As the U2 circus gets ready to pack up and leave London town, we chatted to the good people behind long-running fan site U2Wanderer.
Earlier this year they celebrated 20 years online, and we chatted to founder Aaron back then - check that out here.
They have been busy since then, preparing a long-planned whole new look and name for U2Wanderer - U2SONGS, and it was great to catch up with them recently, where they told us all about it..
u2songs.com? What is that site that you ask? It’s the newest version of u2wanderer.org. Literally days old. We are just re-launching the site now with a brand new backbone, and we will continue to keep the old one running until we have the new one well established. We aren’t quite finished yet, but we’re at a point where we wanted to show people what we are working on. We’ve been working on this update for the last seven years. We hoped to have it ready when the new U2 album launch happened, but they took us by surprise with the release of Songs of Innocence - and then they got us all distracted with a tour.. Fans are always looking out for information on new U2 stuff and where it can be found. So it’s time to let go of that more recent information, in hopes that it will assist other fans, even while the site is still in construction.
Why u2songs? Many will think that maybe it was inspired by the recent Songs of Innocence album title, but we’ve actually had the domain name since 2002 and always planned on this being our final home. The site deals with U2’s songs, where to find them, what they’ve released, and what they’ve been. So the site made sense to us. It just took us a little while to get to the final destination. U2 being stuck in a “songs” place as well? Just a happy coincidence!
u2wanderer.org was founded in April 1995, and celebrated its 20th birthday earlier this year. Our site started out as a discography site and still focuses on discography and lyrics as well as collecting. We have expanded at times, and like making lists...including recent lists like documenting the confetti being “exploded” at shows, and listing the books Bono is throwing from stage on the #U2ieTour.
This year we set up a separate news section for the old site to tide us over while moving and we also brought several new ideas to the site that we look forward to carrying to the new site, such as the map tracking where in the wild you could find copies of the RSD release.
We also maintain an active presence on twitter and also maintain an active forum where a small group of collectors gather to talk and discuss collectibles and lyrics.
U2Wanderer staff and friends at our 20th birthday gathering
The current core team at U2Wanderer.Org is made up of Aaron (AJ) Sams, Aaron Govern, Brad Hood, Carl Uebelhart, Don Morgan, George Dias, Harry Kantas and Mike Long. We aren’t located in one geographical area like some sites, but have staff from Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States. For a number of years it was just Aaron and Carl running things before Brad came on board in 2005, and the others over the years that followed.
We would be remiss if we weren’t to give a shout out to our frequent collaborators Chris Jenkins and Shawn Rocco, as well as thanking all the others that have helped over the years. In the 20 years we have been working on the site the biggest ‘wow’ comes from realizing how many people have contributed and helped make this little corner of the web better.
Carl and Harry handle most of the technical side of things. Carl and Mike are our lyrics staff listening for every nuance in every song and transcribing each from scratch. The rest of us approach things from the collectors side of things. AJ, Harry and Brad are always looking for and reporting on discography updates and also man the twitter account most frequently. George tracks the digital releases and digital streams. Aaron G, one of our newer staff members, is often found hunched away over a scanner producing some lovely images of some rare items. And Don has the unenviable task of going through all of the content in the discography and trying to edit and tidy it up.
Over the years, our staff have been proud to be used for reference and to contribute items to exhibits at both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Little Museum of Dublin. We also contributed to the launch of “The Complete U2” on iTunes. The site has also been used as a reference for many books on U2, and the staff here have directly contributed to some of these publications.
We also like a good giveaway. In the past we’ve given away the U2 branded iPod to a lucky fan. We’ve given away books, and albums, and collectibles. When we helped co-host the kick off party for the Elevation tour in 2001, we took armloads of posters and promotional CDs to the Hard Rock Cafe in Sunrise FL. It was one of the first big events we ever helped out with.
Upcoming plans include some of our staff taking in the shows in London, Glasgow, Paris and Dublin. After that we have a few other plans for the site to improve and hopefully surprise. And definitely looking forward to a third leg and beyond. Looking for more opportunities to hang out together, to work together, and to bounce new ideas off of each other. With a staff that is spread out around the world we try to make the most of opportunities where we all end up in one place.
As the #U2ieTour moves to London, we continue our weekly focus on the fab U2 fan sites that help to make up the wider U2 Community : this week the Zoo spoke to Remy, founder of U2Start.
"U2start was founded in The Netherlands, 9 years ago at age 19 (Ni-ni-ni 19!), about two years after I became a U2 fan. It started out as a personal website where I linked to various U2 material from other fansites, it became something like a startpage for U2 fans (now you know the origin of the name!). I pulled in and linked to news & setlists from other fansites (and still do!) and put U2 materials on there which I personally had an interest in such as U2 audio and video. After a while I also added a user section, which is when other fans started to come in and the site really started to grow. One of my other hobbies was & is programming and I always have used U2start as a playground for new technologies and to develop new features. U2start has now become bigger than lots of the commercial ventures I was involved in. A hobby out of control?"
Changes over the years
"Nine years later U2start has grown into much more than a website. We are a community of over 60,000 fans. Our main aim is to make U2 content available to as many U2 fans is possible, which is also why U2start is available in 10 different languages. Me & Chris (who also joined our crew as a developer) spend lots of our free time developing new features or improving stuff. The most important aspects of our community are our show catalogue, our photo section with 25GB worth of high resolution U2 photos, our very own originals and our community itself ranging from our forums to our social media presence".
Remy on 8 Sept 2015 in Amsterdam, Remy & Chris a day later in Amsterdam and Marta in 2010 in Coimbra
So what about the #U2ieTour? Tell us a little about what you are doing this time around, and who else is involved with the site.
"We love hearing or reading about stories from other fans, which is why we engage a lot with fans online. We have interviewed 97 fans for our fan of the month section and have interviewed a dozen or so for our special #U2ieTour fan interviews. Since the shows in Amsterdam we started doing real interviews with fans immediately after the show using Periscope. We love doing it! It lets us capture the reactions and emotions of the fans and shares these with live viewers who can join with real time questions. Our last chat in Cologne even turned into a mini U2 show with a fan on guitar who had just played with the band!
Keep an eye for us outside the venues".
"The Innocence & Experience tour has shown how U2 have a real desire to connect with their audience and we try to mirror this with our own site. Our forums are still the center of our show coverage. We have nightly setlist parties for each show where fans gather to follow the hows in real time. We have live audio, video and real time setlist updates to bring us closer to the band. All without refreshing the screen. We are adding new features to our site almost weekly and regularly update on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat for some (personal) stories in each city. Keep an eye on us in London as we will also try some new things there".
fans & crew wearing U2start tour shirts at the U2start meet-up in Amsterdam on 11 September 2015, from left to right: Yasmine, Remy, Joyce, Sergio & Chris
"Finally, you may have noticed I switch from “I” to “we” in my story: U2start is more than just one fan. The community is very privileged with a very talented crew with presence in North & South America, all across Europe and Australia. Our crew is relatively new-U2-generation, most of our crew was not even born yet when U2 released The Unforgettable Fire. Let me therefore close with listing our crew members, my great U2 friends Chris (Netherlands), Marta (Portugal), Nataly (Brazil), Matt (Illinois), Gerard (Ireland), Sergio (Spain), Tim (England), Drew (Australia), Nicole (Massachusetts), César (Mexico) & Davide (Italy). Special mention to all our past crew members, our translation team and our members and fans over the years! Thank you. I hand it off to some of the crew members so they can tell something about themselves" :
Chris: "I joined after the Vertigo tour. And fell in love with the band since. At U2start I worked my way into the crew as web developer. The live chat forum feature is the feature I'm the most proud of!"
César: "U2 fan all my life, but I only got into web forums 2 years ago. The U2start community immediately welcomed me and I'm proud to be part of it with fans all over the world. At U2start I contribute with original content, translation, tour coverage and social media"
Gerard: "I am the Irish contingent of the crew (essential on a U2 site right?) 8 years ago I was looking for live U2 and google suggested U2start. What I found was a gold mine of audio material but a diamond of a community that has grown massively over the years with each tour. It is such an easy way to spend your time and this is before crew duties come in to play! My role is to help out with general housekeeping and to make sure all of the forums are ticking over nicely. Bring on the future."
Nicole: "A simple Google search for "U2 fan sites" brought me to U2start in the summer of 2007. I was looking for a place not just to read about the band or follow the tours, but to actually talk with other fans and share our passion. The bootlegs drew me in, but the forums are what made me stay. As I became more involved on the site, I wanted to give something back. During the 360 Tour, I asked Remy if he needed help with anything on the site, and he generously invited me to join the crew. I'm proud to be a part of this community and to share my U2 passion with so many other fans."
Sergio: "My parents are U2 fans since the mid eighties and I was born a year before Achtung Baby came out so I was bound to become a huge fan too. I did, but two essential landmarks took it to a higher level: attending my first show (Vertigo Tour in Madrid, on the day before my 15th birthday) and discovering U2start in November '06. I soon became a crew member and then U2start became an essential part of my life!
Davide: "I was already a U2 fan for 10 years, but in December 2006 I was looking for a "different" fan site. Lucky, U2start was online a few weeks and after another 10 years i'm still here. At U2start I work with translation activity, give help with originals and I really enjoy our football & U2 setlist prediction games!"
Marta: "U2 runs in the family, from my father to my brother and then to me! As a U2 fan and a photography lover, I was looking for U2 photos when I stumbled on U2start around 6 years ago. That's my passion: looking for, organising and sharing amazing photos with others and there's no better place than U2start for that!"
Tim: "I stumbled upon U2start in 2007 while looking for information about past U2 tours. The community warmly welcomed me and was very knowledgable. It's safe to say that I found what I was looking for. In 2012 Remy invited me to join the crew and I've been more than happy to give back to the U2 community in that time. I will attend all six shows in London this week and I'm looking forward to meeting many U2 fans."
What a great way to spend a Friday night. An intimate TV studio in London with U2 opening & closing the live show (and playing a couple of extra songs after it ended... just for us
Huge thanks to the u2comteam and TFI team for sorting the Zoo out with some tickets (right up the front too!), and for looking after us so well while we were there...
Heres what the zootops made of the night (adding our review highlights here as they come in, and you can check out more in the TFI thread too..)
I was one of the very lucky ones who won tickets to see the TFI Friday show. I've been a fan for over 20 years and was over the moon at getting this very exclusive chance to see them up close and personal.
I got there early in the hope of meeting them all as they entered the building and was fortunate enough to meet Adam. The atmosphere was electric, I've been to U2 stadium tours and they have a presence of their own, but to be literally a foot away from Bono as he sang Raised By Wolves was totally awesome, I was dumbstruck and had to keep pinching myself that I was there and it wasn't a dream. (read full review)
It's still all sinking in... Feels a bit like a dream but I've seen video evidence that this actually happened!!!! Anyway here we go:
Friday night I got to participate in something really special... Being part of the TFI Friday audience was a fantastic experience on so many levels. I've been at the front for a lot of gigs (U2 ones included) but this was something different. It was like you were on the stage with them. I thought the atmosphere was electric and the band were on top form. We were treated to four fantastic songs. Loved hearing Raised By Wolves and Out Of Control, which was out of control! (read full review)
Just want to say a massive thankyou U2.Com for last night's Tix to TFI. Had an amazing night in frount of the stage, never been so close to the band before and we'll worth the 35 year wait to touch Bono's hand!!!! Lovely meeting the other Zootopians as well... (read full review)
Seeing U2 anywhere is kind of rare – especially when they tour Europe only twice a decade. Tonight, they perform a 4 song set at Cochrane Studios in central London ; their longest UK appearance in over six years...
There's 200 people here, and I'm near enough to the band to both touch them (which I get excited, and do, at one point), and count the buttons on their shirts if I really want. U2 are so huge, and so used to headlining stadiums, that playing a small room is probably a bit alien. Stripped of the presentation, the video screens, moving walkways, huge claws, lemons, cars, disco balls, and so on, U2 are at heart, a damn good band.... (read full review)
So it was with great excitement late on Thursday night they I discovered that I had won a place in the U2 TFI Friday Ballot for myself and a friend and I was going to have to change a few plans for the next day and get to London.
My friend and I arrived at the studios quite early and after checking off names and ID, we were given purple wristbands and told to come back by 7pm, off to the pub it was then although only for one as I didn’t want to have to find a toilet during a live TV Broadcast. These purple bands gave us priority.. After a bit of confusion from the stewards we were called up early and we went in to the studio and managed to grab spots all around the stage, wow that was a tiny stage. (read full review)
As the band moves this week to Antwerp, Belgium and Koln in Germany, the Zoo spoke to Matt & Ax, the guys behind @U2gigs...
"U2gigs.com is a global effort. At its core it is two people: Matthias in Berlin and André (better known as Axver or Ax) in Melbourne".
Matt handles the technical side and photos/videos, while Ax describes himself as a "setlistorian" who handles setlists, live trivia, and other information.
"We are lucky to enjoy the written contributions of Matkin (aka Matthew) of Toronto and Chris of New York, the videos of Stefan of Bielefeld and Frank of Hannover, the recordings archive run by Marc of Cologne, and assistance with coverage of live shows by Ashley and Travis of Los Angeles".
The site began in 2000 as U2Setlists.com, with elevation-tour.com a spinoff in 2001; Matthias was assisted by Martin from Vienna in creating the database in those early days. Both sites still exist, using data from the U2gigs database. In 2005, Matt created a new website, U2-Vertigo-Tour.com, and Ax came on board. This site changed to a new, permanent name of U2gigs in early 2008. The recordings archive was added in 2009.
"Since my early days building U2 websites in 2000 I wanted to create something unique and outstanding. I have loved U2 since the eighties, as well as computers and photography, so it was only a matter of time before I made something like U2gigs.com. My goal was clear from the beginning: collect accurate setlist data and attract readers by offering something more than just plain setlists. Today we have a comprehensive tour archive with lots of details, photos, videos, and connections between data, and we still add features when ideas come up or are suggested by visitors. Our setlists are also used by other fan sites too.
"Every few years I take the opportunity to travel the world to see U2 and document the concerts through photography and video. It's something I really love and it has taken me to many places I would not have seen otherwise. Highlights so far were the Australia/New Zealand trip for the fifth leg of the Vertigo Tour in 2006 and the 360° South American leg in 2011. This year I'm on the road again to see the Innocence + Experience Tour in Europe and I'm feeding our Twitter page with live coverage, taking photo sets for each concert I see, and adding videos to our YouTube channel."
"I discovered U2gigs back in the elevation-tour.com days in 2003, when I was 16. I thought it was the best U2 setlist database and I spent hours sneaking onto it during boring lessons at school. By early 2005 I had practically committed it to memory and I could not believe it when Matt invited me to join him. Today I take real pride in what we have created.
"I started running live setlists on the main page during Vertigo Tour concerts, something we still do to this day. Since the 360 Tour these have been more prominent on our Twitter account. Matt originally linked to press articles about shows, but during Vertigo's first leg I started writing summaries with trivia and these gradually became larger and more significant.
"We have tried really hard to make the site as comprehensive a resource as possible. Our photo database is massive: it has over 30,000 images. We created the first personal show charts feature in 2006 - it was based on a suggestion by somebody on the Interference fan forums and I'm sorry to say I can't remember who! I created a setlist FAQ that has now become quite detailed. I'm a historian by training so I'm drawn to any hint of new information. In 2005-06 I spent weeks listening to recordings to make our snippet listings more extensive and precise.
"I think I've now heard practically every U2 show that's ever been recorded - the last two tours usually from listening live thanks to the dedication and mobile data of other fans sharing the shows. But that's got nothing on Matt, who has travelled the world to see and film the band. His videos from Australia and New Zealand in 2006 attracted great attention on a nascent YouTube and laid a foundation for the HD videos that began with Barcelona 2009. Matt's videos - and those of Frank and Stefan - are probably our most popular feature now. European legs are a particular thrill, when Matt is able to attend most shows of a leg."
Hola amigos! U2V began 15 years ago (2000) as the result of a meeting between Rafa Gallant and Javi Vara, two U2 fans in Valencia. We organized the first parties and tributes in the area of Valencia as a celebration of the releases of the U2 Go Home DVD (Live from Slane Castle) and The Best Of collection. The passion and friendship inspired by U2 lead a group of friends (Valvi, Mata and Vara) to create our website U2Valencia.com. That was in April 2004, a few months before the release of the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. and so began one of the first Spanish U2 fan clubs, with followers from all over Spain and abroad. U2V also reports and publishes daily news about U2.
The U2V Staff is: Maria José, Fernando, Pere, Javi, José Manuel, Raul, Oscar, Leo, Carlos, Cheli, Angel, Esther, Sergi and Juanjo. On our website, (in Spanish), you can find many different sections about U2 (updated daily, 365 days a year): History, Discography, U2 Staff and Collaborators, A U2 Guide of Dublin: "The Dublin of U2", Bono's different Sunglasses, Vertigo Radio, U2 Tribute bands, U2 Experiences, Forum, Agenda and connection with all our social networks... We also have our own smartphone App for both Android and iOS operating systems. It has just been updated with a new #U2ieTour section and compatibility with the most recent iOS devices.
U2V activities are carried out not only on the internet. We collaborate in events and U2 parties, supporting all U2 tribute bands in Spain. We have organized fan meetings, even our own U2 tribute bands tour called "A Celebration Tour 2010", our 10th anniversary. We have also collaborated with “ONE” Pobreza Campaign in Spain and in other charity events for the fight against Cancer or the Fibromyalgia desease.
In April 2005, Javier Vara had the idea to create a radio program dedicated to U2 called "Vertigo Radio" on Radio 105.7FM Manises. It is one of a few radio programs devoted to U2 in the world, and the only one with more than 10 years broadcasting without interruption. Currently the team of "Vertigo Radio" is formed by Carlos, Oscar, Raul, Leo, Javi, Francisco, Rodrigo and Pilar (from U2Chile). At this time, Vertigo Radio staff has attended all recent U2 tours, and numerous events such as Glastonbury Festival (Uk), Electric Burma and Tosca in Dublin, and other promotional U2 events. They also have been lucky to interview Bono a few times, Bono always makes jokes in the interviews: "vértigo radio, the only radio station that doesn't know how to count!" And "I worked there as a DJ but they fired me!". In Seville while attending the U2360º show (or recently in #U2ieTour Vancouver, New York and Amsterdam), Bono dedicated the song "Vertigo" to the "Spanish mafia": "Spanish Lessons for Vertigo Radio!”.
To celebrate the different U2 concerts in Spain we have organized numerous initiatives: In Vertigo Tour 44,000 red balloons were prepared to celebrate the “The Edge” 44th birthday, in the 360 tour, At the start of the tour in Barcelona we also organized a warm welcome for the band with thousands of orange balloons floating in the Camp Nou Stadium.
For this new tour U2 Innocence + Experience Tour we will give a big welcome to the band with numerous proposals and events in Valencia and Barcelona: we will celebrate different tribute band shows like Spyplane in Valencia Oct the 2th, (Achtung Babies) oct 4th and (Red Rocks) oct 8th in Barcelona.
We also created the website www.u23d.es when the movie was launched in Spain. We opened it again to commemorate the re-screening of the U2 3D movie in theaters all over Spain this month. The schedule of all events is available in our website and in our "Vertigo Radio and U2Valencia" App for iOS and Android.