~ Posted by James Manning, December 14th 2012
In 1981 Kraftwerk released "Computer World", an album about the rise of technology and its potential to make our lives easier and more productive. There was a certain irony, then, at 7.30am on Wednesday morning when British fans fired up their home computers, went to the Tate’s website, and were confronted by an error page: the servers had crashed.
The fans had been hoping to buy tickets to Kraftwerk’s series of concerts at the Tate Modern in February. Over the course of eight nights, they will play eight of their classic albums in full, in the awe-inspiring Turbine Hall. (It’s an appropriate venue since Kraftwerk is the German for "power station" and Tate Modern, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, served precisely that purpose for 30-odd years.) Perhaps underestimating Kraftwerk’s enduring popularity, the Tate hadn’t realised that their website wouldn’t be able to deal with the demand for tickets, and by 7.32 they were advising people to use the telephone.
So I and hundreds of others spent the morning dialling and redialling the Tate's ticket line. A few people successfully got through; others took to Twitter to vent their frustration: @memotv reported, "just passed 400th auto-redial for @tate #kraftwerk. Still no dialtone." Then #kraftwerk started trending, and non-fans started making unflattering comparisons between Kraftwerk’s music and the "engaged" tone that the ticket-hunters were experiencing.
At lunchtime, I was on the point of giving up when I heard that Tate Modern had started selling tickets in person—something they had said they wouldn’t do, but had turned to in desperation midway through the morning. By now it was a race against time, since the most popular performances, including my favourite album "Trans-Europe Express", had sold out. I caught the tube to St Paul’s and ran over the Millennium Bridge towards Tate Modern’s 100-metre tower, which stood out against the grey sky like a middle finger raised at the fans jamming the telephone lines. Joining a grumbling queue at the ticket desk, I heard that it would be a two-hour wait—but that tickets were also on sale at Tate Britain, down the river at Millbank.
Twenty-five minutes later, sweating after a jog from Pimlico tube, I arrived at Tate Britain’s queue-free ticket desk. Three tickets to "Autobahn", £180—done. I was lucky. The shows sold out an excruciating 10 hours after tickets had gone on sale—a whole day which, for many Kraftwerk fans, painfully recalled the lyrics to the band’s 1986 track "Telephone Call": “I give you my affection and I give you my time / Trying to get a connection on the telephone line."