Thursday, July 28, 2011

You're One of My Kind

U2 7 Part 1: Vancouver and Sydney

Having dreams is important. At least I like to think so. There was this person I knew that loved to devalue my dreams to the point where I stopped telling people what they were. I’d store them away as I was convinced everyone would treat them with the same contempt that this person had.

One of my dreams was to see u2 as many times on one tour as I could. I always got a kick out of the stories I read on the online forums about the people who would sleep outside the stadium/arena for 4 full days before the show just so they had a good spot in the general admission.

Honestly though I never thought I’d ever do it (the “seeing loads of shows”, not "sleeping outside the stadium"). My first U2 show was on October 28th 2009 and since then I’ve been to six more. Why do I do it? I did it because I love the band and have for over a decade. But I also did it because of a promise I made to myself.

In the summer of 2008, I had been sexually assaulted. During that time, I was not in a positive place emotionally and wasn’t sure I was strong enough to make it through the aftermath. An elder once told me that when something horrible happens to you there’s a year of turmoil before the recovery really starts. I had the support of family and friends but it was me that had to climb that mountain to get to the other side. But I couldn’t do it and I was falling apart. No matter how many times I heard that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, I didn’t believe it. I felt gangrene and didn’t know how I was going to stop it.

So on a particularly bad day 2 months or so after it happened, I promised myself,

I don’t care where and I don’t care if I go into debt to do it, I’m finally going to see U2 play.


Vancouver: Despite being at my lowest emotionally, I thought that I should try to turn things around. I finally got my degree and started my first full-time job. In the spring of 2009, I decided to go to Northern Bangladesh to volunteer with an NGO for a month, a huge deal for me as I had never traveled overseas before. I had also applied for law schools and almost swallowed my tongue when I got into 3 (2 of which are some of the best law schools in Canada). I decided I was going to go to UBC.

In 2009, U2 released No Line on the Horizon and announced their world tour. Since they weren’t playing Winnipeg, I decided to go to Vancouver as I would have an excuse to see UBC and I also wanted to finally meet my very good and awesome friend Chloe. The concert was almost a year after the assault and acted as my incentive to push forward when things got hard. On bad days, I’d turn it around and tell myself, “Only a few months/weeks/days until the show”. It kept me afloat and didn’t allow the negativity of what happened to me to spread.

The three days I was in Vancouver, I was running on adrenaline and barely slept due to my excitement. Chloe and I watched U2: Live at Slane Castle the day before the show to hype us up and shared an iPod during the long wait in the GA line. When I moved to the line I was supposed to be in, I met these three sisters (Crystal, Cathy and Tammy) that lacked umbrellas so I shared my poncho which we held over our heads with cold hands. I met this guy named Scott who, after finding out it was my first u2 show, reassured me it was going to be awesome. When we finally got in, I was in awe by how big U2’s Claw stage was. When I saw BC Place Stadium during the Olympics, I scoffed and said that they must be lying about the location as the stadium looked a lot smaller when I saw U2 play!

I distinctly remember three things about that show: my absolute happiness when Larry started the drum solo intro to Breathe at the start of the show, how awesome it was when Amazing Grace led into Where the Streets Have No Name, and it was the night I realized I didn’t want to go to UBC.

Law school came up as an option for me when I had decided that going on to graduate studies in psychology wasn’t really where I wanted to head. Law hadn’t interested me but I felt like I needed an important career. The year after I was assaulted, I put so much work into getting into schools without realizing that my reason for doing it was the wrong one. I wanted to prove to my assaulter that I wasn’t the trash he had considered me. When I got into all 3 schools I wanted to get into, I wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.

That night after U2 in Vancouver, I realized that my assaulter wasn’t watching my progress. My pursuit to prove him wrong by trying to be a super successful lawyer wasn’t making me happy. And when I thought about it, the idea of spending 3 years doing something I wasn’t sure about made me feel trapped.

I love Vancouver but as Chloe and I left BC Place Stadium, I realized my future wasn’t there.


Sydney: Scott in Vancouver told me that U2’s next North American leg of their tour would either have a date in Winnipeg or Minneapolis. The tour scheduled for summer 2010 was announced and Minneapolis was the lucky bastard. After the fun in Bangladesh, I decided I wanted to travel more but wanted to start small. I planned to attend the Minneapolis show and the two shows in Montreal and saved up quite a dragon’s cache for the trips.

May 2010 rolls around and it’s announced that Bono is injured and U2 were postponing their North American shows. Not surprisingly I was down about the news but understood that it was better in the long run as I didn’t want an ailing Bono to put himself in danger just for a concert. Rather than save my money for the next year and the rescheduled shows, I decided to blow it all on a trip to Australia. Australia has always been my number 1 dream destination. But I didn’t think my dragon cache was enough to cover the airfare, especially so close to Christmas when I really wanted to go. The travel gods were smiling down on me: the ticket price was a full grand lower than it usually is. I was going to spend my December birthday in Aussie summer instead of Canadian winter and turn 25 on a 30C+ day. I booked the trip and had yet another thing to look forward to.

In the fall a few weeks before the Oz trip, U2 announced that Bono was feeling better and they wanted to restart the tour.

In Australia.

While I was there.

Not that it mattered but my favourite U2 concert video had been shot in Australia (Zoo TV: Live in Sydney) and I had read on forums that the Aussies were second only to the Irish in terms of their insanity over U2. Of course I was going.

Sydney had 2 shows: December 13th and 14th at Anz Stadium in Olympic Park. I arrived in Oz on the 10th and spent the whole day wandering around Taronga Zoo as I was too excited to sleep. That night I went to check out the stadium just so I knew where I was going the night of. The stadium made BC Place look like an arena and I was surprised that there were people already there waiting; some in tents, others taking turns sitting in chairs while their friends went to catch a few winks at a nearby hotel.

Since I didn’t like the idea of sleeping on the street in a foreign country, I didn’t line up until the morning of the 13th. Here I met and teamed up with Chyloe and Emma, two girls from Melbourne. The doors to the stadium weren’t opening until 5, the opening act (JAY-FREAKING-Z) wasn’t going on until 7 and U2 weren’t going on until 9 that night. So we had a lot of time to talk. I don’t know what it is about talking to a stranger that makes you spill your guts but when Emma asked me what I did back in Canada, I said, “I work for the government but what I really want to do is make my own movies.”

I was 4 when I saw Batman 1989 for the first time and I knew then I wanted to, one day, make a movie just as awesome. My desire to make movies took a backseat to my studies in psychology but it could not be restrained. After I graduated university, I took a few workshops at the Winnipeg Film Group and made 3 short films. During the filming, I fell in love with the process and didn’t even notice when we went overtime. Though I was scared that I might not be capable of making a career out of making movies, I remember I told Emma, “It’s always been a dream of mine to come here and despite being scared to come here alone, I did it. Maybe getting into film will happen too.” With my return to school to learn more about film making, I feel like I'm taking the necessary steps to go where I want to be.

But back to the concerts, one of my favourite memories of those shows was when we were finally let in on night 1. Emma, Chyloe and I ran down the circular ramp leading to the stadium floor as distracted security guards played with their phones and quietly ordered, “Don’t run.” The entryway to the field was ablaze with the setting sun, blinding me for a second, and I stopped running. In that few seconds before I ran after Chyloe and Emma, it hit me then that I was really in Australia and it wasn't a dream.. The sun made everything golden and it was a beautiful evening for a concert outside.

The mood of those shows in Australia is why they stick out so positively in my mind. Both nights were like a huge Christmas party and everyone was happy to be there (Including Oprah and 300 of her closest friends who were in attendance on night 1). The atmosphere was electric. I had a bit of a cold on night 2 and was convinced that I would stick near the back to take the show in from there. The doors opened and I was running with the herd and headed straight into the inner circle and got THE best spot in the history of time: dead center and 10 people away from Bono’s mic stand. I had the perfect view of the huge 360 screen above and the perfect view of the band on stage.

What I remember the most about that night was when they played New Year’s Day. That song was the one I always wanted to hear them play live and when Adam started the bass intro for the song, the roar from the crowd almost drowned out the music. When everyone started to clap in time with the song, I couldn’t see the stage through all the hands in the air.

That was also the night they played All I Want is You. That song is probably tied with Magnificent and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me as my favourite song and I was stuck on perma-grin as they strummed the intro. It was so powerful to hear 75000 people singing along. Bono added this shout out to Michael Hutchence by including lyrics from Need You Tonight near the end of the song Slide over here and give me a moment, need to let you know, you’re one of my kind

I later took credit for the fact that they played that song as I held a sign on night 1 that read, “It’s my 25th Birthday, please play All I Want is You”. Despite the fact that Bono said otherwise, I know they played it because of my sign (*sniggers*). My kingdom for a bootleg recording of that night.



  1. Wow...this is a great piece. I'm really pleased that you are following your dreams. Emma has that influence on people. She's really good at encouraging you to prioritise what is really important. :)

    I really loved that night in Sydney. I've always loved U2 - since about 1982 when I first heard them as a 6 year old. I never turned into a fan until the Sydney show. There was a moment in Where The Streets Have No Name that was indescribable. It sits with me often and any time I see a live show (we saw Elbow last night) I am reminded of that experience in Sydney. I loved that we shared it with you as well. x Chyloe

  2. Powerful post, Sonya. I think I started following you on Twitter some time after the Vancouver show but before the Sydney trip. In my opinion, the world needs more film-makers, not more lawyers. Dream out loud!

  3. Powerful indeed! I know I love this in part because I'm also a crazy fan and can see a lot of my own stories in this-- U2 as a vehicle to carry you through pain, U2 as a lens to see your purpose in life. But part of it is because YOUR story is so amazing. The experiences are incredible in and of themselves, and the way you write about them makes it even more vivid. I can't wait for future installments!

  4. Grr, why does it call me unknown? This is Caroline. Or carobanano. Or one of those crazy Edge girls. Whichever. XD XD