filapalooza

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.

This comic pretty much sums it up.

This comic pretty much sums it up.

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.

Besides, I heard plastic is in this season.

Besides, I heard plastic is in this season.

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 considered calling this post Pillapalooza, but I thought it might give my American readers the wrong idea.

I considered calling this post Pillapalooza, but I thought it might give my American readers the wrong idea.

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.

Although it was just as crowded.

Although it was just as crowded.

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.

The people not standing in the barricades may look like they're having fun, but no, I assure you, they were in line too.

And in this magnificent way, filapalooza began.

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.

And of course, cool lights.

And of course, cool lights.

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.

Still, the worst day at a music festival is still better than a good day at work.

Still, the worst day at a music festival is still better than a good day of manual labor.

não existe amor em SP

Last night I went to see Brazilian rapper Criolo at Cine Joia. This was a momentous occasion for me, not just because I happen to be quite a fan of his, but because it signified 2 special moments for me. First, it was my 3 month anniversary here in Brazil (woohoo!) Second, I pretty much credit Criolo (in part) with changing my life. At the very least, I have to give him props for starting the chain of events that put me here in the first place.

Here’s the whole story.

Let’s go back to December of last year, when I was freezing my ass off in New York with my Brazilian roommate, Rodrigo. I was toying with the idea of visiting Brazil for Carnaval, but was still very much on the fence. One night, Rodrigo suggests to me that we go to a concert of a Brazilian rapper he’s into at a bar in the Lower East Side. I never really say no to anything, so of course despite torrential, frozen downpour, I grabbed my broken umbrella and headed out into winter.

I had about 12 umbrellas that looked something like this.

I had about 12 umbrellas that looked something like this.

When we arrived at the bar (whose name I don’t even remember, that’s actually how small it was), I realized that, of the 50 or so people there, I was the only American. Portuguese surrounded me and I felt a little bit out of place. We found more of our Brazilian friends, who were talking to a guy I didn’t recognize. Rodrigo leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s Criolo, the rapper we are here to see.” And there he was, just chatting with my friends, handing out free CDs. We talked to him for awhile (and by we, I mean, my Brazilian friends, as I knew less than “hello” in Portuguese at the time).

Criolo (blue shirt) hanging out with my Brazilian friends. (As the only one with a camera, I missed the opportunity to be IN the photo.)

Criolo (blue shirt) hanging out with my Brazilian friends. (As the only one with a camera, I missed the opportunity to be IN the photo.)

Around the time I was beginning to feel genuinely uncomfortable, Criolo left us to move toward the “stage” (a slightly raised platform in the middle of the room) and began his show. And then something happened I can barely put into words. If you listen to a Criolo song on tape (err… on mp3?), you can somewhat get a sense of the emotion he puts into his music. But this is absolutely nothing compared to the power and passion that comes through when he performs in front of you.

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 12.44.28 PM

And suddenly, I swear, I felt like I had been transported to Brazil. Everyone around me knew every word. I was completely mesmerized. I was surrounded by Brazilian girls dancing with their hips in a way that I simply will never be able to accomplish.

Unlike Shakira, my hips do lie.

Unlike Shakira, my hips do lie.

And right then and there, I whipped out my iPhone and booked a flight to Brazil. Thus, of course, putting into action the decision that would change the rest of my life, make me fall in love with Brazil, and bring me here permanently.

So seeing him perform on a proper stage and really put on an incredible show was really the best possible to way to ring in my 3 month anniversary in Brazil. But of course the best part was being surrounded by my amazing friends (whom I know can sort of understand) and feeling exactly in place. And I can say, without a doubt, that he is wrong about one thing. Existe amor em SP, sim.

And that is a real stage.

And that is a real stage.