Camping Overnight to See U2 from the Inner Circle?
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!
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.
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 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
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!
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!