After taking last year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago’s Ruido Fest welcomed festival-goers back to Union Park for the Friday (Aug. 20) opening of the three-day event.
The Windy City’s mask mandate officially returned on Friday, coinciding with Ruido Fest day one, as the city averages more than 450 daily COVID cases. But even as Ruido Fest takes place outdoors, festival organizers planned ahead — and took a cue from major festivals that have already taken place in the city, such as Lollapalooza — implementing rigorous COVID-19 protocols.
A month before the Latin alternative-focused festival kicked off, its website was updated with new safety guidelines. In order to attend Ruido Fest, “a full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be required to attend Ruido Fest 2021,” the website said.
In case you weren’t fully vaccinated, free PCR and antigen testing was available to attendees at the event. For those who showed up unvaccinated, local health clinics and organizations provided inoculation with the first dose of either Moderna or Pfizer. Attendees who received a vaccine at the fest were required to schedule their second dose elsewhere.
Once ticket-buyers showed proof of vaccination or a negative test, they could enter Ruido Fest, where first act El Chisme took the stage at 3 p.m. Other artists on the opening day’s lineup included Kaina, La Armada, Silverio, French Police and The Mini Projects.
Headliners Los Amigos Invisibles and Caifanes were in charge of wrapping up day one of Ruido Fest and they did so by thanking fans for being there. “Thank you, raza. Welcome to your festival and to this ritual,” Caifanes’ lead singer Saúl Hernández told the crowd at the beginning of the group’s 90-minute set.
Here are five takeaways from Ruido Fest day one.
Get vaccinated or tested
As of 5 p.m. CT, approximately five people had gotten vaccinated, according to a health professional who was there to give people their shots. “I think a lot of people are hesitant to get vaccinated because they think they can’t drink afterwards. But they can,” she told Billboard. While there was no line to get vaccinated, there was one to get tested. Nearly 100 COVID-19 tests had been administered onsite by healthcare startup Curative, a company spokesperson confirmed. Those who tests would get results in 15 minutes. The vaccination and test sites were available all afternoon and night. (Once inside the festival, most attendees went mask-less.)
A new layout
In 2019, the Ruido Fest crowd could stop by any of the three to four stages set up at Union Park. This time around, there were only two stages but more space to spread out and distance yourself from others. Aside from the VIP area, there were small areas were you could hang out and avoid the more crowded spaces. But once Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles took the stage at 6:15 p.m., fans ditched their oasis for a front and center spot to enjoy the show.
Los Amigos Invisibles on a “dark year”
Before hitting the stage, Los Amigos Invisibles’ Julio Briceño and José Rafael Torres stopped by the media center for a press conference where they talked about their “dark year.” “But we’re finally turning the page,” Torres said. “It’s as if we died but suddenly we were revived and you start to see things differently,” adds Briceño about returning to live music. “You appreciate and welcome every opportunity that comes by.”
Once on stage, the band dedicated part of their show to those that “got ugly” during the pandemic. “I saw myself in the mirror and I was like, ‘wow.’ So this is for everyone who got ugly during these past months. It’s OK, you’re not alone,” Briceño said. They went on to sing tracks such as “Eh Eh Oh Oh,” “La Que Me Gusta” and “Mentiras.”
Caifanes closes Ruido Fest
Wrapping up Ruido Fest day one, Mexican band Caifanes — who were announced a week ago after Los Fabulosos Cadillacs canceled their performance (“due to unforeseen difficulties with travel and logistics,” according to Ruido Fest) — jumped onstage exactly at 8 p.m. to serenade fans with rock en español anthems. “Muchas gracias, raza,” Hernández told fans. “We want to salute Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, much love to them. Fortunately, we’re here with you tonight. Of all the bands, they chose us.” Hernández went on to sing classics such as “Amanece,” “Miedo,” “Los Dioses Ocultos,” “Mátenme Porque Me Muero,” “La Celula Que Explota,” “Afuera” and “La Negra Tomasa,” among others.
Imagine all the people…
Caifanes said their goodbyes and walked off the stage with John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background. It instantly called for a moment of reflection with festival-goers, visibly emotional, hugging one another. They had come together once again for Ruido Fest where for at least a few hours, one could almost forget about real-life issues and imagine livin’ life in peace.