As the #U2ieTour arrives home to Dublin, in the final U2 FSOTW feature for this year, the Zoo managed to grab a chat with Matt McGee, founder & editor of one of the longest running U2 fan websites - @U2. They were there at the beginning of this tour in Vancouver and many of their team are making the pilgrimage over to Ireland this week to see the 4 shows.
As he was packing his suitcase, we asked Matt to tell us about atu2.com, and what this year has meant to him. In his own words :
"I have a confession: I don't like the term "fan site."
More often than not, when you tell someone that you're involved with a fan site for a music artist, they instantly think you're Chris Farley trying to have a coherent conversation with Paul McCartney. Back in the day, in fact, when we were just beginning to develop relationships with various music industry professionals, I'd go out of my way to explain that I was a stable, married, adult male, not a 15-year-old kid with pimples all over my face...
But confessions aside, it's an honor for all of us involved with @U2 to be chosen "Fan Site Of The Week" as U2 arrives home for four shows in Dublin! It's such a privilege to be able to see the band play in its hometown. I vividly remember seeing the two PopMart concerts at Lansdowne Road Stadium and being overcome with emotion as I heard songs like "I Will Follow" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- songs that were written and recorded just a few miles away.
@U2 turned 20 years old last month. Twenty years is a long time to do anything, much less work on an all-volunteer fan site. But doing @U2 is as much fun as it is work, and that's thanks to three things: U2's ongoing greatness, the wonderful group of fans that have worked on @U2, and the generous readers that have said so many kind things to us and about us over the years. Thank you, all.
@U2 has a team of about three dozen fans that work on various aspects of the website, and many of us are in Dublin for this week's shows. We'll be there, of course, to enjoy this incredible Innocence + Experience tour -- but also to share it with U2 fans around the world who can't be with us this week.
That's always been our purpose: "to bridge the distance between the band and its fans." That's a quote from the 17-page "welcome guide" that we give to U2 fans when they first join our staff. (Yep, we really have such a document and it's really 17 pages. I'm Irish. Brevity has never been a strength.)
When @U2 began 20 years ago, we bridged that distance primarily by posting news sent in to us by fans around the world. The snowball effect kicked in quickly: The more news we posted, the more new readers came to the website. The more new readers came to the website, the more they sent in additional news to be posted. That attracted even more readers, and on and on it went. In the late 1990s, based on reader requests, we started writing original news stories, commentaries and personal essays about U2, the music, concerts and even about being a U2 fan. In 2001, about a week before the tragic attacks of 9/11, we started posting a weekly column called "off the record....".
More than 14 years later, that column is still going strong and is one of our most popular features. Today, @U2 has a library of more than 8,400 articles about U2, including what we believe is the first newspaper article ever written about U2 -- a March 1978 piece recapping the band's victory in the Limerick Civic Week talent contest.
Today, we still take great pride in our news reporting, but we're much more than just a U2 news site. We have a group of fans working on our Tours site, going back and listening to every known live recording of U2 concerts to confirm that our setlists are as accurate as possible. We do a weekly podcast. We have a complete U2 lyrics site, a calendar of upcoming U2-related events and -- lest anyone think we take U2 or ourselves too seriously -- we have 15 years worth of hysterical U2 cartoons in a feature we call Achtoon Baby.
We've also become pretty well known for our live events, which date back to 2003 when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum asked us to co-host an international U2 fan party during their U2 exhibit. We've hosted numerous album- and tour-related parties since then, including one this summer that made headlines around the world when The Edge and Adam crashed our 20th anniversary celebration and played two songs with our special guests that night, the tribute band Unforgettable Fire. It was an amazing and unforgettable night for all of us, and we don't consider it just a gift for @U2 -- it was a gift for the entire online U2 fan community. It was U2 doing their part to bridge the distance between band and fans, and doing it in amazing fashion.
That party, and really this entire year of Innocence + Experience, has been a real blessing for all of us involved with @U2. We were there in Vancouver to watch it begin, and we're thrilled to see it wind down this week in Dublin.