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“...What time are you getting to the venue?”. ddd explores why so many of us are obsessed with the idea of being within touching distance.
Published: 06/01/2020   Author: Eleanor Osada
Photo: Thibault Trillet
There are so few airs as competitive as the almost-taboo, fumigated o-zone layer that surrounds lining up for shows. At 22 years old - and a fan of a lot of popular artists - I am sadly all too familiar with queueing culture.

I have personally never camped, my earliest arrival to a venue once being at 7am, but know dozens of people who have, and would do so again in a heartbeat. But why? Simply put: good places in the crowd are first come, first serve. A spot right in the middle of the barrier is time sensitive. So why do people become so fixated on ‘earning’ these ? Surely for a say, 3-4 hour show, is it worth waiting outside on the pavement for days?

It’s not a new trend by any means, I have a friend (who will remain nameless) who’s mum - and friends - slept in a public toilets block the night before a Duran Duran concert, only to be locked in “for security” by an attendant because the Yorkshire Ripper was active at that time. But the culture that governs it is unspoken, so still surprises those out of the loop. Heading into Manchester Arena for a gig, some friends and I spoke to security guard, curious about how long we’d been waiting for. “Since 11” one of them said, and his jaw dropped, “Christ, nearly 8 hours?” Side-eyeing each other, they laughed: “I meant 11 last night”. So comes the questions as to the benefits, and if it’s really all wasted time.

Personally, I don’t think so at all. I’ve lined up for shows in all conditions - some in which I longed to feel my toes again, or for the unforgiving lashings of rain to stop - others where it was impossible to find shade, and I’d go into the show sunburnt and delirious. There’s always that moderate level of risk, but it’s also a choice that those queueing commit to, signing that invisible waiver as soon as they plonk themselves down on the concrete.

But, I also think back on the matching disposable rain ponchos, four people huddling under one umbrella (getting soaked through regardless) and how we can laugh about it now. I remember a friend buying a huge share-box of Magnum ice creams to pass down the queue in the insufferable summer heat. I reminisce on the chilly mornings, piled up under each other’s duvets, being offered free samples from milkshake places and asked why on *earth* we’re sleeping on the streets. We’ve had our photos taken by tourists, the Police have been called by concerned citizens… It’s certainly been a ride. I’ve introduced myself to people in these environments that I now hold dear, and spent a great deal of time with those I wouldn’t otherwise see. We’ve pondered the meaning of life, played card games at length and ordered copious amounts of Deliveroo food straight to the venue. It’s hardly ever a boring time, and the hours never drag. It’s also the most social time, considering that once you’re in the venue - your voice is competing with the volume of the pre-show playlist and general chat.
Photo: Krizjohn Rosales
Irrespective of the fond memories and niceness, there’s also some insane measures that people take in order to secure their spots. I’ve heard of people using apps such as Task Rabbit and paying someone to stand in line all day on their behalf. Smart, I guess.

In other scenarios, problems arise when the venue explicitly bans camping outside the venue - for safety and security. Paradoxically - it usually ends up making things more unsafe, as fans keep a watchful eye, perched on nearby street corners, all stampede to the venue entrance at the allotted time, usually running through traffic as they attempt to outrun one another. Then, people begin to fight if they don’t get what they want. For instance, Person A has been tucked up in a sleeping bag in a bus stop over the road since 2AM, but Person B just rocked up here in a car, and now they’re in front. It’s a moral dilemma that the staff do not care to deal with, and I understand both sides. You’re allowed to be passionate and stand firm in your convictions, but also, rules like these are set as a matter of caution and control, no matter how frustrated you may be. It’s a case of entitlement, when it should be a case of courtesy (in an ideal world). Here’s a video of the problem in action:
A tweet was actually posted the other day from a Harry Styles fan in Argentina, queueing for his show - they’d pitched a tent. Perfectly fine, you might think, as long as they’re safe. The show is in October, like, this coming October. It’s now January. The dedication is absurd and surreal, but also shows how South American fans yearn for a visit from their musical favourites. We should count ourselves very lucky.

So I ask again, why do we do it? I personally have always loved getting good shots, ever since I started going to gigs seriously at about 13. But as a tween, and the chances of being taken seriously by anyone in regards to a press-pass are very low, so I usually packed a digital compact and tried my best. Being close was a necessity in making sure my short-range camera could at least get a decent shot.
Photo: Harrison Haines
For many others, they love the closeness, and clocking the attention of someone they admire - maybe even hoping to hold a hand, or to get a ‘hello’. It’s something, after the gig passes, that is intangible, but the memory is so validating and invaluable to you personally. You can’t (necessarily) put a cash price on getting so close and having such an experience, so why not spend your time instead and queue?



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