Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlights, the fan of the month April of 2020 is user Acrobat212. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"I remember being equally thrilled and frustrated when they started playing at the K-Mart. Thrilled because the best band in the world was playing live and frustrated because the press in front of me was playing it too cool."
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
I'm an American writer and editor originally from the Boston area. Now I live in a suburb of New York City. I often semi-joke that I stay in the northeastern US because U2 plays here a lot. It's kind of true, though!
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
I caught 'Gloria' on the radio in 1983 and freaked out at how it was so unlike any rock music I'd ever heard. I'm grateful that the station's DJ said the band's name or it would have been difficult for me to have found it out in those pre-Internet days. I had been listening to mostly classical and opera back then, so I wasn't at all familiar with the band or its music. I had just started getting interested in rock again, with a focus on new wave. Because of that majestic 'Gloria' chorus, I took particular note of U2 whenever they were mentioned and actively began seeking out more information on them and their music. Again, this was before the Internet, so every little nugget that I discovered was like gold. I liked every thing I learned about them and heard of their music. I vividly remember being absolutely transfixed while Kurt Loder delivered an MTV News segment on 'War.' I finally got to see them live on the Unforgettable Fire tour in Massachusetts and that was IT. They've been my favorite band ever since, and seeing them play live is my No. 1 favorite thing.
Does anyone in your family or one of your friends like U2? If so, did they introduce you to U2, or did you "convert" them?
My closest U2 buddy to this day is the friend I saw that first concert with, but she'd agree that I've always been a lot more intense than she is about it. Many other friends are also longtime U2 fans, with varying levels of enthusiasm. They'll go to shows but are way more relaxed about it. Ask my friends and family, and they'll say I'm the biggest U2 fan they know. U2 became the biggest band in the world on my watch, so I don't think I can claim credit for converting anyone. But I did bring my dad to a PopMart show in New Jersey to show him what all the fuss was about. He enjoyed the spectacle and Bono's performance; I can't say he really "got" the music, though. My husband likes and respects the band and manages to tolerate my need to see them whenever they play live.
What does your U2 collection look like? What kind of stuff do you have and how is it organised?
I have every official musical release I could get my hands on, in every format, plus an absurd amount of concert T-shirts. Other than that, I have newspaper clippings, magazines, promo items and anything else relevant, organized by era in big plastic boxes. There are a couple of 'Achtung Baby' boxes because that's when my fandom collided with my having grown up and gotten a real job, thus being able to afford to buy more stuff like expensive overseas music magazines. Out of the whole collection, I especially treasure my old ticket stubs (miss those days) and 45 rpm single of 'Gloria' signed by everyone except Larry.
Let's go back to the nineties. You ended up in a K-Mart in Manhattan for U2's Popmart tour announcement. How did you end up there?
I was living and working in Manhattan and knew that the band was planning something for that day. Because I worked in the magazine industry, I tried official channels, with zero luck. But a fan wrote a cryptic post on one of the U2 fan site message boards the day before, and I put two and two together. That K-Mart was still pretty new, and it was considered really outrageous in those days that such a big, mediocre chain store would end up in the cool and bohemian East Village. I went to the store the night before to do some reconaissance and saw Joe O'Herlihy the second I walked in. I was overjoyed because not only had I found the correct location but it meant they were going to play live! I asked a cashier what was going on with the stage, soundboard, etc., and she matter-of-factly answered that U2 was going to play there the next day. With word leaking out like that, I was worried that there would be thousands of people at the press conference.
Please share with us your memories from that day and the press conference including the performance of Holy Joe.
I remember being stressed about leaving work at a busy time, but my bosses knew where I was going and definitely understood my U2 superfandom, so it turned out OK. By the time I was able to arrive, the area facing the front of the stage was pretty full of press and blocked off by cameras. I was in the back but managed to find a decent enough spot to see. I remember being equally thrilled and frustrated when they started playing. Thrilled because the best band in the world was playing live and frustrated because the press in front of me was playing it too cool. I could see other fans scattered around, but I truly was worried about getting really vocal for fear of getting kicked out. And I was slightly disappointed that they played only one song and that some of the press questions were not what I had hoped for. After it was over, I saw that people were gathering up the promotional balloons that were tied to some of the clothing racks in the area. I got hold of one, just one, but I couldn't get it off the rack because the string was tied really tight. A guy who was running around with about a dozen balloons he was clearly hoarding refused to help me get it off the rack. I tried untying it, then cutting the string with my apartment key; I finally ended up ripping up my thumb pretty badly. But I got the balloon and it lives, deflated of course, with my 'Pop' collection. I can still remember the feeling of that cut in my thumb--and I could still pick that guy out of a lineup.
Did you end up seeing some Popmart shows? What are your memories of those?
Yes, I was very, very lucky because I lived in New York City, so I could see them play Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania without too much effort. I also flew to see the tour opener in Las Vegas and two shows in Florida. Vegas was a thrill because we didn't know what to expect, including having the Rage Against the Machine fans throw chairs around on the floor. My memories are a bit hazy, but I remember the show itself being underwhelming, despite the thrill in actually being present at such a historic event.
Did you see any concerts since? What are your favourites?
I can safely say that I've seen every concert that I could, within what I would call reason. I do realize my privilege in that I've grown up with them and got to see them so many times because of geography and personal circumstances. Since PopMart, I've caught them in Los Angeles multiple times now, Montreal and New Orleans, as well as the "local" area, where we've been totally spoiled. Favorites of the post-PopMart era have to be the shows they played in October 2001 at Madison Square Garden. It's a fantastic venue at any point, but the feeling in the air at that uncertain time was absolutely electric.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
There's no one like U2. Even the copycats can't compete. There was a time in the mid-1980s that R.E.M. was neck and neck with U2 for my heart, but the live shows couldn't compare. I love Springsteen, solo or with the E Street Band, and a bunch of other Irish bands that I found thanks to U2, including Hothouse Flowers and Something Happens. Otherwise, I have this other major vein of interest that is classic punk rock, especially NYC legends the Dictators. I still enjoy classic rock and new wave. Current rock acts that I like include the Darkness and the Struts. Love the tunes, love the flash, love the humor. Then there are blues artists like Johnny "Clyde" Copeland and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Traditional New Orleans jazz is fun, and I still listen to classical and opera.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
Besides waiting patiently for the last 'Game of Thrones' book, I'm interested in both kinds of football (soccer and NFL), all things New Orleans, tiki culture, US resistance politics and animal welfare, especially dogs. But music has always been my first love. I played a bunch of instruments when I was younger and formed a band in college, but I found I was better listening to music than making it, unfortunately. So going to concerts and Broadway and stuff like that is my favorite thing to do. Along with travel--best of all is going somewhere exciting to see a live show!
Thanks for this interview Acrobat212!
Note: Our crew members randomly pick fans of the month, you can't sign up for it.
Wow, your Popmart experience puts you in a pretty exclusive club, there’s very few others can say they were that day. I also loved how Gloria ignited your decades long dedication to the band as it reflects my own experience. Thanks for sharing some really interesting insights @acrobat212 😊