Why Has This Man Dedicated His Entire Life to Going to Gigs?

Later this year, Jim McDermott will attend his 1,000th gig. That's approximately £40,000, 2,000 lagers and more queues than Alton Towers. So, we called him up to chat about it.

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07 July 2016, 10:53am

Ever met someone who loves an object so much they’ve shackled their life onto it, like a hard to remove barnacle? There’s Erika Eiffel, an American woman who married the Eiffel Tower. Or Francine "Penny" Patterson, who dedicated her life to teaching a gorilla how to converse in sign language. Then, there’s Jim McDermott, a British man who loves going to gigs so much that he’s been to nearly 1,000 of them.

Granted, gig-going isn’t as luxurious or out-there as a legal union between steel and the human heart. For a start, concerts involve a lot of dirt-ridden trainers, a crooked neck, and hours spent looking at a mobile phone. Mundane city, right? But don’t be fooled: a life in pursuit of gigs is a life where one resides in the deep atmosphere of rockstars, pop stars, and celebrities with an air of permeance. In the past twenty-eight years, Jim has played on stage with one of humanity’s monumental pop triumphs, accosted a famous Irish man in the street, and come into contact (however distant it may be) with almost every musician listed in one of those big rock encyclopedia books they sell in the airport branches of Waterstones. Whatever you're thinking: Jim's gig-going experience beats that one night you saw the Klaxons in Portsmouth and threw up in Subway.

So why does Jim do this shit? Like, why is he out there, searching for gigs, rather than painting model aeroplanes or running a stationary business on eBay? It all started in 1988, when an eighteen year old Jim caught a live show by Erasure. Since then, he decided to dedicate his life to following touring bands around the world. Sort of like Superman, but with more Scottish indie bands and less kryptonite. When Jim arrives at a show he stands at the front, hangs around to meet bands afterward, and buys a CD from the merchandise stand – all of which makes him a rare-breed in today’s environment of zipped up pre-release album leaks and streaming service trial periods. In fact, his house includes a CD room (read that again: not a dining room, nor a lounge, or even a lavishly stocked study – a CD room!) that preserves his collection of just under 2,000 records.

How did we find this rare lad, then? After persuasion from friends, Jim started up a Twitter account to document his countdown to the big 1,000 gig milestone. He's a man who plays by the rules: he is in no rush and has no interest in cheating, but predicts that he'll reach the milestone in early 2017. Before that grand occasion happens and the heavens open and champagne bottles rain down on his blessed forehead, I decided to catch up with Jim to find out more about his gigging obsession. Here's what happened.

Some of Jim's collection from an era where tickets were designed and printed rather than shoved through an identikit printer

Noisey: Hello Jim! Why haven’t you got bored yet? My back hurts after going to three shows in a row.
Jim: I go and I just take it all in. Because I go to so many it’s not always a night on the beer. It’s all about the music, the experience, the atmosphere, the band… That’s where I’m coming from. When I was younger there was more drinking, but if I’m honest with you, if I was still drinking I’d probably only go to 10 a year, because of the expense and the fatigue. I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Even without booze, doesn’t it cost a shit load of money to go to nearly 1,000 gigs?
Well, put it this way: Neil Young played recently and was charging nearly €80 for a ticket. I’d never make it to 50 or 60 gigs a year if I was paying that much everytime. My average is about €30 for a ticket, because I go to such a mix. That’s what keeps it real for me, as it were.

What band have you seen the most?
Depeche Mode. I’ve seen them 23 times, including a two week European backpacking experience in 2009, following their Tour of the Universe. This was 9 gigs in 9 cities over 16 days.

Have you met any of your heroes?
I met Andy Bell from Erasure once and sold him some boots. He wore them on Top Of The Pops. I used to work in the city centre in Dublin at a shoe shop called Black Boots.

What happened?
I went up to him and said, "Hiya Andy, I’m a big fan." Then I think I said something like, "Do you like the boots? Do you want to come in and try them on?" So he came in and I had him to myself for 20 or 30 minutes while he tried on several different pairs of boots.

Have you met a hero that’s ever let you down?
Oh yeah. 90% of the time it works out fine for me, but this one time I was in Amsterdam with my brother and a friend to see Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds. We were round the front of the venue after his sound check and waited about 40 minutes, and there was about 20 people hanging around to meet him. We asked him for an autograph and so did the other people. Then my brother asked, “Can I take a photo with you please?” and his instant reaction was to go “Oh, here we go!” Then somebody else asked and he said, “That’s it!”, threw his arms in the air, and walked towards his car.

Diva.
I’m not saying that it’s easy, but then again neither is waking up every morning and going to work, working a 9 to 5.

Very true. So, what’s one of the best gigs you’ve been to?
David Bowie at Glastonbury. I won’t claim to be the biggest Bowie fan – and we didn’t go to that Glastonbury for him – but all he did all night was the hits. He played hit after hit after hit for two hours. “Absolute Beginners” is one of my favourites, and he played it – it was just magical. I think he loved being there, it seemed like a special occasion for him. He had a beaming smile all night!

Anything else? C’mon, I know you’ve been to something wild.
Stone Roses in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork in 1995 was a game-changer for me. I did like rock bands, don’t get me wrong, but from that Stone Roses night onwards I loved rock bands.

What was it like?
The stadium was kind of half-full all day, but about 30 minutes before they were about to come on the place filled up. People must’ve come from parties, warehouse, discos and raves, and they were all there to see this one band. 30% of the crowd had those bucket hats on, 60% had the white baggy t shirts. The band were half an hour late, which just added to the atmosphere, then they came on and just played anthems, with the crowd singing back every word as though they wrote the songs. It really made me realise the depth of a really good rock band. It’s more than just a catchy tune. I could see people singing these lyrics with such passion, anger and angst, it was fantastic.

Were there a lot of drugs there?
Oh yeah. And I’d say that’s why half of the crowd weren’t there all day, because they were probably out in some field somewhere. You could literally feel the atmosphere rise half an hour before they came on. They’ve been notorious for not liking their live performances, but they’ve since released a four-track EP from that gig, so they were obviously happy with that one. It’s called Crimson Tonight.

Have you ever performed or been on stage yourself?
Well... Take That were coming to Dublin a few years ago and they must’ve mailed every city they were playing at to find some volunteers from a local choir to join them in some choreographed moves on stage. My brother does a bit of singing in the Dublin Gospel Choir but couldn’t make it, so he asked me and my fiancée if we’d like to go.

So, you became a temporary member of Take That?
Yeah. We had poncho’s, fake violins, umbrellas.

Incredible!

You can find Jak Hutchcraft on Twitter