Joe’s Guide to the U2 General Admission
This U2 General Admission (GA) Guide has been updated and will be refined throughout the U2 eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour 2018.
Ever since I began seeing U2 concerts during the Elevation Tour, I have preferred watching the band from GA. For those unfamiliar with GA – it is a concert ticket on the floor that is first-come-first-serve. But the GA is more than just a ticket. Because it is first-come-first-serve, there is the inevitable situation where dedicated fans queue (line) up early, in order to secure a good place on the floor near the stage. Some cities have fans line up over night, while others wait for days. Indeed, a community of fans have arisen out of these U2 queues. As such, norms, understandings, and expectations have developed over time by fans on what to expect when we line up for general admission. I should stress that these are not my rules or anybody else’s set rules, these are just more of the common practices I’ve seen from different GA lines around the world.
This page is a compilation of my experiences of different U2 GA queues from my travels to see U2 concerts throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and South America. This is my Guide to the U2 General Admission Queue. After the stadium tour of The Joshua Tree Tour, U2 are returning to the intimacy of arena venues – similar to the Elevation World Tour, most legs of the Vertigo Tour, and of course the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour. While I outline several aspects of general admission, I do highlight some of the ‘not-so-pleasant’ things of queuing up. But in the end, it is important to remember that seeing a U2 show through GA is an amazing experience all together – for the fans you meet, the music we hear, and the community that emerges.
Table of Contents:
2) Buying GA Tickets
3) Credit Card Entry and Transfer
4) Why does my GA ticket have ‘Row/Box/Seat’ on it?
5) Time to Arrive in the Queue
6) Camping Overnight
7) Morning of the Queue
8) The Number System
9) Back-to-back shows and the GA
10) Saving Spots in the Queue
11) Fanclub Membership Line Does Not Exist
12) Meeting the Band
13) What to Bring to the Queue
14) What to do in the Queue
15) Security Checks
16) Navigating the GA Floor
17) What is it like on the Floor
18) Where is the best spot on the floor to see U2?
19) Pitfalls of the GA
20) Conclusion: GA Adds to the U2 Concert Experience
Thinking back on all the U2 concerts I’ve been to (the vast majority of which were through the GA) I thought it would be fun to post a ‘Guide to the U2 GA Queue’. This page is not for everyone and is really intended for those who plan on queuing up early – for whatever reason they so choose. Maybe because they want to get to the front or ensure they will end up on the floor. I’ve received a few questions about this topic and felt a special page was warranted.
I find the whole GA queue to be more than just trying to get to the front or in the pit. I find the GA line to be a great U2 community experience, and a wonderful way to make new friends. These are friends I’ve remained in touch with since the Elevation, Vertigo, 360˚, ieTour, and Joshua Tree tours. This may explain why out of all of the the shows I will see during a U2 tour, all will be through GA. For me, there’s no other way but GA!
Q: Can I still get General Admission tickets even though Ticketmaster says the concert is ‘sold-out’?
A: I am not convinced that a concert is ever ‘sold out’ minutes after a sale occurs. I think it’s a way to build up the hype. In the end, tickets are usually made available days after a sale or near the concert date. There are various ways to get GA tickets – but don’t ever get them through scalpers!
- Ticketmaster often releases additional GAs a week or a few days before the show (I got a single GA for Vancouver, one week before the show for a friend). Usually there are day-of tickets made available by the venue at its box-office in order to undercut scalpers.
- Check fan forums like the Zootopia forum on U2.com, atu2.com, or on U2start.com where fans are selling and trading GAs at face-value.
- My friends have also set up a Facebook group where U2 fans sell and trade tickets at face-value (scalping is banned).
“The latest and greatest in software, hardware, and menswear.” 3 more weeks before the kick-off of the #u2eiTour in Tulsa! Some new gear and more options this tour for better concert photos: Full Frame Sensor: – Sony A7RIII full frame camera – Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 – Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 APS-C Crop Sensor: – Sony a6000 APS-C camera – Sony 50mm f1.8 – Sony 35mm f1.8 My 2018 U2 Concert Itinerary: – May 2, Tulsa, USA – May 4, St. Louis, USA – June 29, Newark, USA – July 1, New York, USA – Oct 19, Manchester, ENG – Oct 20, Manchester, ENG – Oct 23, London, ENG – Oct 24 London, ENG – Oct 27, Belfast, NI – Oct 28, Belfast, NI See you on the tour!
Extra GAs held by fans are harder to find because most of the concerts are ticket-less or credit card entry for the floor. Presumably, this is a measure to curb or stop scalping. Consequently, it has also made it harder to transfer tickets between fans. At venues where the GA is credit card entry (i.e. ticket-less entry), I know of many instances in which fans were able to buy GAs a few days before or the morning of the show from Ticketmaster or from the box-office. This is perhaps your best chance to find tickets to a ‘sold-out’ concert.
Relatively new to concert entry experience over the past few years is ‘credit card entry’, which makes it impossible to transfer tickets ahead of time. Unlike paper tickets, you enter the arena by swiping the credit card used to purchase all the tickets for that show. So if there were 2 tickets you bought from Ticketmaster for the first concert in New York, 2 ‘seat locator slips’ would be printed by a handheld scanning machine operated by the steward at the door, and then the 2 slips handed to you upon entry for you and your guest.
There has been lots of questions on whether credit card entry tickets are transferable. According to Ticketmaster, “That’s up to the artist, team, or venue! If they give the green light you’ll see a Sell button when you click the order number under Order History in My Account.” From my understanding of the Vancouver credit card entry, if you want to transfer (or sell) your ticket to another fan, you will have to be present at the door to have your credit card swiped. You can then hand over the ‘seat locator slip’ to the people you are selling to. In other words, this system doesn’t help those queuing up early unless the person selling you the ticket is with you in line.
Q: I’m going to the concert with a credit card that has since expired. How does this work with entry and the queue?
A: At other concerts I’ve been to with credit card entry (where I had bought tickets with my credit card and had since expired), I was told by the box office to bring my old credit card to swipe me and my guests in. It worked just fine. If you have discarded your old credit card, but the numbers are still the same, I’ve been told that new new will still get you in. Since venues set different entry policies, it is always best to call and ask the venue.
Q: If I bought 4 tickets with my credit card, and that credit card is what gets all 4 of us in, do we need to queue up together?
A: Since credit card entry is still relatively new to the U2 concert experience, I don’t know what the norms or expectations are around this issue. I know that during the times I’ve managed a queue, and some family members or friends were arriving late (with a reasonable explanation, like work or child care), then I would add all their names on the queue list but encourage them to talk to their neighbours, explain why some people are arriving a little late. I’ve found most people are very reasonable and understanding. It’s really a matter of being courteous to others.
Q: If I bought some tickets for family on my credit card, but I’m not going to the show, do I need to be there to show my ID and let them in, or can I just give my family members my credit card so they can enter the arena?
A: In my discussions with some venue security, they are too busy scanning tickets, with an urgency to get the queue in quickly and safely. Checking IDs is time consuming and therefore not done. With this said, it’s possible to lend your credit card to friends or family if it was purchased on that card, so you don’t have to be at the venue to let them in.
Q: Are there seats on the general admission floor?
A: No, there are no seats on the floor. Pay no attention to the row/box/seat on a GA ticket. I think it’s just a way for Ticketmaster to keep track of how many GA tickets they printed. All U2 general admission is standing only, and operates on a first-come-first serve basis.
Q: Why does my paperless ticket indicate that my section is “S-FLR” (South Floor)? Others have “N-FLR” (North Floor). Does that mean there will be two entrances and sections to the floor?
A: Looking at the floor layout and leaked pictures of the floor, it does appear that the GA is split between North and South sections. Whether this means there will be separate entrances outside and inside the venue will depend on the set-up of the arena. I recall at Madison Square Gardens, during the Vertigo Tour, there was only one entrance outside and a single entry point on the floor. When I attended the Arcade Fire concert in Edmonton last fall, there were two entrances outside the arena, but one entrance on the floor. So it will depend on the venue. It will be worth calling ahead and asking the arena staff where the entrance for the general admission will be.
As an example, my friend John had contacted the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, received confirmation about the North-South floors:
“Chances are we will have a North Floor and a South Floor and they will be separated from each other; however everything is subject to change.“
Q: What time should I show up to the general admission queue?
A: It depends on where you want to be on the floor.
- Day Before to Early Morning: If you want to maximize your chances for a position along the rail (there is plenty of it – I approximate about 250 spots along the entire rail that encompasses the front, catwalk, and e-stage), you probably want to get to the queue the day before or early morning the day of the show.
- Noon to 4PM: You can get a good spot near the rails and be anywhere in the first 2-5 rows. The areas near the front and around the e-stage will be heavily clustered when you enter the later you show up, but chances are you will get a close spot just a few rows off a rail.
- 4PM to showtime: Considering the size of the main stage, b-stage, and catwalk; as well as how small the floor in an arena is, wherever you end up on the floor, it will be very close to where U2 will be. Some fans even prefer a view farther away from the stages in order to take in the screen and the spectacle.
NOTE: These are general times I am suggesting. We would have to also factor in which cities U2 are performing in.
If it is an opening show for a leg of the tour, there will be pent up demand. I remember there were a lot of people camping out two days before the opening show in Barcelona for the 360 Tour. I expect this to be the case for the IE Tour in Vancouver and Turin (the opening cities in North America and Europe, respectively).
As it was during the Vertigo Tour, there were fans lining up 35 hours before the concert started at the 1st Dublin show. Like 2005, the shows at Croke Park were special. There were legions of fans converging from all over the world making their pilgrimage to the U2 holy land. I have never seen a more international crowd than the one I saw at Dublin I. I can anticipate the trio of shows to be played in the 3Arena in Dublin to have a great showing of international fans.
Again, what time you show up to the queue also depends on how fanatic the fans are at each venue. At the Latin American shows I’ve attended, fans there line up a week ahead of time! But in my general observation with North American crowds, very early morning should be enough if you want a good spot near the rails.
Q: What about camping overnight?
A: Camping is certainly not for everyone. If you choose to do so, the necessity to camp is contingent on where and when. If the show is in a city where there is an unusually high demand or is highly anticipated (i.e. Vancouver (first show of the IE Tour), anywhere in Latin America, or is the last concert of the entire tour, I foresee plenty of fans camping out. While I agree that some North American venues do ban fans from camping, the die-hard fans will still stick around over night regardless of venue policy. During the Chicago and Boston 360 shows, there was a sort-of roving queue that was maintained off the venue property. Once the venue officially opened its grounds the next morning, the queue just moved and resumed on the property. Other places like BC Place in Vancouver, fans were allowed to stay over night. In fact, the venue and U2 also provided security to ensure our safety. As you can see, it largely depends on the venue whether fans could camp over night.
Q: What if the venue bans camping overnight?
A: This was the case at the first show in Vancouver for the IE Tour (and indeed at many cities). Security didn’t want people to camp, because of the sensitivities around tent-cities being built and homelessness in the city. But they were willing to let 5 of us to manage the queue by collecting names and putting numbers on people’s hands. People were asked to return at periodic times to check-in and the morning of the show for ‘roll-call’. If people were not present during roll-call, they were scratched off the queue list. This was very effective during Vegas (360 Tour), where security cooperated completely, and actually kicked late-comers out. Lesson to be learned: you can’t just collect a number and expect to show up 2 hours before we’re let into the venue. Mind you, not all venue security act as cooperatively, and may not care about the numbering system. It’s up to fans to implement and self-police the queue.
Q: What happens if a venue tells us we can’t queue up until a certain time? Would we be arrested?
A: At Chicago during the 360 Tour, the police and security told us we couldn’t line up until 6AM the day of the show. If we did, security told us that we would be given a verbal warning, then a written warning, and then arrested. Luckily my friend Bryan befriended the cops and we never did get arrested; in fact, the cops turned out to be quite funny and friendly. At any rate, while we did start a numbered queue the day before, we never did camp out overnight, and decided to return that morning with the expectation of respecting the numbering system. However, we found fans queuing up at around 4:30AM the day of the show – there were about 100 people in line already.
I remember during the Vertigo Tour in Boston, people camped out overnight in front of the Fleet Center. At 9AM, the venue issued wristbands with number to all those in line. They told us to leave and return around 4 PM to line up again in the sequence we received our wristbands. It was the best system because it meant you can leave for the day to rest and eat, and then return to the line refreshed without losing your spot.
The point that I am making is that although the venues may proclaim a certain time to allow queuing up, fans will continue to line up somewhere regardless of ‘official policy’. Us U2 fans can be obstinate at times ;) My advice, check out the venue the day before the show and see what is going on. Chances are there will be fans queuing up, and ask how the queue is being organized and then show up at a time of your liking – whether that same day before, early in the morning the day-of, or later in the day-of the concert.
Q: What if I can’t make it early in the morning because of work or other commitments?
A: The floor should fit about 1500 to 2000 fans (depending on the size of the venue. As mentioned earlier, because of the two stages and the catwalk, as well as how small the floor is, you will be closer to the action than anyone in the seats. Those who line up early or camp out, do so because they want rail to lean on, or just like the community of fans who they can connect with.
Q: What happens when I get to the queue, do I get a number for my spot?
A: Unless it’s like Boston (as mentioned above) where the venue offers numbered wristbands to keep the queue organized, the majority of places are self-governed and self-policed. When you get to the queue, go to the front of the line and ask who’s handling the numbers. A fan will have a marker and will write a number on the back of your hand and may even write your name down in a book. This is all informal mind you. In a way, it is necessary, to hold order in the line. The self-governed number system does not happen at all U2 concerts. In 2005, I never saw this at Milan, Oslo, Berlin, or Munich.
#tbt to the start of the #U2 General Admission odyssey. First concert of the #u2ietour in Vancouver, Canada. I'm pictured here with Pat (USA); Mat and Judith (FRA); and Benjamin and Bruno (SUI). A pleasure and honor to start the GA with them! Scott, Sarah, Anna, and Joseph (all from Edmonton), Betsy (LA) and Nick (SF) were amazing people who also helped with the GA. Quality people!
Q: What do I do if I am attending back-to-back GAs?
A: If you are up for a marathon of GAs and have the stamina, I would recommend after the first show, immediately go back to where the queue was being organized the day before. In all likelihood, you’ll find the queue organizers there giving out numbers for the following night. Conversations of who will start organizing the next night usually takes place on the day of the first show. In Vancouver, it was agreed upon that the organizers for night 2 would be those who had seats or didn’t have tickets for night 1. Once the GA line for night 1 entered the venue, the organizers for night 2 would then start taking names and giving numbers for night 2. I’ve heard of some bad stories of the queue being organized by GAers while they were in the GA of night 1. This was completely unfair because it advantaged those already at the front of the GA for night 1 – so a decision was made in some cities so that those who weren’t in the GA for night 1 would be the organizers for night 2.
When I attended the Mexico City shows during the 360 Tour, it was back-to-back-to-back GAs. It was awfully tough on the body, but a great chance to get to know the fans from Mexico. I now look back at those times with a lot of pride because of the endurance and the fun I had with the people I camped out with.
Q: Can I get the queue early and save spots for my friends who will arrive later?
A: Touchy issue. It depends on the people running the GA queue or explain the situation to those around you. There is no official policy about saving spots, it’s really just about being considerate to those who spent many hours in line. In so far as GA etiquette goes, saving spots for friends can also upset those who lined up for hours in the queue. I was in Montreal for the Elevation Tour, and my friends and I were numbers 7,8,9 in the line (we arrived at the queue around 6AM). Person number 5 got there an hour before us, but when 8 of his friends arrived at 4PM and cut us in line, and we were naturally pissed off. They obviously didn’t learn their elementary school manners of not cutting in line. In the end, we got front row centre and they were at the back of the inner circle – karma I tell you :)
Q: Can I temporarily leave the queue and come back? Will I lose my spot?
A: Yes you can leave the queue, but not for too long – possibly an hour or two at most. This is simply GA etiquette. I’ve seen people come really early, get a number written on their hand, leave for the entire day and then come back an hour before the gates open. This ruffles the feathers of quite a few fans who ‘did their time’ in the queue. As mentioned before, at the Vegas and Vancouver gigs, security kicked those out who got numbers the day before and didn’t bother to show up until late the next day. Fans who noticed queue jumpers simply told security, and the authorities dealt with the problem. Again, not all venue security are as compliant (i.e. Pasadena), but it’s always helpful!
What I found generally more acceptable is informing your friend or those around you that you will be away briefly (eg. to go to the washroom, get a shower, or get food – tasks that should not take more than an hour or so), and kindly asking them to hold your spot. If you need to leave the queue, it’s at your own risk, but the risk is much higher closer to the time when the gates open (4-5PM). If you need to briefly depart from the queue in the morning, there shouldn’t be any issues.
Q: Will there be special access for U2.com members?
A: There has been no evidence so far that there is a special entrance for U2.com members on the IE Tour. At some North American arena venues during the Vertigo Tour, there was a separate line for fanclub members; however, this has not been the case so far for the IE Tour.
Q: Can I meet the band?
A: This was an easier task to handle at the arena venues than at the stadiums. While I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the band at a European stadium (it was much easier at the North American venues because the point of access for the band was normally close to the GA line), I believe this strategy will still be applicable. If you know where the band is staying, there is a good chance you can meet them before they head out to the venue for their sound check. By chance, I was able to see and get autographs along with other fans outside their hotel in Zagreb. It was around 2:30 PM, just before they left to Maksimir Stadium.
If you know where the band is entering at the stadium, make sure you are there in the afternoon (usually around 3-4PM) when U2 come arrive for their sound check. I did this at the Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, and New York shows. (NOTE: Check out the platform shoes of Bono and Larry; and look excited when you see them, otherwise they won’t acknowledge you and think you’re an eBayer wanting to sell signature U2 memorabilia).
Q: What should I bring to the queue?
A: Bring all that you can’t leave behind.
There are two scenarios to consider which items to bring in the queue.
FIRST, if you plan to camp over night, bring a small tent in case the venue allow “camping” (as defined as sleeping in a tent). If no tents are allowed, bring an air mattress and a sleeping bag. I usually buy one of those cheap $10.00 pool mattress to sleep on and a blanket or sleeping bag to keep myself warm. If I don’t have a tent to use, and in case it rains, I’ll usually bring a Survival Bag to stay dry from the elements. These can be bought at any camping/hiking store for about $5.00.
In the early morning of the show, people are asked to bring their larger queue items (such as tents or inflatable mattresses) back to their cars or hotel rooms. Throughout the remaining morning and early afternoon, many bring lawn chairs to sit on or blankets to lie on to keep themselves comfortable.
By the early afternoon, usually between 2 and 3 pm, security will ask you to put away your chairs and other larger items that will not be allowed into the venue.
SECOND, if you plan to arrive in the queue the morning of the show, feel free to bring a lawn chair to sit on throughout the day. Between 2PM and 3PM the day of the show, security will ask you to put away your chairs. Many bring cars to put their stuff away, or have someone drive by the stadium to pick up their stuff. If you don’t have a vehicle, try to make friends in the queue who can help you out. If you have no one to rely on, put your stuff away earlier in order to give you time to make it back to your hotel/hostel and back again before 2PM.
On the day of the show, I normally bring a minimal amount of personal belongings and food. This allows me to have the ability to get through security quickly with only my camera and ticket (or credit card for the ticket-less entry) in hand.
These are a list of items I usually bring with me for queuing up on the day of the concert:
- sandwiches or other source of food for the day
- snack bars or granola bars to keep in your jacket or pockets to eat when you get in the venue and before U2 comes on (NOTE: You are usually let into the stadium once U2’s sound check is done, which is normally around 5:30. That will mean you will not eat anything until after the concerts which finishes around 10:30PM. Believe me, you will get a bit hungry, and will need an energy source for later).
- bottle of water or sport drink (i.e. Gatorade) (NOTE: depending on cloud cover, if there is an overcast, drink little water; if there is a lot of sun, drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated. Most venues will have portable toilets, so having to go to the toilet is not an issue in the morning. However, when it gets closer to show time, you only want to drink enough water to sustain life, but not too much where you will have to leave and possibly lose your spot in the venue
- games to play (i.e. cards)
- something to read
- card board box or cheap inflatable mattress (or something similar in nature) to nap on
Q: What do you do all day in the queue?
A: There were several things I’ve done to occupy myself in the queue at the various cities I’ve visited. I’ve met several new and old friends from all over the world (all cities); read books and newspapers (all cities). On the 360 tour, I’ve drank beer (Dublin III, Las Vegas); slept all morning on my inflatable mattress (Chicago II); ordered and ate delivered pizza (Chicago I and II); got angry at security (Zagreb II); played games on my iPhone (Barcelona I); and bought U2 T-Shirts (London II, Dublin I).
During the Vancouver overnight queue, we had a propane heater and a BBQ fired up, which we later returned to Dino’s truck when it was time to put our materials away the next day. It was a lot of fun to literally and figuratively chill out! We had such strong memories from the BBQ, we did the same for the Winnipeg queue – thanks Darryl!
On the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, I’ve been busy helping manage the queues. Since the check-in systems are more-or-less the norm, waiting in line is much shorter. Still, worth bringing something to read or just chat it up with fellow fans.
Q: What is security check like? What is allowed and not allowed?
A: At most venues, security will line everyone up in separate pens, and ask you to open your bags for inspection. I try to avoid bringing a bag in order to avoid slowing down entry. To make my entry process as quick as possible, I role up my sleeves (so that the wristband they will be putting on me is visible), hold my camera and phone in one hand, and my ticket (or credit card for those ticket-less entry shows) in the other hand.
Generally speaking, point-and-shoot cameras are alright. I’ve seen people sneak in pocket digital HD camcorders. I haven’t seen any issue so far with people bringing in signs to wave to U2. What are harder to bring in are SLR cameras. Each venue has different policies, but normally disallowed are “professional” cameras that have lenses that are longer than 2″ long or with lenses that are bigger than 35mm. With that said, I did see dSLRs in New York, so this policy is really venue specific.
Other things I’ve generally noticed that security will disallow entry into the venue: alcoholic beverages, chairs, umbrellas, and weapons (obviously). Some venues allow water bottles in, others don’t. Some allow water bottles without caps, in which case, hide a spare cap in your pocket (for when you buy water inside and is given to you without a cap). Some disallow outside food, while others don’t mind snack bars and such. Your best bet, ask security in the morning of what is allowed and not allowed. It helps to look for the head of security because they have better knowledge of venue policy. Remember, if you want to get through security check quickly, carry all that you can’t leave behind!
If you are bringing in a small bag or a backpack, make sure you have it wide open for inspection. If possible, have no bag at all and just carry in water, your camera, and your ticket – all in hand – so security will not have to sift through your belongings, which will cut down on time being held up in security.
Video: May 14, 2015 Rogers Arena – Vancouver, British Columbia – GA Entrance
Q: Do you run or walk once the doors are open?
A: For arena shows, security will strongly insist you walk. In this case, it will be well worth it to practice your speed-walking skills and ability to skip down two stairs at a time.
Q: Once I get through security, how do I get to the floor?
A: For first-timers, the run in can be really confusing once you get on to the floor level and determine where to go. Once you get into the arena, you will want to ask security which way to the floor. It can be a labyrinth inside an arena, so keep asking, and keep walking fast! Pay attention or ask ahead of time if there will be two separate floor entrances for the North and South GA floor.
Where the venue issues your GA wristband will vary. Some will do it at the point of security check, where they pat you down, and look inside your bag (if you have one). They may then tie a concert wristband on you and then you proceed (walking fast). At other venues I’ve been at, the wristband will be issued at ground level. Hold on to your ‘seat location slip’ as security may ask for it again here before they issue you a wristband.
It’s also important to mention that there will be a main stage, ‘e’-stage, and a long catwalk between the two that (from an aerial perspective), resembles the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour Logo. So there will be plenty of rail space for you to lean on and chances to see the band up close. From the various photos I’ve seen of the stage layout, and precedence from the 360° Tour, the closed off area for the ‘Red Zone’ fans can vary in size and configuration. The plan above appears to show a larger ‘Red Zone’ compared to other prints I’ve seen where the Red Zone is situated around the circular b-stage.
So upon entry, fans are usually coming in from the back at the ‘e’ stage. Your wristband will be checked (North-side or South-side) when get to the entry of the floor, and security will let you through.
As you can see from the photos above and below, there is plenty or rail space. The first few fans converge at the front or around the e-stage.
Q: Can I bring signs or flags into the show?
A: Yes. I’ve never heard of anyone being turned away for bringing signs or flags into the concert. I have friends who’ve brought in blank sheets of paper, light pieces of cardboard, and markers. Once they got to the floor, they would write their messages and hope to show Bono during the concert. Sometimes the band acknowledges them, and sometimes not. I think it’s all for fun, so long as it doesn’t block the view of those behind you. When we were at the Vegas show, we made a sign for Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas) who were the opening act. Fergie saw the sign, and sang to us for a bit. That was a lot of fun. Other times, people would write messages for U2, and Bono would incorporate at it into their songs or speeches. This doesn’t always happen, but can be special if it does during the concert.
Q: What if I need to leave to go to the washroom or buy food/merchandise? Will I lose my spot?
A: If you need to leave to use the washroom or buys something, wait about 15 minutes before leaving your spot. Make sure your friend(s) holds your spot, and choose a path out of your spot from which you can follow back in. If you have no friends with you, introduce yourself to others near you, and make buddies with them. You want people to remember you on your way out, so when you come back, they won’t think you’re cutting them. Coming back with some food or drink helps because it validates that you were indeed getting nourishment. Personally, I try to avoid having to leave the my spot, but if I need to, this is my process.
Q: What is it like at the front? Is it rough?
A: Unlike Coldplay shows or concert festivals which are the only comparisons I can draw from, U2 crowds are generally easy going and respectful. I’ve been able to enjoy the front with relative ease. The only times I found it tough in 2005 were in NY, Dublin I, and Honolulu, where ‘important’ people pushed their way to the front. Even for U2 360˚the crowds in Poland and Croatia were not pushy as I wrongfully thought they would. All other times, I thought there was general respect and a sense of harmony amongst us, and I look forward to sharing a ‘magnificent’ time with fellow U2 fans.
Q: When you are along the rails, is the stage too high?
A: In arena shows, even at the front, the stage is pretty low compared to stadium concerts. So you don’t have to worry about craning your neck and managing cramps after. Even better, U2 are really in your face, so that’s a pretty neat experience to encounter during a show.
Q: Where is the best spot to see U2 on the floor?
A: When Craig Evans, SVP Global Operations – Live Nation Global Touring at Live Nation, approached us in the queue and told us that it was no longer necessary to line up because all spots on the floor are good spots, it was hard to believe. Looking back, I think he was right.
At the very front, the stage is at about 5.5 feet hight. The front row fits about 30 people across on each side. There no longer is ‘front-row’ centre because of the catwalk. So fans are either going to be in between Edge and Bono (on the ‘south-side’) or in between Adam and Bono (on the ‘north-side). The band starts the first couple of songs at the front and end the show there; On the whole, U2 probably spends about 40 percent there. When you are at the very front, you can’t see anything at the ‘e’-stage unless you are 7 feet tall. It is also hard to see anything going on or in the screens. I can remember during some songs like Invisible (where U2 are in the screens), there was nothing going on at the front, which was different from past tours. We felt disconnected. However, the advantage of being at the front is seeing U2 appear at the start and close at the end.
Along the catwalk, the longest stretch of rail space, it fits about 120-150 people on each side. If you are up front, (actually anywhere along the rails), you will not be able to see the video sequences on the massive screen (which moves up and down). I would say the band spend about 20-30 percent of the time on the catwalk.
At the back – ‘e’-stage – U2 spend about 30-40 percent of the time there. Like the catwalk, the ‘e’-stage is about 4 feet high, so you can get a real close look of the band. It’s here where U2 pulls fans up on stage to perform with them or participate in the Meerkat broadcast, where fans hold up a phone to film U2, which is then projected on the screen and online. I’ve heard that fans really like this perspective because of the high degree of spontaneity (such as when Edge fell off the edge of the catwalk at Vancouver 1) and the closeness to the band. The rail along the ‘e’-stage fits about 80 or so people.
Q: You are lining up for such a long time, it can’t be all fun and games?!
A: You’re right; it isn’t always the greatest of experiences for the entire time you are in the queue. I’ve had to deal with really hot days, where there was no shade (i.e. June 30, 2009 Camp Nou – Barcelona). There would be days where it would rain nonstop (i.e. June 24, 2005 Croke Park – Dublin). There are ways to prepare for such climates, but your patience can wear thin quickly. I also found myself frustrated by people cutting the line, despite the fact that I spent the whole day there. In spite of my protestations, there was nothing I could do. Fairness, it seemed, was not universal. Other fans had described to me of a not-so-pleasant camping out experience at the Chorzow, Poland queue, where there were really drunk fans being loud and obnoxious at night, which made it a sleepless queuing experience.
Another phenomenon I encountered during past tours was that being at the front of a queue does not necessarily guarantee a good spot on the floor because of mechanical or human errors. For example, the tickets wouldn’t scan properly at Dublin 3 or at Chorzow (360 Tour), which would result in gates locking up and disallowing you to pass. I know for some female fans, particularly at Wembley Stadium, there was a shortage of female security guards to search female fans, so they were held up. Some venues will have multiple entry points, which increases anxiety and uncertainty of where you will end up on the floor. Many fans had described to me of the Paris shows, where some gates opened up early than others. This resulted in frustrating some fans that felt this to be unfair and arbitrary. Having been through this myself, one can easily feel irritated and upset.
Well, I hope you found this post informative, if not entertaining. Despite these negatives, I still maintain the GA queue to be a beneficial and fun experience. A valuable lesson I learned was that ‘anything can happen’ in the GA experience and that we should not raise our expectations of always getting the spot we imagine ourselves having. Because we get to the queue early enough, we will all get onto the floor, and will have a great spot where ever we may end up. Most U2 fans would love to see the shows we see, let alone the close proximity we have to the band. Most of us who have had the privilege to be in the pit will agree that the atmosphere is electric and any bad experiences from earlier in the day are washed away by the torrential music of U2.
While the U2 queue can be tiring and at times trying (i.e. North end Dublin kids making fun of U2 and throwing fruit and eggs at us outside of Croke Park), I think we can look back and remember all the great times. I can earnestly look back at all my experiences in the queue – good and bad – and remember how much fun it was to meet everyone, listen in on the sound checks, feel the rush of getting into the venue early, enjoying the concert with the same fans I shared the queue with during the entire day, and getting various setlists at the end of the night. I vividly recall meeting new friends, sharing our love for U2′s music, talking about our backgrounds, and explaining where our travels have taken us. In the end, the U2 queue is more than trying to make it to the front; it really is a place where different people of varying backgrounds can find a common ground, with the hope of having long lasting memories.
The GA in Vancouver was memorable for me, as it was 2 days before my wedding. Fans in the queue were incredibly kind to sign a banner with messages of support and well-wishes for our marriage. It was the kindest act I’ve ever experienced in the queue. I admittedly teared up – physically and emotionally exhausted – but humbled at the thought and consideration of everyone. This alone made the GA worthwhile (thanks to Jonathan for filming this).
If you have any other tips or experience worth mentioning, send me a message. We’re all here to help each other. I look forward to seeing you all in the queue! For me, there’s no other way but GA :)