My tickets to Montreal and Minneapolis had been on my fridge for little over a year. So I was a little sad to finally take my tickets for Montreal off the fridge. I slid them into my passport along with my boarding pass the evening before I left.
The morning of my flight, I was running late as I missed my bus and so I hauled buns to another bus stop 3 blocks away. On the way there, my mom called to tell me to have fun and be careful. I told her I'm always careful as I threw my luggage into a transit bus and got on.
I arrived at the airport with enough time to get through security (where a security guard giggled when he saw the Iron Man/War Machine cover I have on my Macbook). I wasn't sure if I was at the right gate until I saw a guy in a U2 shirt and a U2 hat.
"Ok, it's the right plane," I told myself.
The guy in the u2 gear was Mark. Mark was the guy that was interviewed on CTV when the u2 concert in Winnipeg was announced. I found this out when we rode the bus together from Montreal-Trudeau. I told him with a laugh the story of how a few of my friends were surprised it wasn't me that was interviewed as Winnipeg "most obsessed U2 fan".
I arrived in Montreal and got lost, spending an hour and a half navigating the metro and wandering around Old Montreal. I had a date with the awesome Akwiratékha to check out the Indiana Jones Exhibition at the Montreal Science Center and was hoping I wouldn't be that late.
Luck wasn't with me on this trip as I quickly found out. Though I found Ak and later we met up with Kim (who I was staying with), I wasn't as fortunate with other people I had said I'd meet up with. Mark and I said we'd seek each other out on Night 1 but that didn't work out. My friend Caroline had been delayed on her flight out and didn't arrive until the afternoon on the day of night 1. And though I saw Maddie, I was unable to speak to her due to an event that I'll talk about in a sec.
The night before the show after Kim and I got dinner, I asked if she wanted to go with me to check out the site so I knew where I was heading.
We arrived around 10 to the Hippodrome, a horse racing track converted for the concert. A fence surrounded the area with a huge line of people already waiting for the show the next day. Officially, you weren't allowed to line up until 6am that morning.
But that was on the stadium grounds. There's no such rule at the Wal-Mart right next door. Kim was blown away by the size of the city that had gone up for the shows and surprised that people were already waiting.
I asked a few people if they were keeping a list.
For those that don't know, the list is Serious Business in the u2 fandom. I've only gone on the list once (Sydney 1) and never again as I thought it was a complete and utter waste of time. The way it works is whenever the line is started (and this can be when the 1, 2, and 3 haven't even arrived in the city of the show) everyone has to check in with the starters of the line to get assigned a number. If you sign up a day before the show, your name is put on the list and you show up at a specified time (Usually at a time before transit starts running so you'll need car) for "roll call". Your spot is saved in line and you can go to your hotel to get some sleep as long as you arrive before the roll call time.
It tends to get unfair really fast (the starters of the line signing up their friends into better spots even if they arrived later, etc) and I hate the process to be honest. It's also useless: I walked into Sydney 2 as the gates opened and got the spot I wanted, right in between numbers 23 and 212.
Now, I know that not all shows can be like Winnipeg and Sydney. I understand that things can go wrong. But that night, when I was heading back to Kim's, I began to wonder if my favourite band was worth the crap I went through that night.
After I got breakfast with Kim the morning of the show, I headed down to the Hippodrome armed with water, sunblock, a hat, an umbrella, a small stool, and reading material. As I headed in, I noticed that the line for Night 2 had already started and was 10 people strong outside the gate leading into the venue.
The area where the GA line was waiting was on gravel and there was no shade. I was glad I brought my umbrella so I sat down and waited.
Things were going well and I'm not sure what happened. I think some douche at the front jokingly yelled, "Oh, I think they're opening the doors" and 700 or so people rushed forward as a result
So after a calm and orderly queue with people nicely spaced apart, 700 or so people are standing with less than a hair's width between them in the hot sun. And the venue wasn't going to let us in for another 2 hours.
Not surprisingly, people started getting ill (me included). The line surged forward again a half hour or so later and I went with it.
I was starting to feel a little dodgy and no amount of water was helping me. I drank my 2 bottles and was still sick. My face was soaked with sweat, my head was pounding, and I felt like I was going to throw up.
Someone asked me something in French that I couldn't really understand. "What?" I asked. This shirtless dude stood next to me, concern on his face, "Are you all right?"
I shook my head, no. "Give me your umbrella," he said and opened it, blocking the sun for me. "Hey, water girl!" He yelled at one of the vendors that were snaking their way through the line. "Get your butt over here."
He bought me a water and kept an eye on me, asking me questions about Winnipeg, the shows I had seen, and making fun of this one girl.
There was this girl that had been left behind during the initial rush and lost her place near the front. She was forcing her way forward but had reached a wall near us as no one was going to let her pass. For the next half hour or so, she was screeching about how she had lost her spot in line and people should let her pass (No 'please'). She needed to find the people she was with, she kept saying. The guy holding my umbrella was trying to be helpful to her and asked, "Have you seen your friends yet?" And in the snottiest tone I've ever heard come out of someone over 9, she said, "I DIDN'T SAY THEY WERE MY FRIENDS. JUST THE PEOPLE I WAS WITH."
The guy told me later, "I guess U2 are the only friends she needs".
I was really sad that in the next surge I lost the guy in the shuffle (he had given me back my umbrella when I told him I was feeling better). Whoever this guy was (who I only knew as Farnsworth Bentley after he jokingly started calling me P.Diddy), thanks to him for making sure I was ok.
Things didn't get better when we were finally let in. People were pressing forward, knocking over security gates, and just dropping their gear where it landed to trip the person behind them. I moved out of the crush and stood on the side for a few minutes to get some air. I love U2 but I promised my mother I was going to be careful. Besides, I didn't want to die for U2. I only have but one life to give for rock and roll.
I got into the inner circle in the center but quickly realized I wasn't going to last. There was still no shade (my umbrella was taken at the gate) and the show wasn't going to start for another 2 and a half hours. Though I was seated now, my head was still pounding and it was way too hot. After a few minutes I decided I would rather see the show than have to be taken out on a stretcher, so I told the people next to me they could have my spot and made my way out.
As I was navigating the people, I saw Maddie (thanks to the sign she was holding) but couldn't get nearer to her to chat. I reckon the look of my foot standing near her for too long annoyed this one girl who was sitting on the floor. She pushed me really hard in the shin screeching, "YOU'RE STEALING MY SPOT".
I was way too pissed and ill to put up with it after all I had gone through that day so I yelled in terrible French,
Va te faire foutre!
And told her if she didn't let me pass, I'd be sick all over her. She gave me a look and turned aside and I finally got out, heading towards a grassy area in the shade of the bleachers.
I spent the whole evening on the grassy area with a great view of the screen and a chance to cool down from the heat and the annoying. By the end of the show, I was still feeling a little sick so I left early. And was glad I did as I found out later that night some people waited for the Metro for 4 hours after the show was over.
Night 2 was better as I didn't go until 8:30pm and spent the day hanging out with Kim.
I think my interaction with Kim was the purpose of my trip rather than the shows. I ended up learning a lot about what I wanted to write, who I wanted to write for, and got a kick in the butt when she told me I wasn't ever going to be successful if I didn't start letting people read my stuff.
Some of the people I consider good friends are mostly people I haven't ever met in person. Kim was one such person. And every time I meet an online friend I've known for years, I'm always nervous that we aren't going to get on like we do in the realms of twitter and facebook.
I was very happy to find out that Kim and I ended up getting along great and I had a fantastic time. She has an always open invitation for me to become her roommate (sorry, her current roommate) and she can always stay at my house if she ever needs to come to Winnipeg. I'm planning to attend San Diego Comic Con with her next year and can't wait.
Night 2 I arrived just as the opening act was finishing and U2 were about to go on. I was trying to find a place to get a hamburger when I noticed a group gathering near the back of the Hippodrome. I went to see what was going on and it hit me that U2 were going to pass by. To confirm this, the security guards were setting up tape and telling people they had to go around.
I didn't have another u2 encounter but I did see Adam's bass.
I found another grassy area near the Red Zone 2 entrance and lounged around, drinking the biggest rum and coke I've ever had and the coldest turkey pita.
One of my favourite bits about night 2 was when Vertigo was playing and I was jumping with this group of people behind the bleachers near the Red Zone 2 entrance. One of the guys yelled, "Isn't this a race track? LET'S RACE!" And we all ran towards the end of the bleachers about 200 yards away. I was trying to kick up a dirt trail and was giggling like a mad woman (Hey, I blame the cold turkey pita). My black shoes, my feet and calves were grey from gravel when I got back to Kim's that night.
I left early that night as well after I heard Where the Streets Have No Name and made it to the Metro as they ended Ultraviolet and started With or Without You.
I caught a few Zs on the Metro and walked the rest of the way back to Kim's rather than wait for the bus. On the walk back, I wondered if I had reached my U2 limit as not even New Year's Day had amped me up. I was disillusioned by those fans I encountered acting like entitled babies over "their" spot and the GA process in general. And after 6 shows, I thought that maybe the novelty had worn off.
Luckily, Minneapolis happened.