With 23 on-again, off-again years of rock under its belt – first as a US-only touring event, and now as a destination festival in Chicago with jaunts to South America, Lollapalooza festival’s now annual trips to São Paulo have fast become some of the most eagerly awaited dates of the musical year. Featuring a long list of heavy-hitting, big-name rock bands packaged alongside a selection of more under-the-radar acts, plus a sprinkling of local talent, the festival touches down this year in a new location.
After trying out a three-day span of shows last year at its original Jockey Club home, Lolla has been re-compressed into its original two-day format; but what it loses in time it makes up for in space: its new digs, the Autódromo Jose Carlos Pace – the Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix track popularly known as Interlagos – offers considerably larger grounds to accommodate the expected 160,000 fans. They’re promised more food service areas, twice the number of toilets as last year, and a greater distance between the four main stages, better confining the sound of each of the more than forty bands to their intended audiences.
Now sitting comfortably alongside the other big São Paulo indie event, Planeta Terra, which held its seventh edition last November, Lollapalooza’s third annual SP trip has become the last of a trio of South American stops after Santiago, Chile and an Argentinian mid-week pair of dates in Buenos Aires, bringing its reliable mix of thoroughly-marketed newer acts and long-established money-makers. And while critics have long derided the festival for avoiding any truly underground or experimental performers, the slightly alternative aspect to the goings-on mean more to Brazilian indie fans who are, generally speaking, a minority within a music scene dominated by genres such as sertaneja, MPB and samba, and even the perennial large-scale draw of touring old-school heavy metal bands.
|The British band Muse|
Also playing Saturday night – and no less grandiose – Nine Inch Nails, brings the industrial and ambient angst of last year’s Hesitation Marks, NIN’s first release since its leader, Trent Reznor, ended the band’s self-imposed hiatus in 2012. The US band, which played at Lollapalooza’s inaugural festival back in 1991, shares Day-1’s lineup with a list of next-generation names: the jaunty shuffle of the French band Phoenix; the unthreatening Las Vegas export Imagine Dragons; the synth-leaning pop of The Strokes’s frontman Julian Casablancas; and the music industry’s current great hope for the future, Lorde (aka Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor), the 17-year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter whose worldwide hit ‘Royals’ from 2013’s Pure Heroine earned her a Grammy award for Song of the Year.
|Leaded Trent Reznor, NIN was in the first Lolla, in 1991|
But for all the fresh-faced youth pumped into the bill, the two days are overshadowed by a strong retro-rock presence. Reformed Seattle grunge stars Soundgarden continue right where they left off, with vocalist Chris Cornell determinedly belting his way over the proceedings. Also keeping the ’90s US alt-rock flag flying high are the almighty Pixies. It remains to be seen whether the reunited band’s touring bassist, the Argentinian musician Paz Lenchantin, will still be handling bass duties by the time they get to São Paulo – the band’s original bassist Kim Deal (also of The Breeders) left in June of last year, and her replacement bassist, Kim Shattuck, was let go in November.
Another reunited band missing its original bassist, the British new-wave pioneers New Order soldier on, reconfigured as a five-piece and still touring 2011’s well-received Lost Sirens, as well as dance club staples like ‘Blue Monday’. Sunday also promises an appearance from fellow 1980s icon, the guitarist Johnny Marr, revered for his work with The Smiths.
|The indie rock veterans, Pixies, come to Brazil for the third time|
With so many acts creating a weekend of alternative nostalgia, it’s a safe bet that many of those who haven’t left the sounds of their college rock years behind now come with families in tow. For those too young for the adult themes on the main stages, Kidzapalooza provides fun activities, and even includes its own child-friendly bands. Lollapalooza certainly didn’t start out as a family show, but then again, who expected to see Nine Inch Nails or New Order still going strong decades after their first excursions into the underground?
Made in Brazil
With a healthy complement of Brazilian bands playing at Lollapalooza,
Time Out picks out some of the most interesting local talent on the bill
This band, hailing from Recife in the state of Pernambuco, is legendary for the pivotal role it played in manguebeat, an early-1990s cultural movement that came complete with its own manifesto, co-written by Chico Science, Nação Zumbi’s original vocalist. Tragically, Science was killed in a car accident in 1997, but the band has continued to release new material, with original member Jorge dü Peixe assuming the singing duties. With an as-yet-unnamed album planned for release in 2014 – the first since 2007’s Fome de Tudo, and a live album also from 2007, recorded in their home city – the heavily percussive eight-piece will likely spur the crowd to action. Listen here.
Unless you’re making songs for children or form part of an avant-garde theatre troupe, experimenting with instruments like cheese graters, rubber ducks and buckets sounds like a recipe for musical suicide. And yet Apanhador Só pulls it off. The Porto Alegre group, which formed in 2006, claims to be practicing ‘vandalismo estético’ (aesthetic vandalism), but luckily for us, they don’t seem to take that tag too seriously: misplaced falsetto notes, scratchy metal squeals and groaning backing vocals add to the fun without tackling the melody or the derailing the presence of determined riffs. Ultimately, they’re more sweet-sounding than dangerous. Listen here.
The paulistano four-piece Vespa Mandarinas only formed in 2009, but has already notched up three albums showcasing the band’s guitar-driven rock. The latest, 2013’s Animal Nacional, is a solid collection of well-produced tracks punctuated by catchy choruses, bouncy rhythms and smart, economical playing, demonstrated on memorable songs with soaring vocal hooks such as ‘Cobra de Vidro’ and ‘Santa Sampa’. If only the rest of the world could get over music sung in Portuguese that wasn’t bossa nova, this group might be on the verge of making it big. Listen here.
Active for roughly a quarter-century, and with eight studio records to its credit, Raimundos is one of the country’s best-selling national rock bands despite original vocalist Rodolfo Abrantes’s departure back in 2001. The heavy-metal-leaning band, whose sound has been dubbed ‘forrocore’ for its occasional use of elements from the Brazilian North-Eastern rural style, recently forged an independent path, putting out its newest record, Cantigas de Roda (produced by Billy Graziadei of the New York hardcore band Biohazard) in February via an effective crowdfunding campaign. Listen here.