Joe’s Guide to the U2 General Admission
This U2 General Admission (GA) Guide has been updated and will be refined throughout the 2019 Joshua Tree Tour.
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, this is a collection of behavioural observations I’ve noticed in 70+ GA lines I’ve seen around the world, throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and South America.
This is my “Guide” to the U2 General Admission Queue. For the two legs of the Joshua Tree Tour, we are going back to stadium venues with floor general admission – similar to the European/Latin America/Pacific legs of the Vertigo Tour and all of the 360° 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 fellow fans you meet, the music we hear, and the tribal community that gathers.
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 and The Check-In System
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) What if I arrive in the GA much later?
20) Pitfalls of the GA
21) 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 Elevation, Vertigo, 360°, and the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tours. This may explain why out of all of 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 at atu2.com, or on U2start.com where fans are selling and trading GAs at face-value.
Extra GAs held by fans could be found in the queue, if the venue is paper ticket entry. At concerts where it is credit card entry, spare GAs will be harder to find, presumably, this is a measure to curb or stop scalping. Consequently, it has also made it harder to transfer tickets between fans. However with this said, I know of instances during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour in which fans in the GA who trusted each other, had spare GAs on a different credit they owned, and lent that extra credit card to the other fan in exchange of a piece of collateral (like a driver’s license). After the show, the fans met up and credit card and drivers license were returned. I was amazed at this high level of trust between strangers, but mutually shared a love for U2.
At venues where the GA is credit card entry (i.e. ticket-less entry), I also 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 venue by swiping the credit card used to purchase all the tickets for that show (even if the credit card had expired). While venues say they will check an ID against the credit card, at all of the U2 concerts I saw last tour that used credit card entry, the venues never checked ID. I think they did not check IDs because it would have been a cumbersome and lengthy process to scan tickets and check identification. The venues seemed to care more about security and getting fans through in an expedited manner. That’s not to say that I’ve been to all U2 concerts and I understand that at the Glasgow concert during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour, the venue did indeed check credit and ID (thanks Christine for the feedback!). So you can take your chances of trying to get into a concert with some one else’s credit card, but be warned in the off chance the venue security actually checks!
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 experience with credit card entry, if you want to transfer (or sell) your ticket to another fan, you have to be present at the door to have your credit card swiped. 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: It depends on how the line is being governed. In some queues, line managers permitted the credit card holder to sign in the party in the GA book, even if they weren’t there (like away for work or flying in from a different city), and were expected to explain to their line neighbours why someone was coming late. In other queues, it is expected that the entire party on the credit card had to be together when signing into the queue and lining up, because the venue needs everyone together upon scanning in.
I’ve run the each type of queue. For start of the i+e Tour (2015) in Vancouver, the first person to arrive in the queue was able sign up their party who were arriving late because of the credit card entry rule by the venue – everyone on the credit card hadf to enter together. Credit card entry into the GA had never been done before, and this new process turned out to be problematic for line management. I remember being scolded at because some people who had lined up well ahead of time were cut in line because those ahead of them had friends arriving late, and literally walked up to the front of the queue just before doors opened. As you can see, this could be troublesome because an individual can sign up a party of 6, with late arrivals cutting the line and be unfair to those who did line up. Later in the tour, a new GA norm emerged so that the entire party had to be there together at the time of sign-up and check-in. [The check-in and number system will be further explained in section 8].
At the 2017 Joshua Tree Tour opener in Vancouver, we continued with the norm of having everyone together on the credit card sign up and check in with everyone present, but I was also confronted by anger by a few fans because it seemed unreasonable to have everyone together at sign-in and check-in times, especially when young children are involved. That too was a difficult position to be in and I don’t know if there is a happy medium. If discretion was left to line managers to decide who could and couldn’t sign people up ahead of time, then this could open up the possibility of people abusing the line. If you have ideas of how to balance being fair and reasonable, and have run a U2 line before with 500+ people queuing up, please let me know (but I’ll no longer be running lines)!
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 venue?
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 section/row/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 GA ticket indicate different entrances? Does that mean there will be various entrances and sections to the floor?
A: The majority of venues during The Joshua Tree Tour do not indicate separate entrances on the venue. However, some other venues, like Amsterdam Arena (Amsterdam) or Croke Park (Dublin), offer two distinct entrances depending on the ticket you bought.
In the Dublin example, looking at the floor layout of the concert suggests that the GA floor will be divided into sections. When I bought the Dublin GA, there was an option to buy a GA ticket for ‘Pitch 1’ or ‘Pitch 2’. Buying ‘Pitch 2’ grants access to a divided access to the floor closer to the stage.
Keep in mind that the majority of venues do not offer the option to buy GAs with different entrances or sections of the GA pitch, but rather they sell tickets to a wide open GA field. When you arrive at the venue, there is a possibility of having multiple entrances and/or multiple ticket gates (e.g. Stade de France had dozens of entrances and queues; Olympic Stadium in Berlin had a single queue, single entry point, but multiple ticket gates upon entry).
Q: What time should I show up to the general admission queue?
A: It depends on where you want to be on the floor and type of show. Keep in mind this is just a rough estimate, and vary between concerts. For example, lines will start earlier and be longer for tour/leg openers and closers, and cities that attract a traveling contingent of fans, like Chicago, LA, Dublin, or London. Other shows that are ‘local’ (meaning they don’t attract a traveling contingent of fans, may have shorter lines. I always advise people to visit the venue the morning/day before the concert to see what’s going on with the queue.
- Morning/Day Before the Show: If you want to maximize your chances for a choice position along the rail, you probably want to get to the queue the morning or day before the show. Personally, I prefer the rail since I’m not too tall and like to have a clear view of the stage. I also like taking photos, so being along the rail makes photography easier. According to one fan at the Seattle show, he “got in line around 3:00pm [day before the show] and were about 50th in line. No problem getting rail.”
- Morning to Noon Day of the Show: You can get a spot along the rails but further away from the centre of the main stage. You may also be anywhere in the first 2-4 rows. The areas near the front and around the ‘Joshua Tree’-stage will be 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.
- Noon to 3PM: You’ll probably find a spot 4-10 rows ahead of the main stage and tree-stage.
- 3PM to showtime: Considering the size of the main stage and the ‘Joshua Tree’-stage; the later you show up in the queue, the farther you may be from the stages. Conversely, some fans prefer a view farther away from the stages in order to take in the larger spectacle of the show.
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 three days before the opening show in Barcelona for the 360 Tour. I expect this to be the case for The Joshua Tree Tour in Vancouver and London (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 show(s) to be played in the Croke Park 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 and European crowds, early morning arrival should be good enough if you want a good spot near the rails.
Q: What about camping overnight?
A: Camping is certainly not for everyone. As well, it may not be permitted at venues due to local ordinances or laws. In the past, I have camped overnight for the Sydney and Perth shows during the 360 tour.
Q: What if the venue bans camping overnight?
A: I believe this is the reason why the “check-in” system started, which I noticed to first appear in 2009 during the 360 tour.
The ‘Check-In’ System has been the norm over the past few tours – iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE Tour, 2017 Joshua Tree Tour, and the eXPERIENCE+iNNOCENCE Tour.
In most of the cities on these tours, security did not want people to camp for a variety of reasons – liability, inconvenience, or because of the sensitivities around tent-cities being built and homelessness in the city.
Usually, venues allow a few people to manage the queue by collecting names and putting numbers on people’s hands. Fans 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 check-in times and during roll-call, they were scratched off the queue list. This was very effective during Las 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.
Consequently, some fans like this system because it allows them to do some siteseeing in the city they are visiting, go to work, or get additional rest. Other fans find this system abborhent because line runners are incentivized to start the ‘line’ a lot earlier than necessary and get to benefit from a fairly slack system, as opposed to real camping.
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. I’m not sure if they have that authority or willing to go to that extreme (see United Airlines fiasco), but that is their threat. At any rate, while a numbered queue system started 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’. My advice, check out the venue the morning/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 10,000+ 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, be closer to the stage, 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.
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#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 so. 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 Las 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 (e.g. 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: Doubtful. There has been no evidence so far that there is a special entrance for U2.com members on The Joshua Tree Tour. At some North American arena venues during the Vertigo Tour, there was a separate line for fanclub members; however, I very much doubt there will be any for The Joshua Tree 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
- sunscreen (if sunny)
- rain gear, such as a waterproof jacket, poncho, or tarp (if raining)
- Rain boots and water repellent pants are also worth while if there is a downpour
- smartphone external battery pack
- 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, newspapers, or caught up on social media (all cities). On the 360 tour, I’ve drunk 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 360 overnight queue, we had a propane heater and a BBQ fired up, which we later returned 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.
On the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, I was busy helping manage a few queues. Since the check-in systems are more-or-less the norm, waiting in line on aggregate 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 and mirrorless 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 large dSLR 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. Vancouver states that camera bodies and lenses cannot exceed 3″ in length. With that said, I did see dSLRs at Madison Square Gardens in New York, so this policy is really venue specific.
Other things I’ve generally noticed that security disallowed 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.
For any items you are uncertain if these can be allowed inside, I highly recommend approaching 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 (I was the guy in the brown jacket at 0:11)
Q: Do you run or walk once the doors are open?
A: For stadium shows, security will strongly insist you walk, but in most cases fans ‘fast-walked’ and then broke out into sprints. It will be well worth it to practice your speed-walking skills and ability to skip down two stairs at a time. If you notice others breaking into a run, it’s your call whether you want to follow them or not. Golden rule is to exercise safety first and avoid a stampede (which I’ve been through before in Milan and Berlin on the Vertigo Tour).
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 venue, you will want to ask security which way to the floor. It can be a labyrinth upon entering the grounds of a stadium, so keep asking, follow the crowd (if you’re not first), and keep walking fast! Pay attention or ask ahead of time the way onto floor level.
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.
It’s also important to mention that there will be a main stage and an extended ‘Joshua Tree-stage’. After seeing U2 on The Joshua Tree Tour, I’m convinced there isn’t as much rail space compared to the 360 Tour. So if you really desire a rail spot, check out the queue the day before the concert. The closed off area for the ‘Red Zone’ fans is situated very close to the stage this tour, on Edge’s side of the stage.
So upon entry, keep right to avoid being stuck behind the Red Zone, and head towards the ‘inner’ part of the GA, on ‘Adam’s’ side of the stage.
Q: Can I bring signs or flags into the show?
A: Likely. I have friends who have 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.
With respect to flags, some venue security are more picky. At the Vancouver and New York shows during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour, venue security refused the entry of banners and flags. At Madison Square Garden (awful security), one fan was upset because her national flag was banned entry, with the security guard saying that, “Bono said he didn’t want flags at the show.” Laughable and dishonest, but we are at the mercy of security. Best to ask them well ahead of time to avoid this confrontation. Always check the venue website or call them two weeks ahead of time to ask about what is permitted and what isn’t allowed.
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. 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: During the 360° Tour, the stage was quite high, and I found my neck hurting looking up constantly after the first few shows. After a while, my neck got used to looking up, and I didn’t mind being at the front. The front stage for The Joshua Tree Tour is about 9 feet high but is further back compared to the 360 front stage, which means that your neck won’t be craning up as much, and is a more comfortable viewing experience.
— Joe Ahorro (@joe_ahorro) May 13, 2017
The ‘tree-stage’ is about 5 feet high and is much closer to the fans. It’s from this vantage point where you can have a more intimate concert experience with U2.
— Joe Ahorro (@joe_ahorro) May 15, 2017
18) Where is the best spot to see U2 on the floor?
Q: Where is the best spot to see U2 on the floor?
A: The ‘tree-stage’ is where the concert begins with the full band performing their pre-Joshua Tree songs here. The front stage is where U2 play all their Joshua Tree songs. For the post-Joshua Tree songs (until the end of the show), most of the time Bono goes back to the tree-stage while Adam, Larry, and Edge remain at the front stage. So depending on what you want to hear and see up close, you can decide which stage to gravitate towards.
If you want to be close, with a front view of U2, this is what to expect:
- Main Stage – park yourself in front of Bono or go no further than 10 meters on either side towards Edge or Adam. It was interesting to see the band cluster together at the front and not be too far from each other during the Joshua Tree set. Don’t be tempted to take rail on the far reaches of the main stage – you’ll barely see U2 up close. So if you don’t get rail at the front, better to be second, third, or forth row at the front. I also found less pressure at the front.
- Tree Stage – Anywhere along the top or side of the tree will be good. U2 rarely turn around to the back of the tree, so if you’re along the catwalk and below the tree, you’ll be mainly looking at the back of the band. Since the tree-stage reaches to the middle of the field, I found there was a little more pressure here from fans from the back, since late-comers can start to push or squeeze their way here.
- Fellow U2 fan, Jeremie Hallett, said it best on one of my Instagram posts,“I’ve done top of tree, next to ramp, and center main stage and I’d say top of tree is the best vantage point if you can only do one show. But main stage is fantastic for JT set and the close-up screen effect. The motion is trippy in 8K.”
19) What if I arrive in the GA much later? I don’t really want to line up all day, but still enjoy the show!
Answering this question primarily comes down to expectations. Whether you choose to line up or not, one is not better than the other, but rather indicative of what people choose to do and expect to get in return.
When people queue up early, they have an expectation to be up close to the band, have a rail to lean on, and enjoy the music. They accept that there will be exhaustion, dehydration, and some frustration as part of this process, but believe that these sacrifices will trade-off with some benefits.
For those who come later or an hour or so before the show, they expect to be well rested and understand that they will be further back on the field. On the 360° Tour, I had friends arrive late afternoon to the queue and ended up two or three rows behind the outer circle b-stage. Having been through the pains of lining up at a previous U2 concert, this time around, they preferred to come late, feel refreshed, and accepted that they were going to be further back. They ended up being amazed because they ended up not that far back, which exceeded their expectations.
I’ve been at the back of a stadium GA before and didn’t mind it because my expectations were tempered. For the 1st show in São Paulo, Brazil for the 360° Tour, I arrived the morning of the concert. My friends and I met up and came to the Estadio Morumbi at 9am and there were already about 10,000 people in line ahead of us. We resigned ourselves to the inevitability that we’d be at the back of the GA, but we were okay with that. In the end, the fact that Zooropa first appeared on the tour in Brazil thrilled us. That alone made the concert special and not because of where we were relative to the stage.
Being at the back of the GA also has its advantages:
- It’s not as crowded
- The sound is at its best at the soundboard
- You can easily access the beer garden, souvenir stand, and washrooms easily
- You’ll get to see U2’s sound guru – Joe O’Herlihy – who has been with U2 since the start. He’s very approachable!
— Joe Ahorro (@joe_ahorro) September 24, 2016
With all this said, I still like lining up early, because it gives me a chance to connect with long-distant U2 friends who travel and see the band like I do. I also like being near the front because I enjoy concert photography. But that’s my expectation and desire. Others who prefer to come later will hear the same amazing music and equally enjoy the company of friends as much as I do.
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. Exhaustion can sink in after a long wait or multiple queues.
I’ve also 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.
This is unsurprising, but I’ve noticed that there is a direct correlation between the state of weather and the mood of the crowd. For example, we experienced heavy downpour the morning of The Joshua Tree Tour opener in Vancouver (which we knew was coming because the forecasts were pretty consistent leading up to that day), and I encountered a few irate and annoyed fans in the queue. Once the rain let up, skies opened, and sun rays beaming down on us by lunch time, I saw a lot more happier people in the line. All I can say is be prepared for the weather conditions, don’t be surprised, and feel free to temporary leave the queue if needed.
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 during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour was memorable for me, as it was two days before my wedding (the next day, I skipped the second Vancouver show to make it for my wedding rehearsal). 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, or questions that need addressing, feel free to leave a message in comments below. I’ll try to promptly respond to your questions. 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!