WAITING FOR U2, a short story by actung. Date added: 2010-03-10. Times viewed: 1007.
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- Intro: My experiences as a U2 fan queueing for concert tickets and albums
I wasn't expecting anything less than being told 'your mental' or being asked 'are you crazy?', as not only did I queue almost 44 hours by St. Stephens' green shopping centre Dublin for tickets to two U2 shows for July '09 in Croke park, but then doing it again queuing for another 44 hours as a third show went on sale 12 days after tickets went on sale for the first two. However I did question my own sanity, but realistically even if I had been guaranteed tickets I wouldn't have it any other way.
I have always loved music; it is something that I am not capable of living without. Going back as far as I can remember music has been a big thing to me, from looking after my dad’s Elvis LP's back when I was four, I remember holding them carefully not to damage them and playing them, right through to building my own music collection.
So when Live Aid took place back in July of 1985, even though I was just 11 years old, it was a TV event not to be missed, opening so perfectly with Status Quo. There were most definitely two acts that stole the show. One were Queen who were a well established name from whom a great performance was expected and guaranteed, the other act were known as the biggest cult band in the world at the time, and that was of course U2. They were on their fourth studio album, still an up and coming band but my god was I blown away by what I saw. They played two songs 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and 'Bad', there should have been a third song 'Pride (in the name of love)' but Bono's antics prevented the third song as his walkabouts extended the version of 'Bad' causing their allotted time to run out.
Not only did I love their performance on Live Aid and think this Bono guy is a lunatic, but the amount of U2 flags and Irish flags in support of U2 in the crowd also grabbed my attention, and I was to be forever hooked on U2 and as if I needed any more incentive to be hooked on U2 I was brought to see them play in Croke Park on their Joshua Tree world tour just 2 years after Live Aid.
The whole queue thing properly began in November 1991 when I queued for the release of their album 'Achtung Baby', however I did want to queue in 1988 for the album and movie that was 'Rattle and Hum' and the tour that followed but I was only 14/15 but when 'Achtung Baby was released I was 17, I remember talking to fellow U2 nut case Martin than night, the guy whom usually is at the head of most U2 related queue's. This was a great night, Dave Fanning broadcasted from inside HMV Grafton St, It was a mid-night release, three members of the four piece tribute band 'the Joshua trio' turned up to play some of their versions of U2 songs including a fantastic country style piss take version of 'The Fly' which was so good they were requested to play it again which they did.
There were only an U.S version and an European version of MTV and back then they actually played music, and they had cameras out recording the event where my head got on as they recorded part of what 'the Joshua Trio' were playing.
In 1993 overnight queuing began for me when tickets went on sale for their Zooropa leg of the Zoo TV tour and my brother Stuart came in with me that night, but before the august concerts could take place in the RDS Dublin, I had been involved in an accident and attended one show in a cast on my left leg from my toes up to the top of my leg. Just as well that we were in a seated area for that show.
In 1997 I had decided to increase my overnight queuing time for U2 tickets by just 2 hours only to be amazed that I was to be third in the queue only to be beaten by Martin and a lady friend of his. This was the year I was to also meet my good friend Pat and his girlfriend Sharon, and this was the year where U2 attempted to improve upon the Zoo TV tour with their Pop Mart tour, and no matter what anyone says about that tour, I really loved it. There was another guy who queued with us that night whom I have only met a couple of times since, Eamon a guy whom was later to legally change his name, why? I have no idea.
This was another great night of queuing, one of the very few times in which I have attempted to sing in public whereby after having consumed 13 or 14 cans of Budweiser and with a fellow queuer having got his guitar out, I began to sing 'One' but being so intoxicated I forgot the order of the verses, though I did have help to get me through it. There were no 24 hour premises open back then so time would come where I would need to find somewhere peaceful to relieve myself, and after doing so on one occasion this night, I was to make my way back to the HMV store in one of those person pulled carts, and on my return was to receive an explosive cheer from a few hundred of my fellow queuing companions and I saluted them with a can of Budweiser.
I went to both nights of the pop mart tour in Dublin's Landsdown road (soon to be known as the AVIVA stadium) where on the first night myself and the next 5 who had queued for tickets met up, and I was amazed that even though we arrived at the venue in the afternoon, we were able to walk right into the pit area. After this first show myself and Eamon, the guy who was to later change his name, didn't feel like going home so we made our way to the Clarence hotel and since Bono and Edge are involved with that hotel we thought why not try to get into (the now no longer there nightclub) 'The Kitchen'. We were refused entry only as the band were due to party there and had yet to arrive. Myself and the guy formerly known as Eamon hung around for a while and media soon began to arrive.
A crowd of about 50 people or so had gathered. A TV crew from Norway asked myself and Eamon what was happening and we explained. The TV crew were making a documentary on Dublin's Temple Bar area but told us they would now make a documentary on U2 instead and then went on to record a 30 minute interview with us, I don't know if this was ever broadcast but I would still love to get to see what they recorded.
At about 2.15 am A limo pulled up, and Bono got out right on front of us with a Lemon in his hand. Approx fifteen minutes later Edge arrives in another limo, I was so close I put my hand out to try shake his but he just waved and said hi. Soon after this I went home and got a newspaper a couple of days later to find a photo of Edge arriving at the Clarence with my head in the picture behind him. This paper has gone missing on me and I would so love to have that photo. This was also the night where Princess Diana would lose her life and the following night U2 played the song 'MLK' in tribute to her.
I don't remember very much about the night I queued for tickets for the Slane castle show back in 2001, nor do I remember there being any trouble either but the glass on one of the doors had been shattered. This was the last year that HMV would be selling concert tickets as Ticketmaster was to take over, but what I do remember is going for breakfast to McDonalds that morning with people I had been talking to in the queue from Canada, the U.S and France.
This was for the Elevation tour, 'Elevation' being the third single to be released from the album 'All That You Can't Leave Behind', a title that drummer Larry Mullen said that they'd never be able to fit that onto a tee-shirt. That album had been released on the 30th of October 2000, and it's the only queue that I remember it actually rained for, so over all the years I have been queuing, I've been lucky enough not to see it rain much.
The queue was quite large for the slane show, and it sold out in 45 minutes, and while sitting in a McDonalds having breakfast and with my tickets safe and sound, I remember watching through the window as people were running down Grafton street trying to get to other shops that would be selling tickets as there were no more tickets to be got from HMV. There is usually only one Slane show a year but U2 sold out so quick that Bertie Ahern the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) intervened to make sure a second U2 Slane show would be added. This was also the last night that i seen the guy formerly known as Eamon queuing, as he had a radio with him and himself, Paddy and myself sang the night away to the U2 songs he played.
'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' was the next U2 album to be released so it was back to HMV for the mid-night release back in November 2004. When it was time to queue for tickets for the 'Vertigo' tour in Croke Park I got worried, as when I arrived to HMV, there were no regulars queuing, no Martin or Vincent, these guys are always at the top, I didn't know what was going on, so I continued up Grafton street and was very relieved to see the lads outside St Stephens green shopping centre, HMV was no longer doing the concert tickets, so Stephens Green SC would out new home of getting tickets.
In 1997 I had been third in the queue, but most other times I'd be a little further back, never being further down than 16th in any queue, but I was 16th the night we queued for the Vertigo tour back in 2005, happy enough with my position, but was not so happy when 8 am and ticket went on sale. Two shows went on sale together for Croke Park and being 16th I was sure I would have no problem getting tickets for both nights, but only first and second in the queue, Martin and Vincent, were to get tickets for the first show before an announcement came to say first night sold out. I couldn't believe this, I was gutted, I had been queuing just over 18 and a half hours and now could only get tickets for the second show, and press were delaying things to by taking photos of Martin and Vincent, I just wanted to get to the counter, and when I did I asked for six tickets to which I was asked 'For the second show?' to which I replied 'Well it's gonna have to be if the first show is sold out'. A woman from Irish television station TV3 said to me 'you don't look to happy' 'Of course not, I've been here over 18 and a half hours and I was 16th and I can't get to the first show'. She asked would I say this on camera so I did.
I know there are internet sales and so on, but how can 80,000 tickets be gone in one minute? There were plenty of media coverage for this queue, and of course I was shown being in the queue on the RTE 9pm news. I went home to bed and when I got up, I was amused to see my interview from earlier in the day now being shown on TV3. A third show was added later and in the end, I did get out to all three shows.
I knew of U2's Hanover studios, but I don't know why it took me until June 1st 2004, to visit there for the first time, myself and another follower of U2 took the trip there, wrote on the wall, had a look around and were about to leave after being there just 15 minutes when the arrival of a Lexus prevented us from wanting to move on. The driver got out first, then out got Bono from the back with his PA, the driver signals us to say it's ok to come over and say hello, got to shake Bono's hand, talk to him for a bit and get a photo.
In September of 2004, I made the trip down to Hanover studios for the third time. I was hardly there 5 minutes when a car driven by The Edge passed me, went up the road, turned and came back to turn into the indoor car park, I took a photo of Edge in his car, he signalled me as if to say 'it's ok I'll be out in a minute' and fair play to him he did come out, unlike back in '97 this time I did get to shake his hand. Vertigo got its first airplay on radio the day before so I was able to tell him what I thought of it and get a photo of him. A little way down from where we were there were two girls from somewhere like Sweden or Switzerland so Edge started making his way over to them to say hello, and I walked down with him, when we got to where the girls were, I thanked Edge for his time and was about to head off when the girls asked would I mind taking a photo of the three of them, I did then I asked would they mind taking a photo of Me with Edge.
Back to February 2009 and the release of 'No line on the Horizon', Vincent and Martin back at the front, Vincent in a suit he was given by Black Tie for the event, nice idea I have to say. I had company with me on this evening, and even though I already had the album on my mp3 player thanks to some Spanish friends for more than a week, it wouldn't be the same not to come out and queue, and I wanted to have the album in my hand too and not just on my mp3 player so of course, I got the box set of the new album.
U2 announced 2 shows for Croke Park, for the upcoming 360 tour and tickets were to go on sale on March 20th. Luckily for me, my roster for work that week had me off the 2 days before and not in till 6pm march 20th. With only the first 2 in the queue getting tickets for the first show 4 years ago, I was very tempted to go in to queue a whole day earlier than I had ever done before and make sure I was closer to the front, even though I had never been lower down than 16th in any previous queue.
I arrived at St Stephens green SC at 12.25 pm on Wednesday the 18th, with there only being 33 hours and 35 minutes to go before the tickets were due to go on sale. Sure enough, Martin and Vincent were already there, Martin since Sunday and Vincent since Monday, proving I'm not the only nutcase around. However I would have been seriously worried if I had arrived to find neither of them there.
I had arrived at a nice time to be third as the day before was St. Patricks day and the lads said the place was mental, absolutely jammed, so I am glad that I missed that and so began my longest adventure into queuing to date.
It was a lovely afternoon, sun was shining, no need to wear a jacket just yet, the shades were on, good start to my new adventure. First order of business was to head into Argos and get myself a good chair, as it would be for to live in for the next couple of days. Vincent had only just become a granddad, so before I set up my chair, I was to use his as he went to visit his new granddaughter. We had a good sense of respect queuing but even though there were only 3 of us at this point, and once your not taking the piss, your place is your place, you can go eat, go pee or whatever as long as you are not gone for a very long period of time. With Vincent gone to see his granddaughter, this gave myself and Martin a chance to catch up. Apart from when I was third queuing in 1997, we never really had extended conversations, our encounters were usually brief, so it was nice to have a decent chat, and before we knew it Vincent was back.
In a strange way queuing is like a type of affliction, it is something that has to be done in order to secure tickets but for me it is also something very enjoyable. It is almost like that I am spending time somewhere receiving treatment, in a way I guess I am, so much so that over the years I had been frequently visited as if I had been hospitalised receiving some sort of treatment, and this is the same for the others, we all have our visitors. My first visitor was Tara, a good friend from work. We went for lunch in O'Brien's in the shopping centre, had a bit of look around and went back outside where she stayed for quite a while, the lads said to me later on that it was the longest a visitor had come to stay for a chat over the years and they've been doing this longer than me.
My next visitors were Donna and Paul, whom came before they were to begin work on the Thursday morning. Paul was to come back later that night to join the queue with his sister Aisling. Donna, my sister, came back at lunch time and we went into O'Brien's. The same girl served me as the day before, and the looks she gave me as if to say 'you were in here with another girl yesterday weren't you'. I would also be visited by my mum and another sister Kerrie whom along with Donna went to a Mary Black show on the Thursday night.
Back to the Wednesday afternoon. My chair came in a long cardboard box. Martin had been slagging me about the possibility that my chair could be pink and if it was to be so and any press came by then we would be Martin, Vincent and the guy in the pink chair. Luckily enough it was green and I was ok which leads me to refuse to mention something else that came in pink.
Number 4 in the queue would come the Wednesday evening, but was totally un prepared so he went home and arrived back with number 5 the following morning where we were also joined by number 6. Burger King opened till 3am, sub-way and McDonalds were both 24 hours, so we were grand for toilets and food.
When the shopping centre shut, we could move in slightly and got whatever shelter we could. Wednesday Night was to be a cold one. At HMV on Grafton Street in the past, the buildings were a kind of shelter, but we were in the openness of St Stephens green now. At one stage during the evening a French girl came up Grafton street talking to herself in French, opened up her handbag, dumping the contents onto the street, putting them back in cursing and repeated this again, then went off. She came back later, still talking away in French and came up next to me. I still had the cardboard box my chair came in; she had a look in it, then went around to where Martin was. Asked Vincent could she borrow that pointing to martins gloves, to which he said no, and that they weren't his. She then proceeded over to the shop on Grafton street where a man in his late 40's approached her, took out his wallet and gave her money and they left together. I just hoped he knew what he was doing and that he wouldn't wake up dead the next morning.
A little later another passer by stopped to have a chat, he was the spit of my brother Alan only a little older, we talked music, he let me list to his Discman where he had a CD of a Pink Floyd cover band who had recorded their version of the album 'Dark side of the Moon', he's a chef like myself so it was an interesting conversation.
Maybe got about a half hour sleep that night, and as Vincent had pointed out, the traffic lights to our left would change every 30 seconds during the night, and would beep away as the little green man appeared. How I wished I had a double barrelled shot gun to shoot that little green b**tard.
Number 4 in the queue arrived back just before 8am to witness an event he heard about on the radio. Liverpool FC had recently beaten Manchester United FC, two brothers, one a fan of either team, had made a bet whereby the fan of the loosing team would run down Grafton Street wearing only the shorts of the winning team. Even though this was gonna appear on radio, not TV, the circumstance were changed for radio broadcast, where the loosing brother, wore the full Liverpool kit with a Liverpool flag and a radio playing 'You'll never walk alone' while shouting out 'Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool', at the end of which he released his emotions by continuing 'B**tards'.
The next person to join the queue, was a very familiar face, someone I heard coming before I could see him. I had been sitting in my chair, writing away on my notepad when I heard 'Karl', I didn't need to look up but when I did, I seen the arrival of my friend Pat or Paddy, as I had always called him. Had it really been 12 years since we had first queued together? How time flies when you are having fun. As with the 2 times of queuing before and with the fact that myself and Pat are strictly heterosexual, it was a difficult thing for us not the keep hugging or grabbing each others hand to shake. He had been hoping to get out before me as he was yet to join any queue before me but that didn't really matter, we were both in yet another queue.
The numbers increased during the day, but at a much slower rate than ever before. There were a couple more familiar faces to join. It was also mad the amount of times people commented on seeing me on Tv3 after the last time tickets had gone on sale, this was mental as it was four years ago and I had only been on a matter of seconds. I had watched this on TV too but if it hadn't of been me, I don't think I'd have remembered myself 4 years later. Did I make sense there?
Evening time came, queue slowly increasing, time came for a visit with my friend, Al, Al C. Hol that would be, so down to Synotts pub along by the shopping centre and the pints of the black stuff went down really well. Maybe the fact that I had so far only had 2 lots of sleep both lasting about 30 minutes, but the black stuff effects were being felt more quickly than they normally would. Back outside and the tins came out Brother-in-law Paul had now arrived with his sister Aisling. But it wouldn't be long till we got back into Synotts to take over the Karaoke with what else but some U2 songs.
The party didn't stop there, plenty more singing during the night with very little sleep. Railings had gone up and like with every ticket queue, security had arrived, but in all my time of queuing I had never witnessed any trouble. Even a street busker joined in the fun also playing some U2 tracks.
I do this each and every time to get my hands on the albums, to get my hands on the tickets and have some fun, but unlike times before there was a serious lack of press, and TV was none existence. However press and radio or whoever was to show up did so as tickets were to go on sale.
8am came; we were already by the ticket master kiosk. Radio came on over the speakers of the shopping centre announcing that U2 tickets had just gone on sale, but we were still waiting. Whatever the guys behind the counter were doing they were not selling tickets, I feared a serious repeat of 4 years earlier. Even though I was third was I gonna get tickets for both nights? Time was ticking away, and tickets were going nowhere. 8.15 and a visit from head man of ticket master I presume, got tickets moving. Martin began asking for the expensive tickets for the sat night only to be told there were gone. 'Gone?' he asked, guy behind counter said on the screen it was coming up as unavailable. Panic mode set in, but luckily enough every other type of ticket for both nights still existed.
Photos were taken, questions were asked, but this was not so important. I had my tickets, but still it was nice to see one of the photos taken of me make it into the Irish Times newspaper and even nicer it was a photo with myself and my good friend Pat.
Home to bed for whatever sleep I could get. There was the knowledge that a third show would be added. With the last two tours the extra added show was just announced and tickets would go on sale there and then, I didn't like that, as I wouldn't be guaranteed tickets. This time third show was announced with plenty of notice and tickets were to go on sale April 1st. This was no April fools joke and it did mean another queue would begin 10 days after the last one ended.
Ten days after getting tickets for the first two U2 Dublin shows for July '09, I found myself heading back in to town again to queue again for another 44 hours. I wasn't 100% sure that Martin would be back, with the album being released and the ticket queues all so close together and with him living in London but it was still highly likely that he'd be first in line again.
Before heading into town, I made my way to Vincent's house for a bit of tea and we headed in together. It was Monday morning march 30 and Vincent confirmed that Martin indeed was to be first again and as Martin had sent Vincent a text to say he was by St Stephens green SC since 6 am that morning. Myself and Vincent joined him not long after 12pm, so I guess I now had my highest point in the queue, after heading in with Vincent makes us both joint second.
After the shopping centre closed Martin became 'Bob the Builder' temporarily by building us a cardboard enclosure between the now closed shop entrance and the bollards in front of us with is own entrance and all, and if any of us left it we joked that we'd leave the key out so we could get back in. In Dublin city centre there are many different walks of life as we could clearly see as a male passer by grabbed our attention. He was wearing a shirt, tie and jacket, and as we looked lower he was also wearing a skirt with fish net tights and girly shoes, and from the way he looked he was not messing around but each to their own, I just hope he doesn't have too difficult a time going out like that.
It was back into Synotts pub for some more of the black stuff before we got ready for the night ahead of us were we were to be joined by a guy and girl from Brazil whom moved into our new cardboard home. Synotts was to be closed all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday as there was a scene being shot for a film called 'leap year' with actress Kate Adams being involved, she was in the film 'Watchmen' and another film that recently done ok at the Oscars.
So downing so more of the black stuff took place in the Dandelion, which was on the other side of the shopping centre, and a name that is synonymous with very early live U2 performances, nice spot I have to say, and cheapish drink in both Synotts and the Dandelion, 4.15 and 4.05.
Meet some very familiar faces as they passed by over the few days there, all of whom I am sure thought I am a friggen head case. Also talked to a lot of homeless people of the 2 queues this time around, a lot of who thought we were homeless too, and when the soup run came around, they were being told that there are more homeless around by the shopping centre but we explained what we were doing. A lot of passersby also thought we were homeless offering us money to which we again explained what we were doing and tried to point them in the direction of good homeless people whom could do with the few quid. There are many good people in Dublin whom have just found themselves being in a position where they have nowhere to live, so I urge all who read this not to be ignorant of these people, for ya never know what lies in the future.
Tickets went on sale at 8am and were on time this time, but still moved quite slow. I am very happy that I will be at all 3 shows and like at one of the shows last time around I am sure I will arrive at 7am or earlier to ensure I get up by the stage. Whether it was tiredness lack of sleep, alcohol still in the system or knowing it'll be a while b4 we get to queue again, but honestly I was getting slightly emotional. Its all good. There may be a new album to be released early next year so maybe it won't be too long till we queue again, but only from now on I will ensure my number 3 spot as a permanent position, I'll be staying in touch with my U2 family, but until we meet again take care guys.
There are of course a lot of characters on the Dublin streets too, like Paddy who looked after the morning papers and Val the very funny openly gay gent who was delighted when Vincent sent him a naughty video staring Colin Farrell. Also a bar man from Synotts, I can't remember his name, but he'd drop by every once in a while. The security guys inside the shopping centre and the security guys looking after things, each night before tickets went on, all adding to the fun.
There is so much more I could add from the queues, I've hope I have passed on the general jist of things and as to why I do this, it’s more than the music, more than the concerts, it's something special. We have discussed the fact of what will we do if U2 ever retire, then we'll just have to make a queue as an anniversary to previous queue. So till next time, good luck and good night.
April 2009 Karl (Actung) O'Connor
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