Photo credit: Tim Oh, Facebook post
I arrived around 5.30pm at the Changi Exhibition Centre and made my way to the back of the queue for Pen A (I drew out the floor plan for your reference here). It took me about 30 minutes to get to the first checkpoint and a couple of minutes to get our tickets scanned and RFID synced. The three pairs of gatekeepers were doing a good job keeping the momentum going but they were impeded by the speed at which their device can process. By then the crowd had already snaked back twice as long than when I first joined the line. It’s less than two hours to show time. I was beginning to sense things were about to get massively ugly.
I shuffled along the metal barricades to the Bag Check point. The wait was shorter here. A combination of well-behaved concertgoers and effective security detail helped eased the flow, but that was a delicate balance. All it takes is for a handful of defiant pricks to argue about their rights to bring in a beach chair and this system will become another chokepoint.
To ease the hassle of payment, LAMC introduced the RFID cashless payment system where concertgoers can join yet another hour long queue to top up a non-refundable cash value of any amount into their RFID tag. If you’re intending to use credit card to make the payment, expect to wait thrice as long. There were three counters that accept cash and only one for credit cards.
Now that we were e-cash loaded, it's time to queue for drinks. It was 7.30 by the time I got two pints of beer and the queue situation had reached a worrying levels. I felt sorry for those in queue but more relief that I wasn't one of them, so I sipped on my beer and made my way to the outdoor area of Pen A.
Wolfmother, the pre-show band, ended their set just as I finished my two pints, clearing the stage for the main act slated to start at exactly at 8pm. I excuse-me’d my way towards one of the only two drink stations in this Pen and - by golly-mother-of-god - the queue in the Pen was twice as long as the ones in the exhibition hall, snaking all the way back towards the back threatening to spill over into Pen B.
“Screw this,” I thought to myself. “I'm going to try my luck with the queue in the Exhibition Hall”
I dashed into the hall and that’s when I realized situation has gone full FUBA. It looked like a scene out of a zombie apocalypse movie.
There were more people in the hall than there were in the Pen. All queues had exploded out of control snaking across the hall creating a human bulwark against kancheong latecomers who needed to get from bag check station to the outdoor Pen in the shortest possible time. All around, people were losing temper for a variety of reasons. One guy was yelling at his friend over the phone, and from what I gathered, the friend was still stuck in the shuttle bus.
I had two options. Screw the drinks, forget the money, or run back into the Pen and join the other queue. I needed a head-start away from this chaos before it reaches the Pen.
That’s when GNR started playing, and that’s when people started running, and that’s when pandemonium ensued. There was no way the gatekeeper could hold us back to check the validity of our tags. All hell broke lose. By the time I got back to the Pen, there was only a semblance of a queue. It’s just a mob of people that differentiated themselves from those not in queue by the pissed off looks on their faces.
I waited in line for two hours. When it finally got to my turn, the crowd was chanting 'encore'. I couldn’t really see what was going on, and hadn’t been able to for the past half hour, because I was blocked by the drink tent.
The poor sod in front of me almost broke down when he was told that his RFID tag did not come with pre-loaded cash even if he felt that 300 bucks for a ticket should at least cover a house pour. I almost felt sorry for him. I wanted to offer his date a drink but I thought that would just embarrass him further so I kept it all for myself.
I’m glad they had a 30 minutes encore set. I made it a point to down one pint for every song, to catch up on lost time. By the time the band got to Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, I was singing my lungs out and in a largely forgiving mood.
The show ended, my beer was almost done, and I needed to pee, only to discover that the toilet queue would cost me another 2 hours wait. I looked at the empty plastic cups lying by my feet… whence it came, it must return.
You can read my semi-expert take on The GNR Concert F*ck Up: What Went On Behind The Scenes here.
A friend texted me this: "Why aren't you pissed that you spent 2 hours of a 2.5 hour concert queueing for beer? I would be livid! Why aren't you?"
What good does it do? Spoil my own fun and further devalue the 300 I spent because I chose to let the situation dictate how I feel? Being pissed doesn't change anything. I ended up singing along with others in the queue and making new friends.