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Prove It All Night

I've held onto ticket stubs from any concert I saw before the age of 18. That list includes, but is not limited to: Madonna, The Church, Jane's Addiction, B-52s, Lollapalooza '92 and '93, Fine Young Cannibals, New Kids on the Block, Sonic Youth, Escape from New York Tour (with The Ramones, Blondie and Tom Tom Club) and Elvis Costello.

Why? Perhaps they're a novelty. After all, I don't buy high-priced tickets too much these days, or wait in line at Ticketmaster. I usually opt, instead, to walk up to the ticket booth the night of the show. Or maybe I keep the old tickets because they don't take up much room.

But I've let go of tour T-shirts, stickers, posters and fliers. There used to be many tangible indications that I loved a band or artist, yet most of it is long gone. There were the mix tapes containing only a single band's songs, school notebooks with lyrics writ large in the margins, and hours spent searching for rare singles and B-sides.

But what now? How evident are our musical loves? What happened to the faded LP jacket or warbly cassette tape? Both were clear indications that something was your favorite rather than merely an acquisition. Whatever your opinion of the MP3, they're never worn down by our affections and obsessions. We can't break them from overuse, or even break them in.

I suppose we could trick ourselves into thinking that we no longer care about proving the extent of our knowledge about certain bands or musicians. But just because our walls are no longer covered in posters — and our outerwear is free of patches or buttons — that doesn't mean we don't want people to know that fandom courses through our veins. And it's not just fandom we want to prove, but full-on expertise.

These days, we write blogs. We make our iTunes playlist public at the office. ("Dave, I didn't realize you were such a Yes fan. Every album? Wow! And what's with all the obscure Brazilian post-punk? Pray tell.") We use song names in the subject lines of emails and hope the recipient gets the reference. We make mix tapes to be played at parties, we DJ, we download songs as our cell-phone ringtones, and we name our kids after Dylan and Beatles songs. Maybe these things constitute new forms of wear, tear and overuse.

There's still something beautiful about a threadbare concert T-shirt, or about an album so worn that the needle can't find its groove. No one would ever doubt who or what was your favorite if those were the yardsticks. Today, there are more ways than ever to advertise and prove our adoration for music, but I still like a little physical evidence hanging around. After all, it's nice to know that your love has left a lasting mark on something.

So, how do we go about proving our love for a band or artist these days?