BOGOTA COLOMBIA – July 3rd, 2010

I have heard about Rock al Parque, the big 3 day rock music festival in Bogota, Colombia for many years. Turns out this free music festival is now in it’s 16th year.

The festival is held in the spacious Simon Bolivar Park (think Central Park with less trees), where many big time concerts are held (the Scorpions are scheduled to play this September), and I heard that 70,000 or so people are estimated to attend each day during the Festival.

The "Early" Crowd

Generally, I’m bored with holiday weekends in the states, so when I heard the concert was being held over 4th of July weekend this year, I decided to load up my video & photo gear, apply for a press pass and go.

Our good friend Erika, the punk Bogota beauty, and her friend (and now mine) Andres arranged for the press passes for Punk Outlaw and agreed to help me out during the festival.

Erika and Andres

We arrived early, around 1130AM, just before the festival began and got the lay of the land. There are two stages, one huge, Escenario Plaza, that faces the plaza, the biggest area that looks like it could hold 40,000 or 50,000 people and a smaller one, Escenario Lago that is still pretty damn big and looks to hold 15,000 or so folks.

When we started, there were many more police than people as there were maybe 1,000 people there to stake out their front row seats.. by the end of the night, both stage areas would be full with tens of thousand of fans.

Speaking of police, security was very tight, but nothing U.S. Citizens aren’t used to post 9/11 at airports. Colombians have been living this way for an even longer time and seem to have no issues with it at all. I would imagine it’s much more preferable to the terrorist violence that used to plague this nation and now, thankfully, seems to be firmly a thing of the past, at least in the urban areas.

Overall, the event was extremely well run and organized befitting an event in it’s 16th year. It’s put on in cooperation with the government and the theme this year was “Maximo Respeto” (Maximum Respect) and who can argue with that. The vibe was laid back and full of respect.

The festival serves as a showcase for all types of genres of “rock” music ranging from reggae and ska to punk, hardcore and metal.  Unfortunately for me, Day 1 was mostly a metal day, perhaps my least favorite genre of rock music. But luckily there was a smattering of hard core and thrash that I SORT of dug.

My earplugs came in handy (I can’t believe how many people did not wear ear protection, the noise in the press and stage area was deafening).

Without protection, I’m sure my ears would still be ringing. I do believe  a bigger effort should be made to educate bands and fans about the necessity of ear protection at events like this (and in Latin America in general).

The first part of the day was pretty non eventful, with smaller but no less enthusiastic crowds urging on their favorite bands. With the two stages in sync it was pretty much non stop music, unless you chose to hit one of the scheduled press conferences going on backstage.

The most recognized names on the bill for Day 1 for me were “Stick to Your Guns”, “Shadows Fall” and “BioHazard” all hardcore metal bands from the U.S. and bands I wanted, but through a twist of fate did not get to see.

"Stick to Your Guns' Press Conference

I did however, attend the “Stick to Your Guns” Press Conference and it was fun to see the culture exchange that I’ve been witnessing 1st hand for these past 9 months filming my documentary “Punktology” happening to someone else.

The questions were translated from Spanish to English and answers back to Spanish in a painfully slow process that I am very familiar with by now.

"Stick to Your Guns" get lots of love in Colombia

The band was gracious for the opportunity for their first gig in Latin America and kept commenting on how gracious Colombians were and how hard it was to find that kind of hospitality in the U.S.

On instinct I laughed out loud, eliciting a few startled looks. What I really should have said was “Amen my brothers! I couldn’t agree more.” It is so true.

I missed BioHazard’s press conference and concert because I attended the punk show close to downtown Bogota. Erika and Andres hung around and saw both, so hopefully I’ll be able to post some pics of them soon, so stay tuned.

As I said on Day 1 of Rock al Parque, it was metal day and while to me it’s just noise, for 60,000-70,000 or so Colombians, this was music they grooved to with almost religious intensity. The crowd overwhelmingly wore black and long, flowing hair on the guys was not something relegated to a “back to the 80s” block on VH1.

It was a bit of a time warp for me. As 80s “Hair” rock enjoys the inevitable revival in North America, it’s worth noting it never truly went away in Latin America. It has not really been uncommon to see bands like AC-DC, Iron Maiden and The Scorpions regularly on tour in Latin America.

As I said, there was some hard core thrown in and the punk influence was evident with many bands shouting out bands like the Ramones, The Misfits and shirts and patches of Madball, Rancid, Social Distortion, Bad Religion and Agnostic Front just a few of the bands I saw prominently worn on stage and in the crowd.

There is a good local hardcore band called “Pitbull” not to be confused with the Miami rapper and another band  “Cuentos De Los Hermanos Grind” that wore crazy masks and makeup and even had a midget (I mean little person) play throughout the set creating a media frenzy.

Speaking of media frenzy, that is pretty much my only complaint with the festival. The press pit is huge but it gets filled up with several hundred people (most not even bearing cameras) making it nearly impossible at times to shoot good, quality video and photos, especially for the bigger acts later in the evening.

Not the crowd, the press pit!

There were more people at the combined stages press areas than I’ve seen at some shows featuring major punk bands! I think a little more selectivity is in order for the press, though I know that’s hard and I am possibly biting the hands that feed me as this blog and my documentary might be the first of the ones cut.

One of many TV interviews for Erika

My favorite part of Day 1 was watching Erika get accosted by press and media outlets who were eager to catch her mohawk, punk look for their cameras. She took dozens if not hundreds of photos and did countless interviews for several television outlets. For Day 2 I outfitted her and Andres with Punk Outlaw gear in a shameless promotional gesture (just joking, I promised the shirts long before I saw the promo opportunity, but still…).

My final thoughts on Day 1 of Rock Al Parque (previously commonly and erroneously referred to as “Rock en el Parque” by me, BTW please do feel free to correct my mistakes folks ) is that it was overwhelming and a great kick off to a great event. But unless your really into metal music, I’d say skip it and save it for the next day.

Hair metal never out of style in Latin America

Day 2’s agenda turned out to be much more up my sometimes narrow musical alley with punk, hardcore, ska and reggae on the menu including my good friends from Medellin “Fertil Miseria” and Bob Marley’s son Ky Mani Marley.

So, stay tuned, I’m pretty sure things are about to get more interesting and if you want to check the rest of the pics from Day 1, check our FLIKR Page oh and lots of video to come soon as well.

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