This year’s Estéreo Picnic Festival in Bogotá, Colombia, is being billed as “a different world.” The moniker couldn’t be more accurate. Set in a city with a craving for shows and venues, a privileged location in South America and a strong new local music scene, the event has become one of the main epicenters of the Latin American independent music market.
After seven years building up a reputation and enough hype to attract investment and big industry names, the first day of the festival relied not only on new fresh bands from the Colombian underground, but also big names like Tame Impala, Mumford & Sons, Bad Religion and Die Antwoord.
And in a nod to Bogotá’s growing clout in the global musical scene, Estéreo Picnic’s first day (March 10) coincided with the Rolling Stones’ first ever Colombian show. And still, despite the competition and heavy rainfall in the early afternoon, Estéreo Picnic broke first day attendance records with an assistance of 13,000; this gets the organizers closer to their goal of 60,000 people during this year’s 3-day festival.
The day started with enthusiastic fans lining up early, most of them ill-prepared for what the weather would bring in the afternoon. Bogotá is nestled up in the mountains, but many of the younger fans were wearing summer outfits, as if they were attending Coachella or Lollapalooza.
Around 3 p.m., a heavy rain trapped many attendees around the smaller covered stages, giving the younger, local opening bands a valuable advantage to capture new followers.
By 5 p.m., Colombian acts had fought and triumphed against the cold. The Kitsch and Electric Mistakes, both young groups, conquered fans with their fast songs, tireless enthusiasm and the strength of each stroke. The more veteran Las 1280 Almas took the main stage for a wave of aggressive and irreverent rock, marked by the folk style that has always characterized the legendary Colombian group.
The first international artist to set foot on the Estéreo Picnic stage was Albert Hammond Jr., who demonstrated why his guitar remains a relevant force, even to those not familiar with his work with the Strokes.
The festival continued delighting its growing audience with Of Monsters and Men, who heard the choruses of songs like “Little Talks” and “Mountain Sound” in the voices of thousands of Colombians
Bad Religion provided a bright contrast, performing in Colombia for the first time ever. “Thanks for waiting for so long,” said veteran singer Greg Graffin at the end of the first song of the set. “It’s a matter of being in a waiting line,” he told Billboard later. “We’re an old band, obviously now it had to be our turn.” It was memorable presentation that reminded that the good days of old school punk are not totally gone.
Then, the main stage received an inspired Kevin Parker, who performed barefoot, as he likes to do, and led Tame Impala on a colorful journey that included all the jewels of its short but impeccable musical career.
The closing act was Mumford & Sons, one of the biggest acts that has ever played Estéreo Picnic. With a heartfelt performance that included hits like “The Cave” and “I Will Wait” set against the backdrop of fireworks, it was a classic festival ending.
Also of note: Performances on the second stage, which included revolutionary South African duo Die Antwoord, Ninja and Yolandi Visser, performed a turbo-charged set that drove the crowd to a euphoric state, complete with strippers and some good crowd surfing.