Preparing for Sunday’s show at The Rose Bowl
“Every time we play here it’s like a pilgrimage” Bono said to my friends and me following U2‘s 2005 show at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. That show was also a pilgrimage for the four of us – two traveling in from New York, one traveling from San Francisco, and myself coming from Los Angeles.
When I was 13 years old and feeling trapped in a small town, listening to U2 albums was my escape. I remember the precise moment, sitting alone in my bedroom blaring U2 and thinking, “I want to see this band play in Dublin. Someday, I’ll see them play in their hometown.” I knew then that in order to realize that dream, I’d have to get out of my hometown.
At 13-years old I had a very influential pep-talk with myself about the path I was headed down and the drastic changes that were necessary if I was going to experience a life that involved fulfilling my dreams around the world. To the people who discount the impact and influence of music — that night in my bedroom, under the influence of U2, I made the decision to turn my life around for the better. For that reason and their music, U2 will always remain one of my favorite bands.
Tickets for this weekend’s concert at The Rose Bowl went on sale months ago. I was vaguely aware that the show was approaching this weekend, but hadn’t thought much about it. Then Wednesday, thanks to a very helpful blog posted by the LA Weekly, I was reminded. I was also alarmed by the article’s headline: “U2 in Pasadena: Clusterf*ck Nearly Guaranteed Unless You Read This Post.”
I’ve been to a lot of big concerts around the world over the years, including U2 in Dublin (82,000+ in attendance) and Honolulu (the closing show of the tour), without any hassle whatsoever. So it didn’t occur to me that this one, in my own backyard, could be a “clusterf*ck.” I hadn’t given it any thought. The show started at 7:00pm, I’d leave my house at 6:00pm, park, and stroll right into the Rose Bowl. Wrong.
As LA Weekly reported, nearly 100,000 people are expected to descend on the Rose Bowl Sunday. LA Weekly and the Rose Bowl’s official website offer warnings about the lack of ample parking and encourage very early arrival (between noon and 4:00pm). Traffic is sure to be extremely congested. This is LA – traffic is congested even without U2.
With that I had a look at my ticket. $250. Suddenly I was pissed off. It’s not that I feel a U2 show isn’t worth $250, but during the past 7 weeks I’ve seen amazing shows, at small venues, minus the “clusterf*ck,” for much less money. Nine Inch Nails’ last show ever was only $65. Thom Yorke’s secret show at The Echoplex, with fewer than 700 people in attendance, was a $20 ticket.
It wasn’t a question of whether or not to attend Sunday’s concert – it became a question of “how?” I called a wise friend who suggested getting a hotel room in Pasadena Saturday night. “Relax, hang out by the pool, wake up, have brunch, walk around Pasadena, and stroll over to the Rose Bowl. That’s the only way to experience this show without a headache,” he suggested. So at 10:00pm Wednesday night I began researching hotels in Pasadena. Apparently my friend is not the only wise person and evidently a fair amount of other wise people actually planned ahead for this event. Website after website, phone call after phone call, I was met with the words “SOLD OUT!”
Finally, it seemed a room was available online. I called the hotel to inquire about parking. “Oh, we’re sold out,” they told me at the reservations desk.
“Well, it says you have a room online,” I replied.
“It might say that, but our computers update more frequently than the website and we’re definitely sold out. Oh wow – all of our properties in the area are sold out!”
“Do you have a wait list?” I asked.
“No, no, we don’t. Sorry,” she said.
I ran back to the computer and clicked the “reserve now” button on the screen that showed 1 available room. Thankfully, the website must have considered my request “in progress” and held the room for me while I was on the phone with the reservations desk. As quickly as I could type, I filled in the required fields and practically begged the hotel to charge my credit card.
When I received the confirmation screen I smiled and relaxed. Took a few deep breaths. . . Entertained the gracious thoughts swirling around my mind. . . And then, realized the absurdity of it all. I’m staying in a hotel, to see a concert 25 miles from my home. “This U2 show better be good!!!” I thought to myself and then Tweeted to the world.
A few hours later I reconsidered the weekend. Saturday afternoon I’d be sitting by the pool, surrounded by friends. After a day by the pool we’ll head to dinner, have some laughs, and catch up. Everybody who’s in Pasadena this weekend will be there to see U2. I recalled the vibe on the streets of Dublin prior to the concert in 2005. Every shop was playing U2 songs. The energy was high and so were the people. Just kidding – but everybody was in a very happy, outgoing mood. Pasadena will likely feel the same. Sunday night, we’ll all be treated to an amazing performance. I say that with confidence because this band will not subject you to a “clusterf*ck” and then disappoint. U2 puts on spectacular live performances. I remembered the roar and shake of the stadium as 82,000+ fans experienced U2 at Croke Park. There will be nearly 100,000 fans at The Rose Bowl.
Bit by bit my perspective shifted. I thought about the power of this band and their music to inspire 100,000 people to endure traffic, limited parking, and crowds, in order to gather at a single location, for 3-4 hours of live music. I thought about the crowd at Croke Park and how their feet rarely touched the ground as they jumped incessantly during the concert in 2005. I remembered that night in my bedroom, in my small town, and considered the amazing, worldly life I’ve lived ever since. This is what I love about music. Music brings people together. Music is a movement. Music is a dialog. Music can inspire change and positive action. Music can articulate how you feel when nobody seems to understand. This “clusterf*ck” is evidence of the importance of music. It’s the result of a band that’s been creating and playing music, while remaining relevant and making a positive difference in the world for three decades.
Suddenly I was thankful that U2 has once again provided the opportunity for a pilgrimage. What’s even more impressive is that it’s a pilgrimage within my own city. Now I know what Bono meant when he used that word to describe playing in Dublin 4 years ago.