Reinvigorating SP’s historic, faded city centre with a 24-hour explosion of culture in the open air, the mammoth Virada Cultural (‘cultural all-nighter’) festival returns for an eighth rendition of round-the-clock music, art, film, performance and general carousing.
The festival reaches parts of Centro that, for the rest of the year, can be sadly desolate and dangerous – and attracts one of the broadest sweeps of paulistanos, from all walks of life, that you’re likely to see anywhere.
Inspired by the all-night Nuits Blanches that began in Paris in 2001 before spreading to cities as diverse as Montreal and Bucharest, the Virada’s spectacles, events and performances have ranged from Mexican wrestling rings in the Vale do Anhangabaú, one of the epicentres of the festival, to stalls featuring upmarket street food. The Chefs na Rua (returning this year, to Avenida São Luiz, from 8am-8pm Sunday) combines haute cuisine and street food.
The Virada Cultural is the big daddy of a wave of street-occupying social movements currently making their way onto SP’s streets for a varied menu of open-air events, meetings, protests and parties, run by groups like BaixoCentro and Existe Amor em SP. And since it’s 100 per cent free, wholly funded by the Prefeitura (City Hall) – it’s also a welcome change from festivals overrun with branding, or the long queues that plague some of SP’s paying events and festivals.
First-timers may feel the urge to sift through the daunting lineup and try and plot out a plan of attack; and it’s good to have at least some idea of who’s playing where. But Virada veterans know that the best-laid plans may well go awry during this absorbing romp.
Even if you’re lucky enough to get behind the right stage-bound surge to catch a show by one of the major artists – this year, look out for the Bahian axé and samba-reggae queen Daniela Mercury, the dynamite duo of carioca diva Elza Soares with technobrega’s Gaby Amarantos, plus New York hip-hop duo Black Star, the international icon of funk, George Clinton and homegrown hip hop talent Racionais MCs bringing the Virada to a close – you may find the set drowned out by raucous crowds and spotty open-air acoustics. That is, if you manage to get close enough to notice: some past Viradas claim to have had as many as 3 million people in attendance.
We’ve found a slightly more intuitive approach best: pick a starting point close to an act you really don’t want to miss, then be ready to go with the flow. And with the marathon festival slated for a 6pm start, it’s best to dive in early, then stay as long as you can handle the bedlam: the convivial crowds have been known to steadily degrade from cheerful observers to occasionally drunk and disorderly, reaching a crescendo of messiness, including sporadic street crime, in the wee hours of the night.
If you'd rather stay put and admire the view, the Vale do Anhangabaú will be the epicentre for 15 different large-scale outdoor audio-visual art installations, put on by a number of urban art collectives. Look out for video mapping and a whopping 40-metre bridge, erected across the valley and decked out with motion-sensitive LEDs.
If it all sounds a bit rich for your tastes, rest assured that you can join in anyway, at any one of the many excellent indoor shows, parties and events taking place simultaneously across town; and for those looking to make it a family outing, the brand-new Viradinha – ‘little Virada’ – has pint-sized fun in store for children.
The Virada Cultural is at 120 locations downtown, with dozens of parallel late-night events across the city. See viradacultural.org for the full line-up.
The event attracts huge crowds of people, not all of whom are there for the fun of it. Carry a bare minimum of cash and valuables and keep your wits about you, especially in the small hours.
Metrô lines and selected bus routes run nonstop for the duration of the event.