Commitment and dedication: how did the Irish buy concert tickets before the internet?

Radiohead

Radiohead

In the era of broadband and smartphones, it’s never been easier to access concert tickets from the comfort of a sitting room. The challenges are different and involve multiple browsers, multiple connections, interminable clicking and a bit of luck.

But has it taken the fun out of the whole experience of having to queue and ‘earn’ the right to a ticket and of proving unwavering dedication to a band by camping out?

Michelle Aherne from Dublin remembers how she joined the queues in front of HMV on Henry street in 2001 after a night on the town in the hope of getting tickets for the U2 concert in August that year.

“It was 3am when we started queueing behind people who had been there all night in sleeping bags and everything,” she said. “We weren’t prepared at all we just decided to end the night there in the hope of getting tickets. We waited all night, we were about half way down Henry Street in a queue that stretched right back to the GPO arcade.”

She remembers the utter disappointment of many people who were left without tickets when the sale opened in the morning.

“My brother was at home on the phone as well, we were physically in Henry street yet we never managed to get a ticket. There were 80,000 tickets and yet I don’t know anyone who got one for that first concert, where on earth did they all go?”

She recalls a good atmosphere and how people were being dragged from the queue for the fun of it, all wrapped up in their sleeping bags. “We finally got tickets for the second date in September, the support acts weren’t as good though.”

Slane 2001

Slane 2001

Michael Jackson also seems to have caused a great amount of consternation among dejected and ticketless fans, as Cormac Bonner recalls how he queued as a child with his family outside HMV on Henry Street in Dublin in the hope of getting tickets for the star’s Lansdowne Road gig in 1992.

“The line was going all he way out the door and half way up the street towards O’Connell street, it was the only way to get tickets back then there weren’t even kiosks around at that point,” he remembers. “Hundreds and hundreds of people. We waited for hours and were almost in the door when a guy from HMV came out and said all the tickets were gone. We were all distraught at having come so close and I remember it so clearly because I loved Michael Jackson from his “Bad” album.”

By contrast he remembers getting tickets immediately to see English electro group Underworld at the Point in the late 90s. “There were no queues for those and it’s surprising because it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.”

Gerard Calis from Dublin remembers the days before the internet when Oasis came to town and his sisters and their friends desperately wanted to go to the concert.

“They weren’t allowed to queue up overnight for tickets because they were too young so they had to phone up for tickets,” he remembers.“They went on sale at about 8am on a weekday, so the girls woke up early and got ready for school before 8am so they had the whole morning free for phoning for the tickets.”

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons (some rights reserved by cod_gabriel)

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons (some rights reserved by cod_gabriel)

“Our household seemed to be at a disadvantage because we only had an old-school phone and the other girls had modern phones with actual buttons AND a redial feature so it looked like they would get the tickets first.”

“My sisters sat by the phone for the 45 minutes they could before school, clutching our dad’s credit card,” he continues. “They managed to get through to a ticket agent twice and got the tickets; none of their friends got through even once before the tickets sold out, so old-school methods prevailed!”

Fast-forwarding to 2012 it looks like the Irish are still passionate about their music: anyone who didn’t snap up a ticket for the Stone Roses’ reunion tour in the Phoenix Park in July would have been left disappointed as the concert sold out very quickly.

Whether online, on the phone or in person the ultimate challenge still remains: when the concert sells out, the dream is over until the next time.

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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