Why Argentina’s attempt at Lollapalooza 2014 sucked

Lollapalooza ArgentinaI had high hopes for Lollapalooza Argentina. Why shouldn’t I? Held in a swanky Buenos Aires suburb, boasting Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arcade Fire on the lineup and with South American party spirit as a given, I thought it’d blow wellies and tents in the drizzly British countryside right out of the water. How wrong I was.

Accustomed to the infuriating lack of urgency overwhelming the continent, it became clear as we neared the gates of Hipodromo de San Isidro that queuing was inevitable. Granted, most festivals come hand in hand with waiting in line for an hour or three here and there. But take one polite British tourist, a couple of thousand assertive (/rude) Argentinians and the slowest bag-searchers in the world, and what you have is half a day spent leaning against fences and listening to sweet, sweet music from the wrong side of the arena barriers.  This may be a minor and relatively short-lived problem if you’re arriving early to pitch your tent at a festival where the concept of exchanging tickets for wristbands is widely understood. Not so at Lollapalooza. They didn’t fancy giving the whole camping thing a whirl, which means that the order of the day was arrive, queue to get in, watch music, queue for food, watch music, queue to get out, queue to get bus/taxi back. Day two: repeat. The ratio of queuing to not queuing is all wrong – kills the mood somewhat.

Speaking of atmosphere, Lollapalooza Argentina scored pretty low on the whole. A major contributing factor to this was the glaringly obvious absence of alcohol, which was rubbed in by the festival being sponsored by Argentinean beer giants whose logos decorated tents which only sold non-alcoholic versions of the stuff. Cruel. Now, this isn’t the organizers fault exactly; more a pesky obstacle in the form of a law banning drinking in arenas. And I’m not for one second insinuating that fun can’t be had without alcohol (…), but it’s just not quite the same. Sipping extortionately-priced drinks out of plastic cups whilst swaying along to whoever is essentially a match designed in heaven. My left hand felt kind of redundant with no crowd-maneuvering or into-mouth tipping to be worrying about. Even worse than hands hanging awkwardly by sides was the crowd of stationary Argentinians who were cold, flagging by 10pm and didn’t know the words. I’ve certainly learned to appreciate overpriced cider and tolerate 20 minute bar scrambles a hell of a lot more.

Lack of intoxicated energy, mud wrestling and free hugs aside, the line up wasn’t shabby. I heard half of Cage the Elephant’s afternoon set from outside of the festival gates but the half I saw was impressive; the crowd small but jumping. Phoenix was fun and pulled in an impressive audience and Kid Cudi recovered a boring set with an all-guns-blaring remixed rendition of “Pursuit of Happiness” as a finale. New Order headlined the alternative stage and then the whole arena flooded to the main stage for an Arcade Fire set played in the freezing cold. It was the first real time that the festival truly impressed, but that didn’t stop the back layers of the audience filtering out before the end to beat the rush for transport home. That says something, I suppose.

By day two, the prospect of standing up all day achy-kneed and without the warm jumper of tipsiness wasn’t very appealing. Hip flasks concealed in underwear was the first step, and then bigger plans were hatched. The day was kicked off with an infectious drum show by local group La Bomba de Tiempo on the main stage and Vampire Weekend played a sunny set to an equally temperate Buenos Aires. Then, darkness fell and cue amigo with an array of important-looking wristbands, fancy camera, brisk walk and a helping of faux confidence; sneaking into the press area to fill water bottles with complimentary cocktails proved little obstacle. Result: 5 drunken gringos dancing in a crowd of 100,000 tiring Argentinians. I had fun.

All wasn’t completely lost. Lollapalooza had one more trick left to play, and from the moment Red Hot Chili Peppers took to the stage, the festival made a good attempt at redeeming itself. What the Chili Peppers had to their advantage here is that South America – as in, the entire continent – is obsessed with them. From Brazil to Bolivia, hostel soundtracks and radio playlists seem to be characterized by Anthony Kiedis and co. People actually (gasp) knew the words. I’ve never been in a more densely-packed stage scramble – the crowd was, quite literally, going crazy. Fainting, crying, screaming plus the entire audience chanting “Red Hot” with an Argentinean lilt saw the whole Hipodromo lit with an actual, tangible energy. Forgotten lyrics forgotten, a so-so weekend was unarguably ended on a high.

All in all, however, the fact of the matter is that if you’d have plonked that lineup on stages constructed in the British countryside, the whole thing probably would’ve been 10 times as good. Had Lollapalooza Argentina focused on the Argentina side of things a tiny bit more, people might’ve known the worlds and the atmosphere then, most likely, would’ve been better. Post-Lollapalooza, my opinion of the other festivals I’ve been to has more or less skyrocketed. Crawling out of a tent straight to the music far beats getting a taxi there and back, before and after each day. And, well, I just think Brits are quite good at forgetting everything and jumping into a bubble of escaping reality for a couple of days. If expensive food, shit weather, terrible organization and long lines are characteristics of every festival, I’d much rather have mine served alongside a muddy campsite, patterned wellies and good-morning sausage baps aplenty, por favor. The toilets were nice, though.


2 Responses to “Why Argentina’s attempt at Lollapalooza 2014 sucked”

  1. Jessica 25/03/2017 at 7:33 pm #

    I hope by now Argentina has made some sort of special exception for alcohol consumption at Lollapalooza?! It’s not that I don’t think it wouldn’t be enjoyable without alcohol, it’s just… I dunno. I’m just glad there aren’t any laws like that for the Chicago version 🙂

    • Jessica 01/04/2017 at 9:38 pm #

      Unfortunately they didn’t. I attended Lollapalooza AR 2017 sponsored by… CORONA! Yet still… no alcohol. Ugh! I ish I would’ve read this sooner. I certainly would’ve reconsidered going. Being a Chicago Lolla veteran, I was soooo disappointed with Lollapalooza argentina.

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