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Lollapalooza Argentina: The Right Way to Do a Festival

By | [email protected] | April 4, 2014 3:28pm

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I want to give Argentina a big round of applause for the relatively quilombo-free festival experience I had this past Tuesday, April 1. I have been to a few since I relocated to Buenos Aires, the Pepsi Music Fest last year and the last two Creamfields, and Lollapalooza blew all previous logistical experiences out of the water. The breadth and depth of acts at Lollapalooza Argentina was notable as well. The original Lollapalooza held annually in Chicago, Illinois is focused on indie rock. The same theme pervaded Argentina’s version, but with a heavy smear of electronic, punk, dub reggae, folk, pop, and hard rock on top.

Last year’s Creamfields served as an example of how the entrance process to a festival should NOT proceed. My friends and I went through, more or less, nine rounds of security and ticket checks, which were arranged in labyrinth form surrounding the grounds. I guess the plus side of that was that we felt like we had accomplished something once we reached the entrance. Did I mention we waited in line for almost two hours?

Those of us that call this lovely city our home know just how impressive Argentines’ line formation and maintenance skills are. If it was an Olympic sport, they would take home gold without fail.

They are professionals when it comes to forming a line and remaining in one.

Professionals at their craft, Argentines consider the line a sacred thing that deserves endless respect.

So I suppose this was just another day in the life of for them, but every bit of gringo gab I heard that night included a lengthy whine session about the difficulty of getting in.

On the contrary, entering Lollapalooza was quick and reasonable. I didn’t wait in line for any amenity for more than 5 minutes. To be honest, I was blown away at the ease and cleanliness of almost everything. I’m still not ready to whip out an A+ quite yet, but the juxtaposition of Lollapalooza to my previous experiences begs for nothing less than an A. Props to you, Fenix Entertainment Group.

The festival was held at the Hippodrome in San Isidro, which functioned well as a venue thanks to the endless amount of flat and grassy space. 55,000 people attended on Tuesday, but I never felt crowded at any point.

There were four stages where the music was staggered throughout the day, beginning at 12:30 pm and ending just after midnight. Genres were well staggered so you wasn’t too much conflict over who to go see, depending on your tastes. It was apparent that many of the locals attending were not familiar with all the artists, namely the bands that formed any time after 1995. They seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless. I find that be a common occurrence in general here. I remember dancing my face off to the Black Keys at Pepsi Music Fest while everyone else around me stood there placidly, waiting for Pearl Jam. I guess you have to find out about new(er) music somewhere, and these festivals with international acts are most Argentines’ first opportunity.

I’ll admit that my roots in music lay firmly on the hippier side of the line, which is why I sometimes overlook bands that actually deserve the time of the day. Moving to Argentina has been very beneficial for me in this way, because, guess what? Phish doesn’t tour down here. Read on to share in the glory of my day-long foray into genres I don’t habitually listen to, and the magic that ensued.

Confetti explodes during the pinnacle of Wolfgang Gartner's set.

Confetti explodes during the pinnacle of Wolfgang Gartner’s set.

I began the day aimlessly wandering, catching snippets of different acts, people watching and soaking up some sun. While stretched out in the grass enjoying the eclectic songs of Cage the Elephant, I came to the hilarious and creepy realization that nearly one out of every three girls was wearing the same uniform: black pleather leggings, a red and black plaid shirt tied round the waist, a baggy, white tank top, all topped off with the signature flair of platform [insert whichever type of shoe here].

Those who always claim that airports have the best people watching have obviously never been to a music festival. Whether you dig the music or not, you cannot deny the entertainment provided by the sights.

My pick for Favorte Person at Lollapalooza was a man frantically waving a sign that read, “Mi ex arrunó este tema,” which translates to “my ex ruined this song.” So Argentine, and I love it.

I was incredibly surprised that I did not spot a self-made VIP area at any point Tuesday— every other festival or big concert I have been to in Argentina and Uruguay has been chock full of them. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about: a small group of people, all of whom will be wearing sunglasses at night, encircled in a rope. They essentially make it impossible to penetrate the barrier without falling on your face and making an ass out of yourself. If you haven’t figured it out by now, exclusivity is kind of a thing down here. But it was nowhere to be seen at this year’s Lollapalooza.

I also want to give a shout-out to the girl who was wearing the denim shirt with a row of emblazoned Bart Simpson heads. If I see you on the street one day, I plan on making it rain pesos. You will give me that shirt.

A friend pointed out a funny observation during Cage the Elephant. English bands used to mimic American accents in the world of rock— take the Beatles for instance. Oh how the tides turn. It seems quite en vogue these days for American bands to salt and pepper their lyrics with an English accent, Cage the Elephant being just one of the many examples. It’s a generalization, of course, but one I’d say is right on the money.

After Cage the Elephant I caught a bit of Julian Casablancas, lead vocalist from the Strokes. The music was absolutely reminiscent of the iconic band, which I do hold respect for, but I couldn’t handle the terrible sound. In general, the sound engineering was great at Lollapalooza, but something happened with Casablancas’ show. You could barely hear his voice, although that sort of static-y sound is signature Strokes, so maybe it was on purpose. Casablancas was in great spirits, though, jumping around the stage and joking with the audience throughout his show, which was fun to see.

A quick jaunt across the grounds brought me to Flux Pavilion, the English dubstep DJ famous known for his hit “I Can’t Stop.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this dude, but I suppose all the time spent in the club culture here in Buenos Aires over the last year and a half has gotten to me. I decided to stay and see what would happen, but I lasted all of ten minutes, as the daylight was still going strong, and the flow of alcohol was… not. Sobriety and dubstep do not mix.

I realize that I can’t blame the production company for the dry environment, as it is a matter of law, but there was no way to consume alcohol unless you paid 3,500 ARS to be in the VIP section. There were “earlybird” VIP tickets on sale for less months ago, but even those were pricy at 2,900 ARS. Booze can only be served at events that are strictly 18 and above in Argentina, and it was an all ages festival including a Kidzapalooza area. That aspect of assimilation will take a while for me to come to grips with.

After some pit stops and a bit of Imagine Dragons, I moved on to Lorde, which turned out to be a stellar decision.

That girl has spunk, a set of pipes, and a badass band backing her up. At only 17, she bagged not just one but two Grammys: Song of the year and best pop solo performance for her song “Royals.” You’ve probably all heard that one, so I’ll give you a taste of a different one I savored yesterday.

Matching the mood of the music, the sunset and heavy winds set in, and all of the previously-mentioned cheto hipsters relocated their plaid shirts from around their waist to their bony shoulders.

I took this as my cue to retreat towards livelier music and, therefore, a livelier crowd that could provide some body heat. Off to Wolfgang Gartner I went.

This was the first show of the day that really made me want to move. A talented DJ, Gartner began his career focused on deep house music under a different moniker, then changed his alias to Wolfgang Gartner to avoid flak for the drastic style transformation. He now remixes popular hits, everything from Notorious B.I.G. to Justice, and also throws in some of his own original mixes sans samples.

Things started to get funky from this point out. My mood changed from “pleasantly content” to “HELL YEA, let’s get this party started.”

Phoenix was next and delivered as expected. I was excited to see what they would play from their new album Bankrupt, which I have recently developed an affection for. When the album debuted last year, I added it to my iTunes simply because I felt obliged. It was quite the mistake to neglect this little gem. Yes, it is a departure from their previous albums, but I 100% approve of the divergence. It’s got enough of the old Phoenix in there to keep us all grooving, but this album meanders into a pensive, emotive territory, adding a depth that I believe the band was lacking previously.

My post-Phoenix plans had been to feel out Kid Cudi, and then skip over to New Order in time to hear them play their famous 80’s hit Blue Monday. Those plans were sidetracked, or I should say sideswiped, when a friend I was with pushed me unwaveringly towards Nine Inch Nails. I’m starting to wonder if I have been living under a rock, because NIN blew my mind.

I am now considering this the second, “post-NIN-enlightenment” stage of my life: the one in which Trent Reznor and his deeply funky, electronic-industrial rock will be by my side till death-do-us-part. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a concert that much. It had to have been the first time I saw Phish, which is strange, because Phish and NIN are basically polar opposites.

If only NIN toured regularly, I’d have an excuse to turn tour rat once again. Sigh.

The area closest to the stage was blocked off by a fence separating the VIP from the peons, so I couldn’t get as close as I would have liked. I now have a new goal in life: Join the epicenter of the mosh pit at a Nine Inch Nails show. My girl Juana Molina, who played earlier on Tuesday and must have caught their show later, seemed just as jazzed about NIN as I was. Her status on Facebook yesterday read, “qué grosso NIN, no? me mataron.

Now for the grand finale. There are few things in this world that I love more than finding a band that knocks me into next week, and to have it happen live can be an otherworldly experience. At the closure of the show, elevated from my discovery, I floated to the next stage highly-anticipating whatever Arcade Fire had prepared for us. I heard “Reflektor” playing as I approached, and broke into a full sprint. I apologize to whomever was in my way, because I morphed into that annoying girl who no longer feels the need to ask permiso.

Despite their Indie Rock Gods status in the US, Arcade Fire is another one those bands I had ignored until recently. The last time I was home visiting the states over the holidays, a friend of mine blasted “Reflektor” over the speakers of the limo we accidentally ordered to take us home from the bar— a long and funny story for a later article, perhaps. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Arcade Fire’s set rocked and rolled with the signature sound of their latest album. The lead singer, Win Butler, was talkative and friendly, telling the crowd how much they love coming to Buenos Aires, and telling us that he had actually lived here when he was two years-old. Not only that, but his brother (who is apparently in the band) was conceived here.

Butler definitely seemed like the kind of guy we’d all want to be friends with. Unless you are Sushi Club, that is.Sushi Club had commissioned a bunch of giant white bouncy balls for the concert, most of which were enjoyed by fans throughout the different shows. When one of the balls got in Butler’s way on stage, though, it must have triggered memories from some sort of traumatic event in his life, because he ripped the ball to shreds with his bare hands and proudly declared, “Fuck Sushi Club.” You tell ’em, Win!

The night culminated in a very impressive, if not frightening, in-your-face fireworks display. I watched in awe until I stumbled backwards to avoid a flame hurtling directly at my face. It was a very appropriate ending to a grandiose event.

Day Two was less appealing to me, but just because of my taste in music. Ellie Goulding is just sort of meh to me. I mean, she did play at Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, two of the most meh people in the world.

Johnny Marr, one of the original members and guitarist of The Smiths, was an exciting show for those who are passionate about Brit rock. He charmed the crowd with his adorable British accent, tried to speak Spanish and dedicated a song to Sergio “El Kun” Aguero.

Vampire Weekend, however, was a bright point in an otherwise less-than-exciting Day 2. People were really excited for this show — I had no idea they were so popular here. While people may have been a bit surprised to see what the guys looked like — they all met at Columbia University, and I think the bassist, Chris Baio, was actually wearing Vineyard Vines — they sounded incredible, and play like complete pros. Lead singer Ezra Keonig is incredibly smooth, both in the way he sings and the way he presents himself, and did not miss a single note. The crowd loved this band, and it was hard not to dance, even if you couldn’t quite get past Baio’s outfit.

Regarding the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I didn’t have the energy to stay for that. Mostly because I wanted to get home before 6 AM: If you don’t plan on leaving a festival with someone who’s driving, hire a car to pick you up when the festival is all said and done— unless you relish the opportunity to reenact the Trail of Tears.

I’ll finish with a congratulations to the whole team: the production company, volunteers, artists, and everyone else involved. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and maybe we can all “lollapaloozaar” together next year.