This weekend, I checked out all São Paulo has to offer in the way of music festivals, and as it turns out, they don’t have all that much to offer.
As an avid music fan (and festivalgoer) I’m not one to hesitate when I find out there’s a Lollapalooza happening up the street from me. Especially when I find out that there’s an electronic stage featuring some of my favorite DJs in the world, including my go-to for surviving the hellish transit here, combined with the Brazilian rapper who changed my life, as well as awesome bands like the Black Keys and Cake (both of whom are surprisingly popular here).
I’ll admit I’m a bit of a hippie and I have to say that I love music festivals. I don’t mind getting a little dirty, pushing my way through crowds, or waiting in ridiculous lines to buy overpriced beer. It’s part of the experience, and at a good festival, it’s what bonds everyone together in the moment.
First of all, tickets to Lollapalooza were obscenely priced, even if you’re taking into account the exchange rate (which I can’t really do anymore after 8 months of living in reais). R$350 per day (that’s $1050 if you go all three), unless you can wrangle yourself a student ID card, and you can pay for meia entrada, half price. Needless to say, I had to choose my days wisely, and made a deal with my boyfriend that we’d do a more electronically-themed day on Friday (including Porter Robinson and Knife Party), with a bit of Cake in the mix (who we both love), and then meet up with the rest of our rock-loving friends on Saturday for Queens of the Stone Age, Black Keys, and of course, Criolo. I decided to forego my favorite DJ of all time, Kaskade, on Sunday (as well as a few other favorite electronic artists) in an effort to save money and not force my boyfriend to spend Monday at work hungover as hell. To be fair, I think I’ve seen Kaskade somewhere around 25 times in my life, so I shrugged it off as a small loss.
So the big day came, and we embarked on our journey to the Jockey Club of São Paulo, which unsurprisingly consisted of us walking 20 min to the train, only to discover it was not running for the weekend. So we waited in our first line of the day for the bus.
Of course, I should have known as it started to pour that this wouldn’t bode well for a festival at a racetrack (you know, where horses poop all day), but I can’t really blame Brazil for raining. This is a tropical country after all.
Upon entering, should you decide you want to consume anything at the festival, you are forced to buy pillas, which represent R$4 each. Beer costs 2 pillas, Red Bull is 3 pillas, etc.
I have no idea if they are doing this at Lolla in Chicago, or any other festival (it was a first for me), but in theory, this could be a pretty good idea. Reduce wait times in line for beer (where bartenders won’t have to worry about giving change, etc) as well as add to that festival-esque experience of being in a different world (similar to how Burning Man doesn’t allow people to bring money, but simply barter their possessions for other possessions.)
I understand it too from a business perspective: get people to give you all the money they are willing to spend upfront, and then if they end up spending less, you already have their money. Because of course, pillas were not refundable and could only be used on the same day as they were purchased.
So okay, we understood upfront we were being ripped off. But then again, we came to a music festival, not 25 de março.
But the lines for these pillas were longer than I ever could have imagined. My boyfriend and I arrived early, and were lucky enough to get the short wait time of 20 minutes. Of course, we just had to wait again when we ran into several of our friends waiting in these lines later.
So after escaping the fila for pillas, you’d think it would all just be beer and sunshine. Unfortunately, all that beer gets to you, and the bathroom lines were just as long. On Saturday I literally (and yes, I’m using the correct use of the word literally) think I spent more time in line for the bathroom than doing anything else at the festival.
Normally, I expect an annoying bathroom line, but this was ridiculous. Someone told me there were around 700 bathrooms for 200.000 people. I’m not an expert in port-a-potties, but that seems like it’s probably not enough. And when you’re wading through puddles of mud and horseshit, a 30 min average wait time for an overly used portable bathroom is pretty painful.
Alright, so we don’t come to music festivals to stay clean or drink cheap beer, we come for the music. My first set of the day was Porter Robinson in the “Perry” tent, which I will say I was more than satisfied with. Being in a tent (rather than a main stage) means less mud, good sound and less of a crowd.
But as soon as we moved on to see Cake at the Butantã stage, it was back to being a production disaster. The sound was horrible, and they had to stop for several minutes due to technical difficulties.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this NEVER happens at ANY festival. Actually, to the contrary, when my Brazilian friend wrote a post on facebook complaining about the infrastructure of Lollapalooza, I stood up for them (and festivals everywhere), saying these things happen at every festival, and a lot of concerts, even in that well-oiled machine called America. But by Saturday, when I had to double back to the end of a bathroom line that was tangled into a pilla line and I all but slipped in a mud/horseshit puddle between chants of “aumente o som” (turn up the sound), I conceded that this was not exactly the most fun music festival of my life.