Kate Bush: We need to check that you are human

From Cloudbusting to Captcha crunching: how the chase for Kate Bush tickets made us pine for days spent queuing in the cold.

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“I still dream of block 10, row C, I wake up cryin’…”

Oh how we hoped something good was gonna happen but for Kate Bush fans Friday morning’s ticket rush was an experience to chill the blood, the two laptops, the four phones, the network of friends with multiple browser tabs and (for anyone with any luck at all) the wallet.

When she announced her live comeback a week ago, to the glee, astonishment and subsequent terror of music fans all over the world, little did Kate Bush realise the digital mayhem she was unleashing.

The 55-year-old singer last played a run of gigs in 1979 when the word “queue” was probably about as terrifying as it got for fans hoping to see her live. Back then a ticket in the stalls would set you back no more than a tenner and a pint of beer before the show was 40p. Fans had just endured the strikes and bleak three-day weeks of the winter of discontent. On the radio video was killing the radio star and mobile phones or anything close to the worldwide web were the stuff of Dr Who.

Never be mine

Roll forward a few decades, in fact my exact lifetime (yes, 35 years ago Kate was suspended in the air in a catsuit, I was on infant suspension in a romper suit) and the technological set-up in my Kate Bush nerve centre (my living room at 9.30am this morning, see above) would rival 1979’s Nasa mission control.

Naturally to bolster my chances of success I spent the week doing sensible modern things like: posting effigies of Kate on Facebook (“We have the Never For Ever cover framed in our loo, surely that gets me a ticket?”), playing old seven inches obsessively (Them Heavy People, heavy rotation) in semi-prayer mode and, as things got more panicky mid-week, a self-imposed Twitter block on saying anything to do with these gigs in the (deluded) hope that “everyone else would forget”. My lowest moment was actively cursing BBC 6 Music for last Sunday’s three-hour Kate Bush special. “Stop reminding everyone!” I mumbled at the radio, deranged, as the station pumped out the playlist of my dreams.
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Kate Bush on stage in 1979, when Cloudbusting didn’t refer to excessive server requests

Love and anger

So from the fear of having to queue to the more chilling digital lexicon of modern music fandom.

“You are being held in a waiting area”

“You have 3.25 minutes to complete your order”

“We just need to check you are human”

Captcha busting we were not (the horrid scrambled letters security system that no human gets right first time).

There’s a distinct language in the wave of disappointment that follows too.

“I had four tickets in my basket and it timed out! I hate you [insert name of website/browser]!”

“*How* much on Viagogo?”

Then there’s the ubiquitous:

“Kate Bush ticket #fail”

The creepy:

“I’ll kill anyone who got tickets”

And the tragic:

“Can’t stop crying #firstworldproblems #katebush”

Let’s agree we would all rather swap our devices and wi-fi connections to get up very early and queue eagerly in the cold, singing a bit, maybe wearing a Kate Bush flappy dress.

Alas, the singer’s run at the Hammersmith Apollo, starting in late August and stretching into early October, sold out in the time it takes to play Wuthering Heights three-and-a-half times.

That’s 22 nights in a venue which can hold 3,600 punters. Eighty-thousand tickets were snapped up between Wednesday’s fan club presales and this morning’s 15 minutes of multi-tab browser refreshing hell. And some of those tickets and “hospitality packages” (warm wine! nowhere near my friends!) cost upwards of £300.


The only comparable event, in terms of ticket demand, is probably Glastonbury. And more than twice as many people get to go. There’s a thought, Kate.

A version of this blog first appeared at channel4.com/news

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