As U2 fans from around the world descended on this town Saturday for the kickoff of the Irish band's massive PopMart tour, it became clear that the Internet is taking on yet another role these days--that of party organizer.
For months, wired U2 fans from all over the U.S.--and from Canada and Germany and Italy and even Bulgaria--turned to the Net to exchange gossip, share poetry, scrounge tickets, and make appointments to meet one another on the big day.
On Saturday, many wore bright, yellow laminated tags around their necks that read "U2 WIRE," looking more like members of the tour crew than members of the U2 fan diaspora.
"We call ourselves 'wirelings,' " explained Tim McIntyre, 23, a recent UC Berkeley graduate. The wirelings met under a World Wide Wire banner in the stadium; some had even posted their seat numbers on the Net so that others might find them.
Jason Alves, a fan from Toronto, had despaired of finding a ticket when he logged onto the Net: "I knew there were U2 fans posting messages on a series of billboards but I didn't expect to find such an abundance," he recalled. "I posted this message lamenting the difficulty and the expense of finding a ticket for the kickoff in Canada. This guy answers that he can find me a ticket and cheap. From there to getting the actual ticket in my hands didn't take more than a couple of days."
Helena from Bulgaria had an even more daunting challenge, and said she never would have made it to the show without the support of her online friends: "To come to America to share the message of peace with my online friends and a band that is right and true is marvelous," she said.
The use of the Internet by music fans is hardly a new phenomenon: Grateful Dead played a major role in the development of The Well, the pioneering online community, and music sites have long been among the most popular on the World Wide Web.
But U2's fans have been among the most ambitious in developing an extensive, unofficial presence on the Web with sites such as the one built by Paul Ande of Sausalito at http://www.illume.com/u2/credits/welcome.html or Jonathan Early's at http://www.poptour97.com/popfun5.htm
Henry Wagner's site at http://www.panix.com/~henryw/zootv/, features text, sound, reviews, photos and the most accurate historical archive of U2 live concerts. The World Wide Wire site is at http://inslab.uky.edu/mailing.list/edu
The global nature of the online presence--and of the crowd in Las Vegas--was also remarkable.
"We are very excited," said Elena Piccioni of Florence, president of the Italian U2 Fan Club. "Yesterday we took a tour of the stadium; it was an emotional experience. I don't think that without online communication this could have happened."
CONCERT REVIEW: F1