage daughter and I attended sold reserved sections of seats as part of their VIP experience. I think it included a drink and some concert merch, too, all for what seemed like an exorbitant upcharge.
The idea of a VIP experience would be laughable in the 80s. Back then, we made our own VIP experience. I remember when my friends and I snuck down to the eighth row of the A-ha concert and “borrowed” some empty seats. We screamed our heads off for Morten, Paul, and Magne until the rightful seat owners showed up, and we retreated to our nosebleed seats.
But for 30 glorious minutes, we rocked out like VIPs!
At another recent concert, my daughter and I watched a young woman snap dozens of selfies of herself “enjoying the moment” aka posing for the camera, her back to the band she’d come to see. She checked each shot before she found the perfect one, which I believe was the 42nd take.
Meanwhile, of the two dozen concerts I attended in the ’80s and early ’90s, I have zero pictures of myself before, during, or after the events. (Although I wish I had a picture of me in the stirrup pants and hot pink boots I wore to the Thompson Twins.) Taking my picture before a concert didn’t cross my mind, and during the concert, my friends and I danced and sang our hearts out, lost in the moment and transformed by the beat.
There was no ocean of technology to navigate when we went to concerts in the 80s. We didn’t add cyber tickets to a digital wallet or scan, swipe, or have them disappear into the ether. No, we carried our prized tickets to the entrance, where the ticket taker ripped them before handing us the stub. That stub became a badge of honor, a treasured souvenir most likely posted on a bedroom wall for perpetuity.
At concerts in the 80s, we were wild, free, and untracked. Yes, for my first concert in the 7th grade, my friends and I were chaperoned by my friend’s dad, but by 8th grade, we were dropped off to attend the likes of Howard Jones by ourselves.
After the encore, clutching our overpriced concert t-shirts, we navigated to the same spot where we had been dropped off and waited for someone’s mom to pick us up. I don’t recall being frightened; it instilled resilience and made us feel capable.
My fellow Gen Xers will agree that concerts in the 80s were amazing. Or should I say, like, totally amazing? Because they were.
I have the memories and the ticket stubs to prove it.
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