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Philadelphia, PA at the First Union Center, show#1
June 11th, 2001

U2 in Philadelphia. This was the first time the guys had been in the same city I lived in. It was a strange feeling... something like privilege. It was also the continuation of the longest, most intense weekend in my life.

We had dragged ourselves out of the Copley Hilton in Boston, hit the road and were back in Philly that Sunday afternoon. The U2PhillyFan group had a get together, and Theresa and I met the others for the dinner... bedraggled, exhausted, but doubtless with stars in our eyes. So how had the Boston show been? The breathless expression on our faces must have told the whole story.

It was something we had spoken about for ages, it seemed like. Maybe the whole reason the group had been born anyway. And now... we were on the brink of everything and suddenly all our planning, all our scheming, all our time suddenly seemed so inadequate. Like we hadn't done enough. Like *I* hadn't done enough. One of those things you want to have be PERFECT and nothing you do seems to be good enough. The fact that it was all upon us was almost overwhelming.

I don't think we talked much that evening. We were all just enjoying the moment, tucked into a private snug in an Irish pub in downtown Philadelphia. Not many people had GAs for that first date, though. Of the regulars, it was just me and U2PhillyFan's list manager. We agreed to meet by the subway stop close to the sports complex the next morning at 5AM. No one thought this was strange at all. The most natural thing in the world.

We broke pretty early, having a big day ahead of us. When I got back to my apartment, no one was there. My little sister and her friend were in town visiting but were apparently out for the night. Philadelphia's 76ers were embroiled in a desperate struggle for the NBA crown with LA's misnamed Lakers. The two chickies were out watching the game someplace. I left the lights on in the living room and crashed in bed, still tired from the Boston marathon. I remember turning the dial on the bedside lamp. I still remember what the dark room looked like that night, and the view of the Logan Square fountain not far from my window... and the bulk of the Four Seasons beyond. Months earlier, we had discussed hanging out outside U2's hotel and waiting for the band and all that. We didn't do that now. It didn't matter now for some reason and it seemed dreadfully intrusive. Only being in the front mattered now.

The drone of that horrid alarm clock I've had since 5th grade when my life started getting too serious woke me up. 430AM. It was still as dark as night out there. But I have never had such an easy time getting up so early. Dressed quickly and grabbed my backpack that had the most obscenely useless things in it (I'm so useless in a pinch, it's embarrassing) and a grocery bag with water, juice, granola bars, and apples in it... whatever was left over from Boston. Hell of a picnic.

I can still tell you exactly what the early morning breeze felt like out on the dark Philadelphia streets. The receptionist at my apartment building must have thought I was certifiably insane for being out that early, but she didn't say anything. I was wearing a plain black t-shirt and jeans. Stupid clothes, now that I think of it. But I wasn't thinking straight. I was just numbly following the path that led to music, to U2, to Bono, to the Voice.

The pre-dawn morning felt as if it had been created ages before in the ages before there was day or night, as if this was a script written by an unseen hand before any of the players in this drama had even graced the earth with their presence. Every footstep I took that morning down to the subway stop underneath City Hall had been counted, measured, planned for me and I had no say in how all this went. And I remember feeling so calm. Like I knew nothing I did could change anything.

The subway station was nearly deserted. A janitor was cleaning the platform. There were one or two other people there waiting for the first train of the morning to South Philly. The subway came clanging into the station, breaking in the track for another day of activity. It felt like an eternity as all the stops were made, and people got off. I was the last one left on when the clanking caterpillar squirmed its way into the final stop. Patterson.

The sky was beginning to get light as I stepped out of the station and out on the southern end of Broad Street and looked for Ron as we had decided on the previous night. It was about 515AM and there was no one there. There are about three above ground entrances to the subway station there all in a row. I ran around them, front and back, trying not to panic. Where was he??? Damn him. DAMN it! Not a good day to be late.

I waited about 15 minutes, but when the clock was creeping to 530AM and the light was much more now, my impatience got the better of me and I gave up on Ron. Patience isn't one of my faults. It was killing me. I needed to know how many people were already in the queue.

Thanks to the reconnaissance mission Ron and I had gone on several weeks before, I knew just where to go. And Ron had posted on our little online haven that the First Union Center's GA line would be at the southwest corner of the building. As I drew near, there were two very dilapidated, unkept individuals in front of the Box Office. Waiting for tickets. There wasn't anyone by the southwest corner of the building. Just empty cardboard boxes, garbage cans full of refuse all over the place. There had been a big post-game party the day previous. The 76ers had beat the LA Lakers in Game 1 of the Finals. The leftovers of the merrymaking were scattered all over the lot.

I didn't see a line, but I found it incredible that only those two sad-looking people had managed to come out and queue that morning. Yes, there are people crazier, more lifeless than me. So I finally asked them what was up. Was there anyone else there? Two pairs of eyes with huge purple bags beneath them looked at me, surveyed me, and then said they had started a line on the other side of the building. Fine.

I went around to the southEAST corner of the building and sure enough, there was a small group there basking in the early morning rays. People who had been there since 6PM the previous day. I think I recognized some of them from the Boston queue. I have a hard time with names, but I do remember faces quite easily. Involuntarily. Armed with beach chairs, towels, food, drinks, and the ever-important Sharpies. Green ink. As the two parties guilty of beginning the U2PhillyFans group, Ron and I had been ready to hand out numbers for the line. But these people were already doing it. Fine. I wasn't interested in writing on people's hands that day anyway. I gave them my long list of blank spaces for names and the sign that read "Get Your Number Here" that I had made in a burst of productivity the previous night.

I had a number 12 written on my hand and took my perch close to the fence, spreading out my huge white beach towel that was management's idea of a gift to their overworked employees. The thing's an eyesore, but it kept me from having to sit on the concrete and scratching my shoes on it. But I couldn't just sit there. Not while Ron was still missing. I asked the others if they had seen a guy wandering around that morning. No one had seen him. What the hell had happened to him? Had something gone wrong?

We're a non-wireless crowd so no hopes of getting a hold of him that way. I walked around the building several times. Not a sign of the guy. I almost hated him for it then. I didn't want to be there ALONE.

There were some high schoolers there. I asked one of them why he had come. He said they had just graduated from school (somewhere in the near South) and wanted to hit the road to see a rock band. They decided U2 sounded cool. He said he loved their sound. There were about 8 of them. They'd stand clumped up before Bono and Edge later that night.

Finally, Ron showed up. He said he'd been waiting for me outside the subway station as planned. He hadn't seen me or I him. To this day, I have no idea what happened. We played cards, I used up Ron's Sharpie in making a sign I later didn't have the guts to hold up. Finally, someone grew a brain and we moved over to the appropriate corner of the building. Hot in the afternoon's glare, we waited. The others from the list showed up to say "hello". Someone blasted music from their car... actually many someone did that. The day crept by.

When they finally opened the doors, I think I was more nervous than I've ever been. They put the heart wristbands on us at the front. In the melee, I lost track of Ron. I ended up in front the Edge beside the biggest *freak*. It just about ruined the show for me. He was some used up corporate type with a beer belly and a stupid VIP pass. He tried to get one of the high schoolers from the morning to go buy him a beer. The guy said, "No, dude. I'm underage!" He got all mad because he had to go buy it himself. The two guys behind him were mad and they *should* have taken his rail spot while he was gone. I don't think anyone would have been mad at them for doing that besides the VIP jackass. But they were too nice and didn't do it. I had to stand next to that piece of work the whole night. Thanks to him, the Edge didn't come over to shake hands. I still hate that guy for that.

The concert was amazing, though. Edge rocks. The high schoolers were snared for U2 for life. I have a picture of one of them looking up at Bono as if he were an apparition. The Hero and his follower. Near the end of the show, Bono said, "To those who have never seen a show before, I hope... I hope you had the night of your life." Or something like that. It was amazing when he said that. After the band was gone off stage and people were left filled yet hungry for more, Dallas Schoo came out and started handing out picks. He put one into my hand, Edge's. It's purple. I love it.

I found Ron. He looked pale as death. He said he was reborn when he could talk again. It was chaotic but marvelous all the same. I remember everything still.

 

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