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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019
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The ties that bind: Here's how Bruce superfans get their front row spots

An ultra-democratic system of lists and roll calls means true fans always get the places they deserve.

AS NUMBERS 88 through 91 strolled into town to see a few sights, numbers 126 and 127 decided to stay a little more local – only risking a short walk to Dorset Street to grab some breakfast.

Number 16, his well-stocked rucksack bulging with sandwiches and snacks for the day, didn’t even need to go that far for provisions. He wouldn’t be drinking much liquid from this afternoon either, he explained as he stopped to chat to TheJournal.ie. 

Why take any unnecessary risks if you’re planning to spend up to four hours rooted to one spot later that day, seeking to savour every moment?

The ties that bind 

James Coughlan (below) was just one of hundreds of Bruce Springsteen fans who spent days returning again and again to the Croke Park area for fan-organised ‘roll calls’. It’s all part of a system to make sure true Bruce fans get spots at the front row in the ‘pit’ area ahead of this weekend’s concerts.

Others (numbers 88-91, for instance) who spoke to us yesterday morning had travelled from as far away as Denmark and Germany, especially for last night’s gig.

James and his wife hadn’t had quite such an arduous journey – but they’d travelled up from Kilrush in Clare on Tuesday, they said.

The roll-call and numbering system is organised in cooperation with the promoters, the veteran concert-goer explained. Queueing isn’t allowed around the stadium area – and this solution keeps the both the fans and the Croke Park residents more than happy.

“What happens is the person who is here first starts the list, they’re number one.”

So let’s say for example James starts the list, James is number one.

“So we’ll have roll-calls then every four hours. You must turn up to that roll call every four hours – you can’t just put your name on the list and go away for four days and come back.

If you’re not here for that roll call you’re ticked off the list – no matter whether you’re number one or number one thousand.

Much like Bruce himself – who hit the campaign trail with Barack Obama during both of his White House bids – the system is nothing if not democratic.

Thousands more die-hard fans were still flying in from abroad hoping to get pit places for Sunday’s concert, James explained. As a result people with early numbers for the Friday show, out for respect for their fellow travellers, wouldn’t be putting their names on the list for Sunday until after the first gig.

Last call 

Roll-calls were held several times a day between Tuesday and Thursday, the Clare man explained. Yesterday’s final check was at midday.

After that, everyone who turns up at 12 o’clock is in line and in their position to be inside.

Spain Bruce Springsteen Source: Associated Press

James, in fact, was one of the few fans we spoke to yesterday morning who had actually met the man himself.

The Kilrush barber hit the headlines in 2013 after he presented the Boss with an oversized Irish passport on stage at Limerick’s Thomond Park.

He was shocked to get a phone-call from an unknown number after the show. “This is the guy you gave the passport to,” a familiar voice on the other end of the line said.

James and his wife were invited for a drink with the star.

Now, among Bruce fans, he’s known as “the passport guy”.

Source: Caroline Murphy/YouTube

The time of my life 

Elsewhere on Jones’s Road, Steffie, from Germany (number four-hundred and something) described Springsteen’s music as “my big passion”. She had seen him 47 times, she said – and travelled over specially for last evening’s show.

Two Danish couples also made the journey over earlier this week.

“I especially like the E Street band,” said Henrik (both of the men were Henriks, neither of the women were).

He’s just a nice guy and a working class hero.

Finally, Noreen and Pat, from Tralee, were thrilled to get pit numbers in the early hundreds.

Noreen had seen the Boss so many times she’d lost count, she said – and has treasured memories of sitting on a car bonnet outside a stadium in California as the E Street Band played a sold-out show in 1985.

But what brings her back again and again?

And is it worth taking days out of your life, just for the sake of a place up front?

“But you’re in the pit and close to Bruce,” comes the Kerrywoman’s incredulous response.

I’ve the best time of my life in that pit.

Read: Quiz: How much do you know about Bruce Springsteen?

Read: Newcomers beware – Bruce Springsteen is very, very punctual

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