Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Walk The Line

I’m apart of some crazily devout fandoms but not even the Trekkies or the unappeasable WWE fans can hold a candle to the fans of U2.

There are no fans like U2 fans. We are insane. And you’d have to be to do some of the stuff I’ve seen: fans will camp out for 3 days to see a U2 concert (sometimes more if the show is in Dublin, U2’s home city). Some will go without water for hours so they don’t need a bathroom break and risk losing their spot at the front of the stage. One fan is following the band for as many dates as he can on the European, Australian, and North American legs of the most recent 360 tour, all of it on his own dime.

I’m not exempt either. After growing annoyed with U2 skipping my city on previous so-called World Tours, I decided that when they announced their next tour (skipping Winnipeg, of course), I'd see them play no matter what. The 360 tour was announced (no Winnipeg) and I hopped the nearest WestJet and flew half way across the country to see the band in Vancouver. It was my first U2 concert and I had waited nearly 13 years for it.

By this time next year, I will have seen U2 in concert 7 times, including a date in Winnipeg. My cry of "Finally" probably registered on the Richter Scale. People like to ask why anyone would travel the country (or even the world) to see a band. In my case, it's making up for lost time. This is my first u2 tour and with the ever constant rumour that it may be their last, I really want to see as many of these shows as I can. It's also an excuse to travel. My trip to Oz hadn't originally been U2-related but my trip to Montreal is. It will be my first time there and I'm really looking forward to it. You also get to meet loads of awesome people who are just as mad for U2 as you are.

And, truthfully, a u2 concert is just damn fun. Especially when you get general admission tickets and arrive early to line up.

My first lineup was in Vancouver and I went with my longtime online friend Chloe. The morning of the show, I asked if she wanted to head down early. Her ticket was in the GA while mine was for the Red Zone (a section of the GA for the people that won their tickets through an online auction). Chloe said it would be ok to head down later as "Vancouver is not really into standing in line". Fast forward to us arriving at 3 in the afternoon and the line begins at the Plaza of Nations, parallels False Creek and probably went all the way to English Bay. And we were at the end of it.

We were in line for about an hour when I found out that the Red Zone had a completely different entrance. So I joined up with the line I was supposed to be in. There I met these three sisters from the Northwest Territories: Cathy, Crystal, and Tammy.

My second lineup was for Sydney 1. I arrived at 9AM as I had heard from the various posters on the @u2 forum that the Australians are second only to the Irish when it comes to U2 concert insanity so lining up for a good spot is a must. I had also heard that the U2 Line Militia were out in full force and I really wanted to encounter them. The U2 Militia are usually the people at the front of the line that start the numbering system for entry into the inner circle. The inner circle is the bit of general admission that surrounds the higher main stage and is haloed by the smaller runway stage. Ask any u2 fan and they'll tell you that the inner circle is where you're wanting to be.

You don't need to have a number to get into the inner circle though. The inner circle is first come first served. As a result, the numbering system is very rarely honoured by the security of the stadium. The leaders of the Militia will spend hours screaming at the head of security that "they have seen the list work before at Dublin 2/Rose Bowl/Turin" and if there are any injuries during the rush to the gate (which the Militia will lead with an Orc-like savagery), it'll be on security's hands. It was while I was waiting for the Leader of the Militia to return from the bathroom that morning that I met Chyloe and Emma (or 223 and 222 as they were known to the Militia).

The lineup is addictive. Everyone who lines up really wants to be at that show and it's hard not to get as excited as everyone else. Chyloe, Emma, and I had met these moms who had brought their teenage children who spent the lineup being a little bit bored but immediately perked up when it looked like we were going to be let in. Around 3 or so when the sound check started and Edge began the intro to City of Blinding Lights, the lines on both sides of Anz Stadium gave a cheer that probably brought a smile to Edge's face.

There are downsides though. The security is often unprepared and rude. The U2 Militia should be wearing shirts that read "STOP HAVING FUN, GUYS" for how they swagger through the line with an air of superiority and contempt for how excited everyone else is. People can get pushy if they think you're in their spot (especially those girls that think you are what is separating them from a dance on stage with Bono). And the line when the gates open can be dangerous. I almost fell during the mad rush for the gate at Sydney 1 and only kept my balance through a combination of how close everyone else was to me and my two months worth of core training.

But a lot of things make up for the downsides and it's not just the concert itself.

As a person who grew up being the only U2 fan in Northern Manitoba (at least the only u2 fan under 18), it's amazing to meet people who are just as crazy about them as me. The sisters I met in Vancouver were from Northern Canada (like me) and the first Aboriginal u2 fans I had ever met (I had thought I was the only one). The conversations I had with Chyloe and Emma about the music made me feel like I had met kindred spirits. And I finally got to meet Chloe in Vancouver after being friends for nearly a decade and after years of talking about how awesome it would be to meet each other.

When I arrived for Sydney 2 as the gates opened and sat in the inner circle, I started to regret not lining up early and meeting more people. That show was the best I've ever been to, I'll admit, but it would have been far greater if I had people to share it with. My favourite memories of these shows are related to the people I've met: jumping and cheering during the amazing, amazing intro to Where the Streets Have No Name with the sisters in Vancouver, to singing along at the top of our voices to Bad with Emma and Chyloe in Sydney, to the huge, giggly hug Chloe and I had when we picked up my Red Zone ticket and realized that we were really going to see U2 that night.

The line may be hot, annoying, and pushy at times and there are the few in Joshua Tree shirts who will complain loudly about how U2 aren't as amazing as they were when they were 18 (Trust me, U2 at 18 wasn't that amazing). But I've never seen so many people be so generous as they are in the line. People were sharing food (thanks for the awesome Turkish food, E and C!), getting water, keeping places in line for others that were alone, and no one was scalping tickets (Though I got my ticket for Sydney 2 for less than the person who sold it to me had paid because "you just have to be there" he said).

U2 fans are crazy but we're crazy together. When we walk out after the show, everyone exhausted but still singing the last song of the night, barely anyone is complaining.

I have 4 U2 concerts this summer and I cannot wait. And if this entry has sparked an interest in seeing a u2 concert, I've got an extra ticket for the Winnipeg show if you want to come with.

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