I started collecting concert posters on accident. After attending a Ween show in July 2008, I was passing by the merch table intent on buying a shirt to commemorate wild night when the show poster caught my eye. The brilliant white paper stock was a perfect base for the trippy pink and blue design; the colors did not complement one another well and made the image hard to look at. Maybe that’s what interested me in it so much – that from afar it was impossible for me to make out what I was looking at, making my eyes squint and strain, and for the first time since before the show, focusing on something so intently, with a purpose. The design on the poster was that of Ween’s spirit being, the Boognish, adorning a karate outfit while conjuring a bearded dragon as he is about to strike an unseen opponent. It was an easy decision to snag the print, and it inadvertently launched my obsession of collecting posters. I have acquired hundreds, possibly thousands of posters since, and each one of them is a reminder of a special time that left a lasting impression.
Concert prints are a tangible memory, an object you can look back on years later and reminisce on the revelry of that night; The lights, the music, the friends, the dancing, and you become excited as you daydream about the next concert memory you’ll make.
My series of Bonnaroo posters range from 2009-2015, and all tell a story of the best weekend of the year, spent seeing some greatest music in the world. Upon reading the bands names, I am reminded of hot Tennessee summer days, dancing and laughing, with the air so thick with confetti it chokes you as you breathe.
I enjoy reading a festival lineup poster from years ago, focusing on the bottom rows, and seeing which bands have moved up throughout the years, taken on bigger stages and earned headlining status. It makes you wonder who you’re seeing on the small stage this year that will headline the Which Stage in a few short years.
I sometimes seek out artists after shows to get a prints singed. Silly, scribbled drawings from bands like Foxygen and Stardeath & White Dwarves are a reminder that the artists are happy you experienced their music, and that they could share it with you.
Sometimes, however, there is not a print for a life-changing show. That was the case for an Animal Collective performance in 2014. The show was so meaningful for our close group of friends that I created my own and gave it to them as gifts. It is in this way that I attributed myself to an important memory in our lives. It was from this exercise that I learned the value of a print, fully appreciating the time, effort and love an artist puts into their work.
My favorite poster is a memory of a My Morning Jacket show that took place on Halloween 2009 in their hometown of Louisville, Ky. It’s smaller, 12” x 17”, but the memories attached to that show are larger than any print could capture.
Beginning from a chance purchase at a Ween show, my hobby of show poster collecting became a big part of my concert experience. Show prints will always be a way for me to look back at those important moments, and for just a second, transport to that time and place and attain that feeling of feeling once again.
Whether it’s a tour shirt, a show poster, or even a sticker pack, I hope you too are keeping tangible memories of the important events and shows in your life. These objects will be reminder of some of the best times of my life a long after the lights go out and the confetti settles.