I had heard it was bad. I’d heard the jokes about it being for fachos (rich conversatives). I had heard it was a family event. I knew it was expensive. I knew there would be pop music. Despite all this, the reason I went was to see Bomba Estereo. That made it worth it for me. But for the following reasons, it will be my last time in Lollapalooza Chile.
The crowd sucked
I got to Bomba Estereo early and made my way up to the third row of people, front and center. I have learned through experience that those upfront have the most fun at shows. If you are so far back that you cannot even see the band, what is the point of going to the concert? You can just stay at home if all you want to do is listen. Anyways, as the show begins I notice that I am surrounded by adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 18. When the band took the stage they didn’t just cheer but instead screamed as if it were a Justin Bieber concert.
Throughout the show, they shouted out the names of songs they wanted to hear, including “Soy Yo”, “Fiesta” and “Fuego”. Is it a coincidence that these are the most played songs on YouTube? (After “Somos Dos” which Bomba Estereo played at the beginning). Maybe this comes across as too hipster: but if your interaction with a band’s music is just listening their top-played on YouTube, you are’t a real fan. Some of these girls then screamed their heads off, in that ear-splitting way that only adolescent girls can, when they “swore” that Liliana looked them in the eyes. I get that it probably was a cool moment but that sort of obsessive fanhood is obnoxious to others around you.
This was the third time that I had seen Bomba Estereo live and it was the performance where I felt the least connection between the crowd and the band. I cannot help but think these “fans” had something to do with it. I don’t believe these are the people Bomba really enjoys playing for.
No beer? Are you kidding?
Shortly after arriving, I got thirsty. It was warm out and so naturally I developed a hankering for a cold beer. While my girlfriend went to the bathroom, I set out to look for a cold, frosty beverage to purchase. As I went from food stand to food stand, my desperation began to increase. I could not find any. I finally stopped and asked someone working at the event where I could buy a beer. It was then that I was informed that this was only available in the VIP area.
I will begin by saying that of course it is my responsibility to research these things at the moment of purchasing tickets. This was not a policy that they decided at the last minute so if I had done my homework I would not have been surprised by the situation. But seriously, forgive me if I assumed that there would be beer for sale in a day long music festival with 100,000 people. With regards to beer being available only to those with a VIP ticket, I find it ridiculous to have to pay more for the privilege to then pay again for beer! You literally have to pay to pay. And you already have to pay a lot just to get into the festival. But in the end that is what these festivals are about: segregating people according to their socio-economic class. These are not hippy, Woodstock we-are-one festivals. These are massive corporate events meant to maximize revenue.
There was some really shit music
There were enough bands on the ticket that interested me for me to go. Besides Bomba Estereo, I also wanted to see The XX and Metallica. Neither are my favorite bands, but I knew some songs from the former and the latter are true legends of contemporary music. There was a time during the day, however, when I did not know any of the band names. Usually at festivals, this is a time for me to explore and discover new music. I have gotten to know a lot of bands by just walking around and listening to what is being played on the different stages. On the schedule I saw that a DJ named “Marshmello” was going to play. “Why not?” I thought. I wanted to see who the hell would name themselves after the gelatinous sugary snack.
What I saw was seriously shocking and beyond my imagination. I arrived to the arena before he had come out and there were a good number of people waiting for him. As it got closer to show time, the entire arena filled: the aisles, the exits, the hallways. It was full to capacity. Then a man with a marshmallow on his head took the stage and everyone went wild. He proceeded to play a series of pop songs remixed into dub-step versions. Honest to god, the music was total trash but the people were loving it. He had tens of thousands of adolescents dancing like crazy, forming mosh pits and jumping all around.
The visuals were actually quite impressive. They consisted of psychedelic time-warps with marshmallows swirling around infinite blackholes. It was a perfect representation of post-modernists culture: the absurd taken to the extreme and everybody loving it. Personally, however, I couldn’t stand it nor take it seriously. As I was leaving the arena, I encountered a human wave of people at the point of tramping or asphyxiating one another and some people were literally throwing punches to try to get in. I felt like I was in an episode of Black Mirror.
Lollapalooza wasn’t that bad of experience overall, though. I still had fun and there still was a lot of good music despite the bad. The decorations they had set up were cool and the food was not bad either. But when I look at the big picture and think about how much they charge to be there, it really is not worth it. There are much better festivals out there, even here in Chile.