So as some of you know, I love me some music, especially rock and metal music. And being a gigantic fan of things like Soulfly and Sepultura, before leaving the states, all I wanted to see was one South American rock band in South America.
In Bogota I was pretty miserable. The people are nice, the city is ok, but the weather SUCKS! It was cold and down pouring almost the entire 3 days I was there.
Friday, October 14th, I knew I had to get out of Bogota. I wanted to get to Medellin and to better weather, but I still wanted to see a rock band, and figured Bogota, being the capital, would be a good place to see a band my last night in this freezing cold city.
About 10 am, I asked a girl in the hostel who was from Bogotá,
“So are there any places to see good live rock bands in Bogota tonight?”
As I’m asking, 3 hippie girls from California walk in, and hearing me ask this, butted in, saying,
“There’s a show this weekend in Medellin. We are just going to the last day for the reggae and ska music, but I think there is a couple rock bands playing the first couple days. Its some festival called ALTAVOZ.”
So I looked it up.
The whole first 2 days is NOTHING but rock and metal music
(non of which I had ever heard of, but who cares).
And its free.
And it starts the next afternoon.
The next 24 hours went something like this:
11 am –
I look up the bands at Altavoz and copy the first 2 days lineup into a notebook.
12 Noon –
I pack and check out of hostel
1 pm –
Research hostels in Medellin to find out who is good, who is closest to the metro, and who is closest to the festival.
4 pm –
I showered, dress, and decide I should probably eat something.
7 pm –
I hop in a taxi to the Bogotá bus terminal, get THE LAST ticket on THE LAST bus going to Medellin and at
11:30 pm –
The bus heads off towards Medellin
8 am –
I arrive at the north terminal in Medellin. north Terminal is at the Caribe metro stop. I hop on the metro south, to Sudamericana – the stop for the hostel I picked out the night before, and the closest hostel to the Altavoz festival.
10 am –
I’m checked into the hostel. I throw my bags in the room, jump in the shower, check all my camera gear, and, on almost zero sleep in the last 24 hours, I head back to the metro to go to Universidad Station, where Altavoz is.
I arrive at ALTAVOZ.
Oh yes, I was at a free show.
I had my camera.
I was wicked excited.
There were naked people.
I’m standing in line, waiting to enter this awesome, free, 3-day music festival but get thwarted at security. Security tells me I’m not allowed to wear my belt, which happens to be the only thing holding up my pants.
Ok. Well since I have no desire to make my first impression in Medellin in my underwear, I decide to walk around the University and manage my way on campus to go check out the back entrance, and see if I can sneak into the show. But the police security is here and vigilant. (Dammit!) What am I going to do now?
What I always do – smile and start chatting up the police. I tell them I build stages in the USA and I want to see how the stage is set up. I laugh with them. They laugh at my awful Spanish. I tell them I’m not allowed in front because I have a belt, and my pants fall down without my belt.
Then the police tell me I can BRING in my belt, I just cant WEAR it in. (Yea, that makes no sense to me either. ) The police grab me a piece of string to tie my pants on with, I shove my belt in my bag, head back to the front entrance, and finally get in the gate, just in time to see the first band.
Since it’s only about 1 in the afternoon, and the very first day, not a lot of people have arrived yet. I walk right up to the bike-fence, separating the audience from the photo-pit in front of the stage, throw on my largest zoom lens on my Canon 7D, and start shooting.
As I’m killing space on my memory card, a security guard with an ear piece starts looking at me, then my expensive camera with a giant lens, then at me again. Not in a creepy way, but in a ‘Why are you and your camera not in the photo pit?’ sort of way.
After the fist band ended, this security guard, still looking at me, gives me ‘the nod’. That nod that says, “Come with me, but slyly” and he starts walking towards the gate entrance for backstage. So I followed him. At the gate he looked at me and said simply “Si?”
So in my AWESOME Spanish skills I simply say,
“Yo soy una fotographer Americana. Aprender isso ayer. No tiempo pregunta press passes. Es possible?”
(basically, horrible Porteñolish (Portuguese/Spanish/English) for “I’m an American photographer. I learned of this [Altavoz] yesterday. No time to ask for press passes. Is it still possible”)
Mr. Security Man brings me inside the gate, into the backstage entrance, and tells me through words and hand signals to wait. After about 5 minutes he comes back with another very tall, very pale skinned man with bright orange hair, who speaks absolutely no English, and motions for me to repeat myself.
So again I massacre the Spanish language to this Irish-looking-Latin man. This man tells me to wait again (in Spanish) and disappears for about 10 minutes.
So now I’m standing backstage, looking like a cool kid, unsure if this red-haired giant even understood what I was trying to ask, while the head security guy and a couple of his minions are just starring at me and my camera. All the while, I’m getting this growing feeling of uneasiness that all these people may just be messing with the gringa; but I’m still smiling, non-chalantly checking my camera gear and photos I just took, and trying to look all professional and confident. Trying to look like looking for press passes day of show, in a foreign country, is an everyday occurrence to me.
Finally, the ginger guy reappears, with some familiar rectangular-shaped objects, and asks if I have ID. I whip out my American drivers license (because I never carry my passport unless I am heading to a new city) , he takes a look at it, asks me (in Spanish again, but this time much more simply) which of the numbers on my license is my ‘numero de ID’. He writes my name and license number on one of the 4-sided fabricy piece of material.
Then he hands it over to me, smiles, and in English says one word,
Yup, I just asked and got a BAND press pass (which allows me to go ANYWHERE at the festival) good for all 3 days of the show.
I ‘m so fucking excited!
I thank him nicely – trying to remain calm and professional, while all the while squealing like a little girl at a boy band concert on the inside – and sort of bounce over to the front of the stage, in the photo pit, and start snapping my little brains out.
I ended up going to all 3 days, seeing some AWESOME bands, and getting some great photos. Photos which have lead to:
1. Me becoming a photojournalist for TastesLikeRock.com
2. My 6 weeks in Ecuador photographing nothing but metal bands (because one of the bands, Descomunal, was from Ecuador)
3. (& most awesomely) Meeting Diego who has brought me awesome places in Antioquia like Santa Fe, El Tigre, and to the biggest buñuelos shop in Medellin. (yea, he’s the guy below that keeps popping up in photos, on blog posts, and on social media).
So yea, I just wanted to see one South American rock band, in South America, and have spent half my time down here now just hanging out and photographing bands. Just like what I do at home, pretty much. But in South America. Which makes it even cooler!
CHEERS and ROCK ON! m/ m/
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.