Extreme queuing: Five days in line to see favourite band

BBC News

Fans in a queue
Fans determined to get as close to their favourite acts as possible are prepared to queue for days

For music fans who want to get as close to their favourite band as possible, there’s only one way to do it: you have to queue, however long it takes.

But for those attending U2’s shows in New Zealand and Australia, there’s been considerable debate on queuing and how to go about it.

Some venues have asked fans not to start queues days in advance, and only to line up on the morning of the concert.

But for many who want to get a good spot in front of the stage, turning up at 08:00 is considered far too late.

So how long does the average fan tend to wait to see their favourite band?

Five days in the freezing cold on concrete

“The longest time I’ve queued for a concert was five days. It was for the 1975,” Australian music fan Ruby Shepherd told the BBC. “I’ve been a fan of the 1975 since they released their first album in 2013.”

Ms Shepherd, along with another group of fans, organised to split the cost of an Airbnb close to the venue from Wednesday to the Friday so they could shower, charge their devices, and do their make-up before the concert.

“I brought four blankets, a pillow and a sleeping bag and then had to buy more blankets while we were lining up as it was so cold at night. I also brought games to keep us busy.”

Ruby Shepherd and a friend
Ruby Shepherd (right) waited five days to see the 1975 and says she would recommend it

“Honestly, while I was lying there in the freezing cold on the concrete, next to a busy road and tram stop, all I wanted to do was go home – but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

“I met so many new friends who I still talk to every day, and made so many memories that I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind roughing it out for a couple of days.”

‘Queuing is part of the fun’

Like Ms Shepherd, Take That fan Gemma Clarke would also recommend queuing.

Ms Clarke has been to see Take That 25 times in 2019 alone. One of the longest times she queued to see the band was when they played Hyde Park in London in 2016. She waited in line from Wednesday night for a concert that was on a Saturday.

“Queuing is part of the fun. When they toured this year, they did a lot of seated gigs so you didn’t need to queue. But when you went to queue for stadium gigs, you realised you missed the build-up of queuing with your friends.

“When you’re in a queue, you kind of know who you’re going to see. Out of 100 or 200 people, you’re going to know people within that queue.”

She has even travelled to Milan to see the band with friends she has made in queues.

Gemma pictured with her friends
Gemma Clarke (middle) pictured with friends at a Take That show

She says Take That fans are very organised when it comes to queuing.

“It’s done by the fans, numbers and notebooks, and we all number ourselves. It’s then policed by the fans. You can go off for short periods of time but the idea is that you’re there the majority of the time.”

When queuing really pays off

Harry Kantas has seen U2 perform live close to 150 times and has queued overnight for a few shows. The longest time he spent in line, he said, was close to 24 hours in Hawaii.

“Queuing can be a fun experience in itself,” he told the BBC. “Whenever U2 play in Spain, for example, the local fans will turn the queue area into a party, bringing food, drinks and music and turning it into an enjoyable experience for everyone. If you ever decide to queue for a U2 show, do it in Spain!”

He says that on other occasions, members of the band or crew will come out to say hello, or send out pizza for everyone in the line.

Harry Kantas on stage with U2
Mr Kantas’s queuing paid off when he was invited on stage with U2

Mr Kantas says he tends to queue for the smaller arena shows rather than the stadium shows. Standing in line paid off during an arena show in Barcelona, where he briefly became the fifth member of U2, performing a song on acoustic guitar with them.

A shake-up in the system

As more people become willing to spend longer times in queues, some musicians have asked staff members to organise the line.

In the US, Bruce Springsteen often runs a lottery system where fans turn up at the same time and are given a number. A staff member then picks out a number and the person with that number becomes the first in line.

Chris Simmons was one fan who got lucky in the lottery system. “I was the winner of the pit drawing in Charlotte, North Carolina on 19 April 2014 – an incredible experience,” he said.

“My number was 267. That night they allowed 400 people into the pit. They drew my number so myself and the 399 people behind me were the ones that got in. The system as it is right now is about as fair a way as possible to allow every fan the same chance to get up close.”

He added that seeing Bruce Springsteen was an “experience unlike any other and no two shows are the same”.

He adds: “His music is the soundtrack of my life.”