Live music is starting to roll in postpandemic Bogotá, and last weekend saw another huge step forward in the shape of Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022. We were in the middle of the action all over the three days – here’s what happened!
Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022 was a welcome return to the festival season for Bogotá, if underpinned by tragedy. The heavens shone upon us and kept the weekend dry, there were cracking performances across the stages, but the death of Taylor Hawkins was never far from our minds.
All the festival’s acts paid tribute to Hawkins, in different forms. Crudo Means Raw had pacific style drumming, Golden Dawn Arkestra elected to blast out My Hero, Doja Cat got his details wrong. Black Pumas had the unenviable task of passing on the news and asked for a moment of silence, as many others did.
The music itself was hit and miss as always. With the Foos understandably cancelling, The Strokes took the indie/rock mantle and bottled it. Julian Casablancas was visibly and audibly off it, rambling incoherently between songs. There are still enough hits to please any crowd, but it’s time for these lads to be out to pasture. The same goes for the Libertines, who were simply disappointing, especially for the main stage. One of those bands that were perfect at their time but have aged more like milk than wine. The look is still there, Carl Barat insouciantly dragging on fags as he plays and Pete charismatic if atonal.
Idles at the top of their game
Bristol boys Idles, though, have swagger and confidence compared to the dull whimsy of the Libs. This is a band at the top of their game and they absolutely own the stage. We’ve seen some good shows over the day and the years here, but this is one for the ages. Completely in the moment, they make the vast Adidas stage feel as intimate as a small club, while at the same time acutely aware of the giant crowd. They’ve all donned their free Colombia shirts and when Joe Talbot slips in “my blood brother is a Colombian” to the lyrics of Danny Nedelko, the crowd roar.
An absolute racket in all the best ways, they finish with Talbot hammering away on drums just for the sheer noise of it all. With a furious, coruscating sound, they are anti-fascist, pro-immigration. “It’s been a fucking pleasure,” Lee Kiernan says at the end, and he’s not wrong. Joining them in hardcore chaos are Turnstile, lighting up Sunday with a brief blast of aggression and fury that’s sadly been lacking in the last two days.
Black Pumas energetic and soulful performance
What of Black Pumas themselves after the announcement of Hawkins’ death? Obviously affected by the news, they put in a fittingly energetic and soulful show. Burton had done his homework and repeatedly said “que chimba, Bogotá!” to get on the right side of the crowd. While very much a second stage band, they rose to the challenge elegantly and ensured a solid end to the main part of the first day. Earlier, The Drums provided perfect calm down music for dark o’clock as the sun faded away. Jonny promised and delivered portamento in its entirety, but we got a couple of treats at the end, including let’s go surfing from the first album.
Diamante Eléctrico led the charge of rolo talent and were far too big for their tent with people spilling out at every side. A barnstorming show from the local legends went down an absolute treat and served notice to the organisers not to sideline bogotano bands. Should have been second stage at a bare minimum. Getting a bigger audience were Piel Camaleón on the main stage in colour-coded outfits. Infectiously fun and bouncy, they were great for the lowering sun. At ease even on the giant stage, they had the audience in the palms of their hands, getting everyone’s hands in the air like they just didn’t care. From disco to indie to rap to art-noise, every genre landed. Los Niños Telepáticos were the first band to get things rolling on Friday with a heavier and denser sound than we’d expected. The vocals got a bit lost in the sound desk, but a crunchy, muscular performance set things up perfectly for later.
More classically, Pacífican Power were at the fourth stage, warm and welcoming. They probably deserved a bigger crowd, Friday was not the day for them, really. Still, they lit up the space they were given with a show that was traditional, but not stuck in the past as rap intertwines with tambores. Powerful lyrics that address social problems, hitting all the right notes. Warm music for a chilly night. Briela Ojeda on Friday had an otherworldly voice. Enchanting and rhythmic, her unique composing style means her voice is an instrument in and of itself. She created a traditional, natural atmosphere that evoked glades and forests yet also gave a shout out to menstruation issues. Then there was Binomio De Oro de America Latina. Whoever put them on the fourth stage needs speaking to.
We’re all disappointed to have missed the likes of Pavlo and the Gaiteros de San Jacinto as they were just on too early. However, missing Babelgam and Margarita Siempre Viva on Sunday really stung, as it was down to rescheduling issues. However, there was plenty to discover, including the Golden Dawn Arkestra. Very funky, very prog and very dancey. All of that says a big reaction from Colombia, and that they got in abundance. Bonkers politics but superb performers.
Ela Minus’s delicate vocals lit up the night
Saturday was electro-day, among other things, and Martin Garrix was the first big name up. Professional, polished, efficient, he was cool in the way that big skyscrapers in steel and glass are cool, all VIP, Zona T, anodyne. Lacking personality and engagement, it was a detached performance that ticked the right boxes with no commitment. Over on the third stage, Ela Minus was a completely different experience. This wonderful techno elf gave a human and surprisingly sweet performance. Following the audience to the tee, she lit us up with delicate vocals flitting over a brutally minimalist backing track.
Then there was Fatboy Slim. Decades of experience were on show with a performance that blasted everyone away. Norman Cook absolutely still has it, keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand with ease. Huge booming basslines, heavy beats over the top and frequent sallies out to gee up the audience. Big shout out too to Nina Kravitz (no relation) who overcame technical difficulties to provide a barnstorming end to the festival itself on Sunday night
Sunday earlier saw a quartet of female singers take the stage. Ashnikko was the pick of the bunch. Doja Cat was her obvious comparison, but so different in terms of sexual messaging. Where Ashnikko was talking about how she wanted to fuck, Doja simply offered herself and her backing dancers as fucktoys. Mind you, for a completely false personality, the show was outstanding and her stage presence massive, managing to get away with thanking Argentina at one point.
The alternativas were Marina and LP. The former was good, if you like that sort of thing, but a bit flat and uninspiring if you don’t. LP, on the other hand, managed a difficult situation well. With one song clearly the focus of her performance, she celebrated and played with that rather than being embarrassed. A striking performance to go with a remarkable voice. Less notable were the male singers, ASAP Rocky being a disappointment. More successful a day earlier was J Balvin. Easily the most controversial booking of the festival, he held up well. His mate Crudo Means Raw was underwhelming over on the second stage though, another victim of technical difficulties.
A star of the festival that flew under the radar was the weather. For late March, we were blessed with cloudy skies that weren’t threatening downpours or sunburn. In terms of logistics, it was outstanding. We’d been worried about the cashless system, but after a couple of hours of people getting used to it, it performed perfectly. That might not be a spectacular thing to note, but in a festival of thousands, that sort of thing really makes things better. In fact, from food queues to toilets, pretty much everything worked, which is a minor miracle under the circumstances.