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Posted by on Feb 15, 2011 in Arkadia, EdsPick2, Featured, Music, News | 23 comments

Camping Overnight to See U2 from the Inner Circle?

The Arrival

For anyone planning on camping out the night before the U2 concert in Cape Town, here are some valuable observations from my experience camping out for the Jhb concert.

We were armed with knowledge about the Inner Circle thanks to the BlaBla guys, the Big Concerts facebook page and Joe’s blog, so we had packed sleeping bags, a camping tent, food & drink, disposable cushions and sheets, blankets, wads of cash (no ATM’s on site), and toilet paper (which became a valuable commodity).

We got to the stadium at 9AM, Saturday morning, scooped out the place and found our parking spot. We were told that once we park our car, we wouldn’t be allowed to leave again, which was fine. A problem arose when we were told that we were not allowed to use our camping gear outside the stadium and that we would not be allowed to leave to go to our cars for a change of clothes on Sunday morning. Some fans left disgruntled and unhappy about the situation. I called Big Concerts but there was no answer.

My final hope was Greg and Twitter (#U2360SA), to start stirring up some noise about it online. I don’t know if it was our mini-revolution on Twitter that had had an effect, but an hour or so later the rules magically changed!

They told us that we would be allowed to camp outside the stadium with our camping gear, though the gates would only be open to fans who would sacrifice the comfort of their camping gear and enter with only their wallets. The fans decided it was an unnecessary sacrifice to camp inside with nothing, so everyone started setting up camp just outside the entrance of the stadium. It was later found that the “enter anytime” rule was constantly being changed back and forth, between fans being allowed to enter whenever they please, to nobody being allowed in until 3AM… then 4AM… then 7AM – confusion!

The Camping

Camping outside the stadium the day before

Camping outside the stadium the day before

Campers came in dribs and drabs. For most of the day there were only about 4 groups of us. In the evening the number rose to 13 groups (about 60 people) but some of them had disappeared and reappeared in the morning.
We tried Joe’s number and list system but it had zero effect on getting us into the inner circle first, mostly because Big Concerts didn’t acknowledge the campers as having a priority position in the queue. A lot of people who’d only arrived on Sunday afternoon got in before we did. But that doesn’t mean camping doesn’t have its benefits. It definitely was an enriching experience on its own.

Everyone was friendly, high-spirited and excited. Conversation and laughter flowed easily as the fans seemed to bond instantly simply from their common connection with U2. We met people from other countries that were following the 360 tour around the world. The stories they had to share were inspiring. We kept ourselves occupied, interviewing all the fans who weren’t camera shy and in between we caught horse rides from some of the friendly security guards, socialized, took fun photos, and napped when we could.

The air was thick with excitement. Braais and beer, music and laughter, it was a U2 fan party and the highlight was hearing U2 practise from outside the stadium. The lights looked dazzling in the black of the night as the guitar solo from “City of Blinding Lights” came blasting out the stadium.

Camping at the stadium was fun

Camping at the stadium was fun

We were reluctant to get to “bed” because we didn’t want to miss anything but we wanted to preserve some energy for the concert so we decided to sleep after midnight. It took me ages to fall asleep and when I eventually did, I was abruptly woken up at 3AM by some drunken newcomers that were shouting at the top of their voices as they demanded to be let in.

There was an older man telling drunken “when I was younger” stories. He pointed at our tent intermittently and stated boldly that when he was younger, he’d sleep on the floor in the rain to get tickets for his rugby games. He referred to us as lazy and soft. Funny when it started raining, I remained sheltered under my tent and he hid under a bin bag. Aside from them, everyone else was super friendly and super cool. Even if you’re not much of a talker (like me), the atmosphere is great, and you will definitely have fun.

The only thing you won’t enjoy about camping are the portable toilets and the lack of showering facilities, but that’s obviously expected (do take toilet paper). Fortunately for me, the campers were all decent enough to leave the toilets as clean as possible.

We started freshening up, packing up, and changing at 4AM and everyone started lining up at the entrance by 6AM. Some people only started arriving at the stadium from 6AM but they still got good spots in the queue because there weren’t many campers.

The Queuing

Waiting in the inner circle queue

Waiting in the inner circle queue

The gates into the sterile area were opened at 7AM. They searched and let us in. We were told that we would be let in 500 at a time. What we didn’t realize was that they were letting groups of 500 queue at other gates as well.

This meant that even though we camped, people who arrived on the day of the concert, at other gates, had an equal advantage. We were not allowed to take food and chairs into the sterile area, though people did take small bags, cushions and blankets to sit on. It’s a long uncomfortable wait on the pavement and you do get quite exhausted from it. Thankfully it was a cloudy day. Caps, large hats and sunscreen would be advised as it’s a 9 hour wait and umbrellas were not allowed. They started giving out arm bands at about 3:30PM. The gates were finally opened at 4PM.

The queue should have been single file to keep people in place. People were coming in late on Sunday and cutting in from gaps in the queue control fences, and it was upsetting to people who had been there since Saturday morning. We were allowed to leave the queue to use the toilet and buy food but no one was allowed to leave the sterile area and go to their cars, so be sure to carry your medications or any other critical supplies.

The Inner Circle

Our view from the inner circle

Our view from the inner circle

Camping folk should have been the first to enter the inner circle but this was not so. The inner circle was already a third full when I got through security. The problem was that the queues were not managed well and the security guards (who were very pleasant), were continuously misinformed, causing confusion within the crowd. At first people tried getting into the gate on the right and were turned away, so everyone ended up at the gate on the left, but later on the gate on the right was made available again, so people who had come late on Sunday afternoon queued there and got ahead of the campers.

The campers were not acknowledged and the first-come-first-serve rule was not practised. I know it’s a huge event and mistakes are expected and I suppose Big Concerts learnt a lot from the Jhb run, but I do hope that they are nicer to the campers at Cape Town. Nevertheless, you’re bound to get into the inner circle if you did get there early. The inner circle is big enough, even when it’s full, for you to be comfortable and to find a decent spot.

I guess that’s the beauty of the 360 stage design, everyone gets a good view from wherever you’re standing/sitting. When we approached the inner circle, we were directed to one of its two entrances. It seemed as though everyone was using the entrance on the left (which is sorta at the back-left of the stage). We later heard from another fan that the right side entrance to the inner circle was temporarily closed at the beginning. This was again down to misinformation as the security did not know that it was supposed to be opened.

This meant that 2700 people were all entering from one side, and claiming their spots by sitting down. Obviously most people sat at the center, so this effectively created a bottleneck. After struggling past the center folk, we found the entire right side to be open and empty. This was 3 metres away from the center and a perfect view of all the action. The circumference of the inner stage is massive and being in the center gives little advantage over being off to the side because the band is moving around all the time.

We took Joes’ advice and used the toilets and bought water at about 4:30PM, and then stayed in our spot, because as it gets crowded it gets harder to leave and return to the same spot.

Food and Service

The food wasn’t all that great but it was sustaining and we weren’t there to eat anyways. They sold prego rolls, wors rolls, chip n dip, and drinks (yip, beer was available) at the expected high price of any concert. If you’re vegetarian like me, your only option is chips. I bought empty rolls from the wors roll vendors (at R5 each!) and made myself some chip rolls.

The communication between supervisors and security sucked. The security were being fed different stories on how things would work and because they were the only officials fans had access to, they were catching the flak from people for being misinformed. I had no problem with the guards and found them extremely pleasant and friendly, despite the tough job ahead of them.

The organizing of the queues (especially for the inner circle) was not impressive, but once we got into the stadium, the officials were in position and ready to guide the patrons. It was still good service, considering the size of the show and any hitches we experienced were easily overshadowed, forgiven and forgotten with a huge pay off from the performance by U2!

The Concert

Not to give too much away, but the show was mesmerizing!

The opening acts were decent but it would have been more enjoyable if the crowd actually knew the songs being sung! Amadou & Mariam played well, but it was not my cuppa tea and not many were familiar with their songs, but we wanted entertainment bad enough and we were just glad someone was doing SOMETHING on stage. The crowd danced, cheered and clapped in good spirit and some seemed to truly enjoy the music.

The Springbok Nude Girls collected a better response from the crowd but I do wish they played more of their older songs. “Blue Eyes” got a decent reaction from the crowd but their other songs were not as well received.

When the crew started setting up for U2, the crowd started getting hyped up, so much so that they started cheering for the mic-testing-hey-hey-hey-guy (inside joke, hehe).

When U2 finally got on stage the response was explosive! People were ecstatic. The crowd was ALIVE and the aches, pains, hunger and thirst from the 36 hour wait disappeared! U2 drove the crowd into elevation, tears came pouring down. It was captivating, mesmerizing, inspiring, dreamy and spacey.

I was thrilled that I found a missing pixel, (a little LED), that fell from one of the screens on that massive spaceship-claw-like stage (if they want it back, I want U2 to collect it personally! Hehe).

The performance was electrical and the crowd carried the tunes beautifully, singing along with Bono. The Edge somehow managed to come over to the edge of the stage where we were standing whenever we really wanted to see him play a certain guitar riff. Adam was standing in front of me for most of the time and he acknowledged my sister (she is going to be talking about that for a long time), and Larry walked around on the outer rim for some time as well, giving everyone a chance to feel just how present they were, but no matter how real they looked, the entire thing felt like a dream.

There were moments were I couldn’t sing or dance or cheer. I just stood back in awe of the amazing performance before me and took it all in, feeling like I was witnessing something extraordinarily life-changing. The band thanked us and the universe for making their lives special and I silently thanked them for making mine so special.

I experienced something beautiful by attending that concert and I will do it again in a heartbeat. Cape Town, you guys are going to LOVE it!


  1. Fantastic post! Shows what great determination you had to make the most of the opportunity to see U2. I guess many of us in Aus sorta take it for granted that we’ll see them live whenever they tour, whereas you guys haven’t had the chance for so many years. You had an amazing experience, and your photos and memories will last forever (and so will the bit of the multi-million dollar screen!!)

    • 🙂 The camping wasn’t so much about getting to the front of the line as it was about making the most of the event. (Though it would be nice if BC would let the campers in first, they did say first come, first serve). The experience was truly AMAZING and I highly recommend camping to the Cape Town fans as well! Be warned, it will take two days before you recover from the body pain from the discomfort of the wait, but it’s a pleasant reminder of just how hard we worked to have the ultimate U2 experience. I want to go for the CT show, but I spent all my money for the jhb one. Yeah SA is starved of these opportunities so we do get a little fanatic about it.

      My bfs sister said it best: We watched the greatest band in history, who have been playin the music which has been affecting our choices and thoughts throughout our life! This whole experience will linger for life…travelling, camping, sharing ideas, excitements, thoughts, views, team work, being creative, sacrifices, all the courageous elements of life we have shared together this weekend! I LOVE ALL OF YOU! Thank You So Much for EVERYTHING!!! – Dhiya Bahadur

      • Awww!!! 😀 I wanna do it again!! I wanna do it again!! Imagine our interviews and shows with people from all the different concerts!

        • 😀 I think like the Brazilian chick said, we’re gonna end up like her and chase em around the world. lol. 🙂 She was amazing hey. I can’t believe Bono drives himself. lol. (For everyone else’s info: we are busy putting together a video in which we interviewed fans etc. Watch out for it on blabla…coming soon.)

        • Brazilian chicks?!! Geez Ark, you could have mentioned (and photographed!) that sooner…!

        • lol. She was a real babe, but refused to have her photo taken or a vid for that matter but she did agree to an audio only interview. Guess you gonna have to listen to her sexy accent to get an idea of how hot she was. hehe. She was seriously cool. 🙂

          • And now to add fuel to the fire you tell us that she was a real babe, and then that you don’t have any visual proof!? Heartless woman you are! You could have just lied and said she wasn’t worth a picture! 🙁

        • hahaha! blabla! 🙂 Use your imagination man. You can do it! lol.

  2. Brilliant post ARKADIA!!! Sorry we never met at the show…maybe a pic of the fallen pixel for us mere mortals please…..

    • My phone died with all the tweeting so I couldn’t get your number. We’ll meet another time. 🙂 I will post a pic of the fallen pixel soon. 😛 It’s so funny, it’s like it was trying to find me! I sat on the ground and felt it pressing on my leg, picked it up curious about what it is, then somehow lost it again. Later on I stepped on it in a different place. My boyfriend figured out what it was lol and we spotted the screen with the missing piece too. I will cherish the fallen pixel forever. hehe

  3. awesome post…and i am sure it is a great heads up to the CPT fans…great pics as well:-)

    I am sure the driving, drunken people, the rain, incompetent security etc was nothing compared to the great show! really nice write up!

    • huh…what drunk ppl, rain and incompetent security?? lol 🙂 Yes, nothing else matters when you’re watching U2 work their magic. You’re in another dimension where there are no problems in the world. Just beauty, love, power and inspiration.
      “It was *insert expletive* awesome!”

  4. hellooooo grazy people!! It was very nice meeting u guys in the queue!!! love this blog – just reminds me of the amazing time we had waiting in line and then experiencing the BEST BAND IN THE WORLD <3 i will never ever forget the 13 feb 2011 for as long as i live!!!!!

    • Bang Bang Amanda…Bang Bang! 🙂 Good to hear from you. Stay in touch!

  5. This gave me goosebumps. As a fellow U2 fan i’m scaling the walls of my imagination, trying to conjure up an idea of what it would be like seeing the songs i grew up to, Live.
    I am now entirely psyched about the concert! I don’t know if I have the willpower to camp overnight but it would make my Life to get into the inner circle. Pray for me!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • u will make it into inner circle sage. people who showed up at 15:00 at the JHB concert still got armbands. we had a blast waiting in line!! enjoy the CT show. i so wish i was going!!!!!

    • Camping can be harsh but I still would do it again. It was good fun and made the whole experience that much more amazing. Survival of the U2 fans! haha. I think the show was ten times more appreciated by those that stuck it through the camp. But Amanda is right, there were latecomers coming in and getting arm bands. I can’t be totally sure that it would work exactly like that at CT. Maybe just start queuing from midday to be on the safe side? You going to be a new person when you come out of that show… 🙂

    • Yip people who arrived around 3pm still got in, and also not everybody who got the armbands opted to go into inner cricle as the stood at the front of the general admission section. But thinkit might be different for cape town as the parking situation is different. park & ride arrived around 1pm and from then onwards still had inner circle. If you had a parking ticket you could get earlier not sure how this would impact cape town show.

    • Oh yes, should keep in mind that the Cape Town show is smaller than the Jhb one. So I’m pretty sure that you would get into the inner circle if latecomers at Jhb still managed to get in! 🙂 I’d also recommend keeping in touch with the going ons via the twitter feed. Find out how many campers there are etc. I was surprised to find such a small crowd of campers. Have fun and let us know how things go!

  6. Beautifully written, sad to have missed that cert… Glad i will be able to hear the details when we are all together soon.. Awesome awesome band..

    • 🙂 Daddy duty is much more important and a bigger pay-off anyway! We’ll be putting up a video soon. Look out for it. 🙂 It’s taking a little longer than anticipated to edit it but it will arrive in good time (soon soon). U2 was awesometastic! I’d follow the tour til the end if only I had the $$ for it! Anyone care to donate? hehe…it’s as good a cause as any! 😛 lol. Just kidding! (Before Greg kicks me off the team for begging on blabla. lol. pssst…I have paypal! haha.)

    • “When we are all together soon..” I love the sound of that!!


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