So I went to Altavoz again. In case you missed it, Altavoz is Medellin’s annual 3 day, FREE, music festival. Reggae, hiphop, metal, rock, and all sorts of other random styles of music come together for 3 days of awesomeness (and a much needed break from the salsa and reggaton that assaults you down here in Medellin).
This year was Altavoz 10. I was here 2 years ago, in 2011, when I escaped Bogota abruptly, to take an overnight bus to Medellin, and go straight to Altavoz. So how does this year compare with the last Altavoz I was at?
- There was no ice cream option this year. I am highly disappointed by this. Doesn’t the production team realize the last time I came, I ate ice cream for 3 days straight, because it is awesome, and I can? The lack of ice cream at Altavoz this year is uncalled for, and I may have to have words with the festival team.
- The vegetarian food at this year’s Altavoz is awesome! ( I was noshing on nachos with beans, cheese, and pico-de-gallo as I was writing notes for this article). Oh, they also have a Shwarma/Kebab place. Yea for more than burgers, hotdogs, and greasy “church empanadas”! (Hence why I ate nothing but ice cream last time).
- There is no beer. I don’t know if this disappoints me or not. I’m not a huge drinker, and don’t like to drink when I’m working, so I really don’t care about that. I could possibly be disappointed that less beer = less chance of awesome riots I can photo. But on the flip-side, I may actually be able to get home reasonably quick and safe this year. So I’m leaving this a no points to either side.
- Hip hop and reggae day are Day 1 (vs last time, they were on Day 3). It’s cool to get the music that I’m just not into photographing that much out of the way first. Not that I am not enjoying most of it, it just doesn’t usually make for the most exciting photos. (How many photos do you really need to see of a hip hop singer who looks like he has a microphone-nose? Not many? That’s what I thought.) Though, Los Castellanos was awesome and put on a great show!
- The lights were way better this year! They were more creative with making the stage look awesome, and I really liked how the lighting tech used the lights and mixed the colors. It was beautiful. I loved whoever did the lighting design for the rig. Keep that guy and give him a bigger budget next year!
- The sound was worse this year. The sound guy couldn’t mix. It was pretty unanimous, with everyone I talked to, that this last year’s sound guy needs to be replaced. Way too much bass that vibrated, similar to a guy with a suped-up, sorry-about-your-penis, car-stereo system. The speakers didn’t sound bomb, they sounded like they were bombed. Turn down the bass, and make the voices more audible next time. Loud is good, but only if you can mix properly.
- WE HAD TENTS AND WI-FI! I am totally in love with the production team this year for doing this. To the left of the general admission field, on a hill, Altavoz set up a line of platformed, and covered, press tents (and nice tents, with side-walls and non-leaky roofs), that also had their own security guards (awesome!). These press tents were separated by walls, but with a linked and open walkway down the front so we could easily all visit each other. Each tent had outlets, tables, chairs, and Wi-Fi! They even had a tent specially designated for freelance press (like me). I have never been to a festival that has this and it is awesome!
We had a place to hide from the rain while still watching the show and audience, can upload photos as we take them, and even do live social media promotion. This is the smartest thing I have ever seen at a festival! I hope they repeat this every year!
- Again there was no separation between press and VIPs. Which led to giant crowds in the ways of the photographers who were there to get promotional photographs and video. I even saw a fist fight almost break out between VIP and press, when 3 drunk guys started moshing next to a $10,000 video camera, and almost knocked it over. Since it’s hard (and impolite) to verbally and physically stop VIPs from entering areas, I suggested that Altavoz creates a separate VIP platform on the right side of the stage, in the audience, for next year. Somewhere press isn’t allowed. Give VIPs a special place so they can feel like they are better than the press, and everyone is happy. And Altavoz gets better shots for magazines and stuff!
- The angle of the stage sucked this year, and there were no side wings for the bands to walk out on. The stage was higher, so we shot a lot of up-the-nose, but the more obnoxious thing, was the fill speakers, that lined the bottom of the stage, and cut everyone off at the thigh. If us press were up a foot or 2, or back a foot or 2, then the angle would have been better. At least make some walk ways for the band to come out on and get away from the fills. Like in 2011, the stage design was more media, and audience, friendly.
But the stage did look much bigger this year, and much easier to set up and breakdown bands. I think a compromise between the two would be nice. So would an unlimited budget probably.
- I think the bands were better this year. Although there were definitely some bands that I don’t understood how they got in the festival (but honestly, there always are, and it’s really an opinion thing), I think the quality of the bands was much better this year than in 2011, and they had a couple bigger named acts too.
- THEY HAD A SECOND STAGE! I loved this. Near the food stalls they added a second stage for more local bands. The only really sucky part was the only way into the press area was to shove through the whole crowd (so I mostly avoided this stage). I love the second stage as a way to showcase newer bands. I think next year, they should make a walkway for press to get in and out of the second-stage press area quickly, so we can run back and forth between the main and second stages. It would help promote us promote the bands there.
So all in all, I loved this year’s Altavoz and thought it was much better run than in 2011. Although there were definitely things I would suggest improving, some of these suggestions are based on a perfect world with no budget, geographic, or time limitations. And the crowds seemed bigger this year than before. I think Altavoz is going to keep growing and quickly become one of South America’s premier music festivals.
Altavoz is every fall in Medellin, Colombia. Check out their official Facebook page at:
If you like any of the photos, or want to see more music photography, click on the photos or go to LaGringaPhotos.com/bands
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.