The Road to Lollapalooza

South America
April 2nd 2012
Published: April 6th 2012
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I was more than a little reluctant to leave Brazil, but the Lollapalooza music festival in Chile was calling me. After having been fascinated by the aura of this festival since its inception over 20 years ago in America, it was with great anticipation that I would finally get to experience it for myself, thanks to the generosity of my brother who bought me the ticket as a birthday present. However, I first had to figure out a plan to make it to the festival from Rio, with only two weeks at my disposal.

I sat down with Felix, an Austrian guy I had met in the hostel in Rio, to make a plan. Planning is not my strong point, so this undertaking was no small task. We decided upon visiting Paraty and Florianópolis in Brazil, before venturing to Uruguay to visit Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento and finally arriving at Buenos Aires via a ferry on a Monday afternoon to make it to Bomba de Tiempo that night. Felix would then stay in B.A. for a week and I would catch a bus across the continent to Santiago in time for the festival. This plan changed within 12 hours of making it, which was entirely predictable! As we were drawing it up, Felix jokingly mentioned that we should have included a Delta in the equation, to allow for the unknown…girls. By the following day, Felix had postponed his arrival in Paraty, as he was now getting a lift with a local girl for a weekend away together!

I made my way to Paraty on my lonesome and loved meandering through the pristine colonial village, where cars are prohibited from the old town. The old cobbled streets are assembled in such a way that walking has to be undertaken at a very slow pace, to avoid rolling an ankle whilst wearing Havaianas, which means that everyone is enjoying life in a rather leisurely fashion as they stroll past the whitewashed walls of the buildings, which all have colourful door and window frames, typically painted in shades of blue, red, green or yellow, providing a vivid contrast against the white. It really is a pretty coastal village, especially when lamp-lit of an evening and I can easily understand why I noticed so many couples there.

From here, I ventured to São Paulo again to see my friends Leo and Marcos, along with a new friend, Aline, who I had met at the hostel in Rio. She has a singing voice that has all the beauty of a spirit floating like an invisible ribbon of sound through the night. Actually, there was a stirring moment that brought the hostel to a standstill on the final morning of Aline’s stay with her boyfriend, Hernan. Hernan is from Buenos Aires, so there was the potential of it being a sad farewell, but for these two musicians it was quite the opposite. After playing some songs with us over breakfast on the porch, they went to their room, from where we heard them singing together in the shower, at full volume and without a care in the world. Their joy was palpable and, when coupled with the water that was gushing out the open bathroom window, all of us down on the porch couldn’t help but smile.

In São Paulo, Leo took me to a few significant sites, such as the building the Jesuits built when they first founded the city. It is interesting to see this low, incongruous structure in the heart of downtown, surrounded by countless towering buildings that are competing for the space in the sky. The friendly and welcoming nature of the Brazilian people was once again evident throughout my entire stay in São Paulo, with Aline and her friends taking me to Cuban salsa clubs, forro dance halls (music and dancing from the north-east of Brazil), markets and more. Every day I spent in Brazil further reinforced that I need to spend more time in the country to continue learning about its varied culture and meeting more of the wonderful locals, some of whom I am lucky enough to now call my friends.

In fact, I visited São Paulo twice, either side of going to Florianópolis, which you may notice was not part of the original ‘plan’. This second visit was purely to play more music with Aline and see my friends one last time. This diversion from the ‘plan’ necessitated a flight from São Paulo to Montevideo to meet up again with Felix, who I did actually spend a couple of days with on the beaches in Floripa, where all I did was take advantage of the all you can eat, self-serve ice cream buffets on the beach! Australia really could do with such a concept, I reckon. One of the more bizarre aspects of our visit to Florianopolis was staying one night at a hostel where the owner/manager was a girl from Paraguay who must surely have another career as an exotic dancer, judging by the pictures she included of herself on the flyer for the hostel. As soon as we arrived we were instructed to swim in the rooftop pool with her and make up some homemade Caipirinhas. Whilst I shouldn’t have been shocked after seeing the abundance of flesh on the beaches of Brazil, her swimming attire consisted of barely enough fabric to warrant the term bikini and she seemed to feel the need to get into and out of the pool at least once every couple of minutes. Not your average hostel owner, that’s for sure! To top it off, she was also fluent in Hebrew!?!?

I spent all of 24 hours in Uruguay, which enabled me to have a surprisingly good time. The day we arrived there was a street parade in Montevideo to celebrate the African heritage, where the music and dancing fall under the banner of ‘Candombe’. It reminded me of being in Salvador for Carnaval, although on a vastly smaller scale, maybe even one hundredth, but it was fun nonetheless. Live music and dancing will always win me over though. Montevideo reminded me of a sleepier version of Melbourne in my home state of Victoria, with the beaches, parks and even the feel of the residential suburbs being very similar. The following morning, Felix and I caught a bus to Colonia to wander around this hugely historical port village, which was the scene of constant battles between the Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilians over a period of a few hundred years. It’s primary purpose was for smuggling goods into Buenos Aires. I did wonder whether the form of Spanish that they speak in Buenos Aires was a result of these warring and smuggling years, as there is significant similarity with the sound of many Portuguese words that sound distinctly different from the Spanish spoken in the rest of Latin America.

Buenos Aires was as much fun as ever, with Bomba de Tiempo providing another awe-inspiring night of live music. The following night, we met up with friends from the city, including Hernan, to drink in a bar before relocating to a nearby park to play guitar and sing songs until the early hours of the morning. It was a really fun and spontaneous night, which was always on the cards after the hugely entertaining taxi ride to get to the bar, where Felix and I were doing our best to down some large bottles of beer, whilst conversing with one of the more charismatic taxi drivers I have encountered. He ended up giving Felix a run-down of Austria’s history, with all the gesticulation you would expect of an old Italian, which is no surprise in B.A., as that is where so many of its inhabitants can attribute their ancestry to.

Somewhere in amidst all of this, Felix had purchased a ticket to Lollapalooza and was joining me in the trans-continental bus journey to hear some great music. Lollapalooza was created by the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction back in 1991 (I think) as a farewell tour for the band. All these years later and it is still going strong! Considering the hedonism that Jane’s Addiction seem to exude, it was with considerable shock that I discovered, after entering the festival site, that there wasn’t any alcohol unless you paid the huge price of a V.I.P. ticket. Luckily, we had smuggled in sufficient quantities of rum and vodka and had a wildly raucous time. Not only did we experience two days of awesome live acts that were all just as excited as we were that they were playing their first ever shows in Chile, we also joined meditation circles with Chilean hippies, met fun people from all around the globe, went a little over the top in terms of dancing and singing (for example, after one of my favourite live bands, Gogol Bordello, I had to strip off most of my clothes to let them dry out in the sun after 90 minutes of jumping around like a possessed pogo stick in the mosh) and finished the two days without an ounce of energy left in my legs. A particular highlight was when Dave Grohl spoke to the crowd of his first memories of Lollapalooza and how he wished Kurt was here to see it now, as it was also his first time playing in Chile. He then dedicated ‘Times Like These’ to Kurt and it was my absolute highlight of their mammoth set which closed the festival.


13th October 2012

What a journey! And it must have been hilarious with Felix in tow. I thought that most of BA was descended from Italian stock? Didn't realise the Austrian connection. The description about Lolla was my favourite bit - what, no alcohol?? Weird and terrible. You met so many wonderful people in South America, it sounds like a total blast. Hopefully it will be again when you come back!

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