Browsing Tag: atu2


    What Happened with U2, @U2, and Me

    July 11, 2020

    I was afraid this question was coming.

    “Can you put in words why U2 lost their glow?”

    Jesse Jackson asked me that while we were recording an episode of his Bruce Springsteen podcast, Set Lusting Bruce. Mind you, I’d never met or spoken with Jesse before and we were literally 20-30 minutes into our first conversation. In hindsight, I think it’s good that a stranger asked me. Not sure I would’ve answered so candidly if it was a friend or someone I knew.

    For whatever reason, when he asked, I kinda started processing things in my head as quickly as I could and then decided to just start letting the words come out. In the month or so since we recorded that conversation, I couldn’t even remember what all I said. If you want to listen, the podcast conversation is here and he asks the question at about the 15:50 mark; my reply and the subsequent discussion go on for probably 20 minutes.

    To be clear, why anyone — me, you, our co-workers, rich people, poor people, etc. — stops liking a musical artist really doesn’t matter. Why should anyone give a shit why I stopped liking U2? I don’t know. And if you don’t give a shit about that, you shouldn’t be reading this — feel free to bail right now. Wouldn’t blame you at all. But it’s something U2 fans have asked me on many occasions and their interest sort of fed my interest.

    What happened? It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out since … it happened. I’ve settled on 3 main factors.

    1) I Changed

    This is first here because it’s the most important piece of the puzzle. It’s not what I talked about first when chatting with Jesse, but I should’ve. Later in this essay, I’m gonna say things that might sound like I’m blaming the band, other people, events, etc., for me losing interest in U2, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that I changed dramatically over the past few years.

    The death of my parents (Dad in 2015 and Mom in 2017) impacted me more than I ever expected they would. I was a ship without a rudder. I didn’t know it at the time, but I went into situational depression — it’s when you struggle to adjust to a traumatic event(s) in your life. It generally lasts shorter than clinical depression.

    Adding to that was an extreme form of anxiety I was dealing with on the subject of death. The thought of dying someday was mentally paralyzing me. It began probably 10-15 years ago and was getting worse every year. Around the time all this was going on, there were days when I couldn’t work, couldn’t do anything, and couldn’t think about anything else. I was just stuck inside my head, fearing death.

    In short, my mental health was in bad shape for a period of a couple of years. If you want the longer version of this aspect of the story, see my post Standing in the darkness, laughing with my heel on its throat.

    2) U2 Fan Problems & @U2 Problems

    Starting, running, and being part of @U2 is one of the great joys and accomplishments of my life. But my last few years doing it were pretty miserable, and those were the same years that I was dealing with the personal/mental health issues I mentioned above.

    Confession: I did an awful job of running the site the last 5-6 years I was running things. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 dozen people working on the site, depending on various comings and goings. As leader, I failed to take the necessary steps to keep the team active, moving ahead toward common goals, and working together in harmony.

    We had people on staff who weren’t contributing. And that made the ones who were contributing angry and frustrated. We tried to implement minimum contribution levels, but I didn’t have the will to follow through on making those stick.

    Cliques had formed over the years and there was a lot of snark and sniping towards one another. We tried to bring on new staffers a couple times, but they usually only lasted a couple months with us because the environment wasn’t welcoming to newcomers. Not everyone on the team was involved in this, but as I learned in the month or so after I told them I was leaving — when they suddenly had to figure out who would be in charge — it was a lot more prevalent than I knew. We were much more divided than I thought, and that’s a failure on my part as leader.

    In fact, I wasn’t leading. I had buried myself in the massive redesign project that ran for ~2 years. I was letting the group run itself, and that’s usually a recipe for problems. I’d hear complaints every now and then about someone’s behavior, but I usually brushed those aside either because it was about someone I personally liked or it was something I just didn’t want to deal with.

    All of that’s on me. I accept responsibility for it. And it all contributed to the bigger picture — what was supposed to be a fun and joyful distraction had become something I dreaded. Like so many other things going on around me, it had become mentally and emotionally draining.

    We did have some enjoyable conversations and discussions as a team, but even those often turned negative, at least for me. During the Joshua Tree Tour in 2017, when I talked about not liking how heavy the show was on politics, some on the staff started mansplaining and womansplaining to me about how U2’s always been political. They questioned my U2 fandom for having an opinion like that. (I have a half-finished draft of a blog post here on my personal site offering proof that U2 shows were never as political as they were on that tour and the one that followed; maybe I’ll finish it someday and publish.)

    And topping all of the struggles I was having with being part of @U2 was that, in 2018 when I told the group that I was having some personal struggles, that I wasn’t myself, and that I had found a new favorite band, a frequent response that I heard was along the lines of, “It’s a phase. You’ll get over it.” (Not from everyone, mind you — there was some genuine support and care, and that meant a lot to me.) But I’m not gonna lie: It hurt to see some friends react that way when I was acting differently and said I wasn’t in a good place. Especially since these were friends who often championed mental health issues on Facebook and Twitter.

    Making matters worse was what was going on in U2 fandom itself.

    Fan forums and Facebook groups were filled with fans hating on one another over politics, over U2 stuff, over anything and everything. I had to turn off my own account in the @U2 Forum because moderating it — hell, just reading it — had become unbearable.

    Fan site relations became a train wreck. To be fair, we had good relations with a couple other sites, but as social media grew over the past 10 years or so, the sense of cooperation that used to exist between all fan sites got replaced by a sense of competition. Frankly, I think with a couple other sites, it seemed like the relationships we had got much worse after half the band showed up at @U2’s 20th anniversary party. We’d get angry emails and social media messages on a pretty regular basis that I felt were completely unwarranted. I heard what other fan sites were saying about @U2 to the band’s associates. I thought it was all childish, like we were back in 5th grade.

    We’d also get angry messages from @U2 readers who would demand that we cover the band differently. Half of them were pissed at us for being too mean to U2/Live Nation (about the constant ticket/fan club problems, or the constant touring of North America and Europe and ignoring the rest of the world) and the other half were pissed at us for being too nice. I always tried to be nice and respectful when readers would email with complaints like that, but it got to the point where I snarkily started offering them refunds if they didn’t like the work we’d been doing for 20 years for free.

    There’s always been a sense of entitlement among some hard-core U2 fans, and it really seemed to get worse in the past 5-10 years. It extended to getting concert tickets, forming GA lines, getting on stage with the band, and lots of other aspects of being a fan. The hard-core, uber U2 fan community wasn’t something I wanted to be part of anymore.

    And remember, while all this was going on, I was struggling with the death of my parents and other mental health issues. I remember often wanting to tell other fans to get over themselves, count their blessings, remember that life is short, and be grateful that U2 was still an active band. In fact, I tried to say some of that in my farewell message on @U2.

    3) U2 Problems

    With all that going on, I really wanted to turn to U2 and let the music right all the wrongs and lift me up when I was down. But I couldn’t do that.

    Their last album, Songs Of Experience, just didn’t click for me. There were a few songs I liked in the early days/weeks/months — part of the rush and excitement of finally getting new music from your favorite band. But none of it had any sticking power. If I had to rank all their albums today, it’d be at the bottom of my list.

    Worse, the live shows weren’t clicking for me, either. As I mentioned above, it was way too over-the-top political. And I don’t mean that in an I-disagree-with-what-they’re-saying way — I didn’t vote for our current president and think he’s an awful president (and worse human being). I mean it in the sense of … I was getting barraged 24/7 by politics, to the point where I had to rethink my entire approach to social media a couple years ago. I needed something else from U2 — an escape, something to take me away from all the B.S. going on in the real world. Instead, they hit me over the head with it for 3 hours during every show I saw on both the Joshua Tree 2017 tour and the Songs of Experience tour in 2018.

    On top of all that was the non-music side of things. U2’s fan club has been awful for years and every time there’s a ticket pre-sale, it’s an absolute shitshow. The Joshua Tree 2017 tour pre-sale was so bad that fan sites around the world came together to call for changes in an open letter to the band and management. Guy Oseary, the band’s manager, replied with some less-than-pleasing explanations. But worse than all that, he promised to keep an “open line of communication” with fans to make sure things went better next time there was a pre-sale. We never heard from him again. (At least not before I left @U2 in June 2019.)

    Between all that, plus the music and tours not clicking for me, it was hard to keep being a U2 fan.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. In my decades of U2 fandom, I always said that the band should follow its own muse, and it’s our job as fans to either follow along or not. We don’t get to tell them what to do … and that’s not what I’m suggesting here. I’ve always said U2 should do what it wants. That’s what they did. And I chose to not go along with them anymore.

    Final Thoughts

    Last summer, about a week before I left @U2, I was hanging out with some of my “U2 friends” and it was kinda difficult when they were having these deep convos about the band. It was the kind of stuff I’d have loved to talk about in the past, but I did everything I could to ignore them and focus on something else. I had stopped listening to U2 about a week earlier — May 23, 2019, was the last time I intentionally heard a U2 song.

    It’s been more than a year and I’m still trying to avoid U2. I don’t know when that’s going to change. I’ve come to realize that it’s a mental health thing. All of the stuff I’ve described above happened together over the course of a few years and was a key driver in a lot of sadness and depression. As I told Jesse on his Springsteen podcast, my fear is that listening to U2 again will re-open that door and bring back a lot of those feelings that I’ve managed to put behind me. I don’t want any of that in front of me again.

    While all of that was going on, I discovered Gang of Youths. I wasn’t really looking for a new band, but they had songs that filled my needs the way U2 used to. They pretty quickly became my favorite band, and still are.

    As I said on Twitter several months ago, being a Gang of Youths fan is better for my mental health than being a U2 fan was. And that’s really the best explanation for the “what happened with you and U2” question.

    So to all who’ve asked, I hope that makes sense. I’m grateful for your questions; it’s helped me to sort things out and make sense of something I didn’t fully understand as it was happening.

    Thank you.


    My U2 Fandom Captured In A Painting

    August 30, 2015

    (click for larger version)
    (click for larger version)

    It’s hard to imagine that someone could capture my U2 fandom (and other fandoms) in one painting, but that’s exactly what my friend Kelly Eddington managed to do.

    What you see above is a gift given to me by the @U2 crew just moments before our 20th anniversary party began last month in New York City. I’m not quite certain how it all happened. I gather that Sherry Lawrence organized the effort, that the staff pitched in financially to reimburse Kelly for her time and effort, and that she did the amazing work in recreating what’s really close to being a mini version of my home office! I know that, at one point, my wife had to quietly come in to my office and take photos to be sent along to Kelly. All of this was done in complete secrecy and I had no idea anything like this was in the works until the party.

    The detail that Kelly managed to include in this painting is beyong amazing. The upper right is a replica of a concert poster from what was my first U2 concert — April 24, 1985 in Philadelphia. To the left is a Pepperdine mini-pennant — that’s my alma mater. Below that is my book, U2 – A Diary. The laptop on the desk has the @U2 home page showing on the screen, and below is my favorite @U2 staff shirt (the magical red one) and a Seahawks “12” t-shirt, too. You may need to click the image to see some of the intricate detail — like the @ symbol and my signature “m2” that are painted on the lenses of the Fly Shades on the shelf.

    Kelly: Thank you so much. I love it. It’s perfect. Beautiful. Stunning. And it’s hanging on my office wall, in clear view as I sit and work at my desk.

    Sherry: I don’t know where you get these crazy ideas, and I certainly don’t feel like I deserve any special gifts from the team that has given me so much already, but thank you.

    @U2 folks: You guys are such a blessing in my life, particularly in the past six months when I’ve been fighting through some difficult times. Thank you for making this possible. I love working and playing with you on all the @U2 stuff we get to do. You guys are the best.

    Featured, Music

    The Birth of @U2 – 15 Years Ago Today

    February 12, 2012

    By definition, @U2 was born on October 23, 1995. That’s the day we use when celebrating the site’s birthday, and we’ve had a couple pretty good parties over the years (even on different dates).

    October 23, 1995 is the day I put my first website online — “Matt’s Mostly U2 Music Page.” It was a site dedicated to U2 and a couple other bands I liked at the time, but it was about 75% U2 content. The header image looked like this:


    But in another sense, @U2 was kinda born 15 years ago today: February 12, 1997.

    That’s the day that U2 announced its PopMart Tour from inside a K-Mart store in Manhattan. And it’s the day that the 16-month-old website really became a legitimate and popular online source of U2 news. On that day, I knew that it was going to be something bigger than a normal hobby site.

    Before the Announcement

    In the days and weeks leading up to the tour announcement, there was incredible buzz on Wire — the major U2 listserv of the day — and on other U2 communities like CompuServe and AOL. Fans were looking for any bits of news they could find, which mostly amounted to rumors.

    I recall posting articles and bits of information on the website, and then sending out the link to the various online communities … and the hit counter always went up when I did that. (Yes, I said “hit counter.”) Now, I’d been posting U2 news on the site since the beginning, but with the tour approaching, any little nugget of info became breaking news and drew a lot of traffic.

    So, as the 12th approached — and it had been known in advance that U2 would be announcing the tour on this date — I had to think about how @U2 was going to cover the news.

    1996I was the Sports Director for KEPR-TV at the time — the local CBS affiliate here in Tri-Cities, WA. I did the sports weeknights at 6 pm and 11 pm and was mostly a one-man department. That meant getting sick or taking a day off was a real pain in the arse for the station. They’d have to pull someone else away from their regular tasks to do sports.

    Nonetheless, as the 12th approached, I decided that I was going to play hooky. I didn’t think I had much choice, actually. There were a lot of U2 fans online that would be visiting the website looking for news, and I felt more obligated to report that than to report the day’s local sports.

    To this day, it still amazes me that I decided to call in sick from my job to update a website with U2 news. Did I really do that? Yep.

    The Announcement

    I called in sick that morning, and then turned on my TV and fired up the computer. I think it was an Apple Performa 450 at the time, and I might’ve had a 14.4 or 33.6 modem. Good times.

    My memory is shaky, but I vaguely recall that the announcement would begin at Noon at K-Mart — or 9 am my time. MTV wasn’t airing it live, as I recall, but they’d certainly report it pretty quickly in those twice-an-hour MTV News updates hosted by Kurt Loder (or whomever it was then).

    But there was a huge problem: we didn’t get MTV live in those days. It was delayed; even if MTV News had the story by 12:30 pm ET, I wouldn’t see it until 12:30 pm PT … three hours after the fact!

    So, TV was pretty useless. But there were numerous music news websites at the time — All Star Magazine, Addicted To Noise, JAM Showbiz (which still exists) and others. MTV even had a website then, as did a few major news publications. Google didn’t exist yet, but there was Yahoo and a few other search engines that I’m sure I used … probably Excite, Northern Light and others.

    I kept an eye on all the music news sites I could find, and all the U2 forums/communities/mailing lists. I must’ve hit refresh 200 times that morning. I don’t know where I first found the tour news, but I remember posting a couple shorter bits of info and then …. BAM! …. MTV News had posted the entire list of dates and details online. They also posted some video from the news conference, and I had software on my Performa that made it easy to do screenshots, so I took a few of those. I posted the news, emailed the mailing lists, notified the online communities and the rest is history, as the saying goes.

    You can still, to this day, see the original MTV News story (and my screenshot) on @U2. (Yes, an early form of content scraping! Remind me later to write a post on that topic.)

    The Aftermath

    Even though I’d been posting news for ages, getting the full list of PopMart tour dates online really established @U2 as one of … maybe THE … go-to sites for U2 news online. I recall the hit counter was off the charts that day, and for several days afterward. And it never dropped back down.

    A couple weeks later, Triple J radio in Australia had me on-air to talk about the tour news. And then they did it again in April; they called after the first concert in Las Vegas so that I could give a live report/review to their listeners. (They had me on again in early 1998, right before the tour arrived in Australia.)

    Later in 1997, Ireland’s Hot Press magazine mentioned @U2 in one article and also published a guest article that I sent in to preview the PopMart shows coming to Dublin. (You can read that on @U2, too.)

    And, maybe the most important result of all was that, as more people visited the site and sent in news to share with other fans, I was able to start growing out a staff. For a while, it was just me and one other person posting news. Then it was 4-5 people. Then 8-10. Then a couple dozen. And today, we have about 40 people involved in one way or another. All volunteers, me included. It blows my mind.

    So, yeah. February 12th will probably always have a special place in my heart and mind. It’s not @U2’s formal birthday, but it’s the day that it started to become what it is today. Thanks, PopMart.



    U2 Fans FTW

    October 6, 2009

    Sometimes I feel like I lead two different lives. There’s my SEO/marketing life … and there’s my U2 life. The first life is the one that puts food on the table, and it’s a life I like. But this weekend reminded me that the second life is the one I love, and probably couldn’t live without.

    For some reason, surrounding myself with fellow U2 fans that share the same deep passion and curiosity about this band renews me like nothing else. It happened in 2003 when @U2 co-presented an international U2 fan event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it happened again this weekend at the first U2 academic conference. (lots of photos here)

    It helped that I also saw one of the best U2 concerts of my life Saturday night in Raleigh, right in the middle of the conference … and that @U2 hosted a super-fun post-conference event Sunday night in which I got to host a Q&A chat for nearly an hour with my favorite journalist, Neil McCormick.

    But ultimately, it’s being around the U2 fans that wins the day for me. Sure, there are a few bad eggs in every group. But the vast majority of U2 fans I’ve met are special people. They make my U2 life all the better. If any of them are reading this, thank you.

    I’ll probably have some more U2 stuff to write about in the near future. Lots of stuff going through my mind and heart at the moment.


    Technology is amazing

    June 30, 2009

    It’s 11:03 pm PDT, and I’ve spent the last 90 minutes listening to a U2 concert that ended about eight hours ago: fan-taped, uploaded, and posted online. U2 is cool with this. The audio is on Kevin’s site. He has lots of bandwidth.

    I don’t normally listen to bootlegs but this is the opening concert of the tour. Right now, I’m wrapping up a 14-hour day that I spent updating two web sites, posting the setlist live as it happened on Twitter, digging through YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic, Yfrog, and any other source possible for photos and video, sending out emails to U2 fan mailing lists, and so forth. You can see the results on and @U2 (scroll down through “Bits & Bytes” updates). And I’m not tooting my own horn; I’m tooting my friends and co-workers horns — the @U2/ crew was amazing today — posting the setlist in @U2’s forum, spreading the word on Twitter, sending me stuff they found first, and so much more.

    All of this made possible by technology that, if I stop to think about it, is mind-blowing. This was my humble setup today:


    Probably hard to see, but on the main monitor there I have Tweetie open and a web browser. On the web browser I’m watching live / almost-live concert video streamed by fans via Srsly. There were four fans (that I know of) sending video right from Barcelona to my office. That’s frakkin’ crazy. And then I take what I saw and heard and post it on Twitter and on, and Lisa Z. (from @U2) posts it in the @U2 forum … and tens of thousands of U2 fans know what’s going on immediately. Bono says something, it’s online a minute later (if that). At the same time, I’m watching Twitter and dozens, maybe hundreds of fans inside the stadium are also posting updates. Retweet that stuff, and the world knows.

    In 1997, my first “online U2 tour,” we would rush to the hotel room or our house after the show and post the setlist on the web and send it to the U2 fan mailing lists. You’d get the news within a couple hours after the show, maybe the next morning in the worst case scenario. It was amazing.

    In 2001, friends inside the arenas would call and you’d get to listen to a few minutes of the show (and the audio was terrible, frankly), then they’d call again on the way out of the arena and recite the setlist. Fans would know what happened within 15-30 minutes of the end of the show. It was amazing.

    In 2005, friends inside the arena called and you could listen to the whole show, and the audio was actually listenable. On opening night, three friends at the show called me, Michael, and Scott separately so we could hear. Then the three of us not at the show hopped on AIM together and chatted together about what we heard over the three separate phone lines. It was amazing – one of the most fun nights of my U2 fan life. You could pretty much post the setlist as it happened — literally within seconds of a song starting, it was on But you had to wait until the next day for audio and/or video.

    And today, live video (and audio) from inside the stadium as the show is going on. Photos all over Twitter and Flickr during the show. Thousands of fans giving and getting the scoop on every detail. The setlist posted as it happened, and broadcast to tens of thousands of fans around the world.

    During the concert today, Sean pulled up a chair and sat next to me so he could watch everything — the videos, the pix, the live updates. I know I was more amazed by what was going on because I remember what it was like years ago. I hope I explained it well enough that he could appreciate it, too. I imagine someday, 10 years from now perhaps, he’ll be updating some web site (will they still exist then?) with links to every fan’s personal video/audio/photo web channel (we’ll all have them for our daily lifestreaming) and maybe he’ll look back and remember what it was like “in the old days” when he sat next to his dad to experience a U2 concert that was happening 5,407 miles away, but seemed like it was right in our hometown.

    Technology is amazing.


    Ban the AP? I did that 12 years ago

    June 16, 2008

    There’s a firestorm happening online over an AP decision that bloggers aren’t even allowed to quote AP stories. (What a joke!) Seems the AP has told the Drudge Report to stop excerpting brief passages of AP stories … even though there are Fair Use laws that specifically allow such excerpting.

    You can guess how bloggers have reacted to this: by banning the AP.

    Ha! This is a serious case of deja vu for me. Twelve years ago, when @U2 was less than a year old, some guy from the AP emailed me out of the blue. He demanded that I remove the two AP articles that I had posted in full on the site. Fair enough, that was his legal right. I was doing more than excerpting; I was reproducing the full articles.

    But I did the same thing: banned the AP. For 12 years, we’ve not posted AP stories on the web site. (We actually made one exception when we found that the only article about Adam Clayton’s marijuana arrest came from the AP. So we have one AP article in our database of 5,000+ articles.)

    Can’t say I’m surprised at all by the AP’s shortsightedness. It goes back a loooong time. Meanwhile, other news organizations are smart enough now to email us to make sure we know about their latest U2 article. They want us to repost their material because it gets their name in front of thousands of eyeballs. A typical news article on @U2 will get several thousand pageviews per month. That’s pretty good exposure if you ask me. Just don’t tell the AP; they wouldn’t understand.