Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024: Return to the heart of Bogotá

Colombia’s biggest musical event took place in the heart of Bogotá for the first time ever, and Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024 was a roaring success

Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024 was, put simply, a tremendous success. Coming home to Parque Simón Bolívar slap-bang in the middle of the city was a masterstroke, instantly removing the event’s biggest headache: transport. World-class talent abounded, with legends alternating with up-and-coming stars also making statements.

This is now a festival with all the bells and whistles. Like other global competitors, everything is cashless, meaning you pay via wristband. All eaters are well catered for, with veggie and vegan options. There’s a veritable plethora of things to do away from the stages and all the support such as drug testing and chill out spots.

It even has a beach (sort of)

Pricing was fairly on point. Most food places had prices slightly higher than in their restaurants, but the difference was a couple of mil rather than twice the price. Booze was relatively pricey at COP$16,000 and up for a can of beer but that served well to keep loutishness in check.

For an event of this size, things ran extremely smoothly throughout the weekend. Recharging the wristbands was fast and reliable (go here to reclaim leftover money); toilets were clean and plentiful with soap and water on hand; lots of areas to rest and recuperate; limited queues everywhere and easy entrance. The organisers even allowed people in with bottles for water refills.

Access and inclusion was also well organised – wheelchair users commented on the ease of navigating via tarmac paths and access was fully separated to allow direct passage to the mobility-restricted areas. Rainbow and Trans flags abounded and there was a safe space for victims of sexual abuse to make denouncements and receive advice/treatment.

Of course, there were a few hiccups, but that’s to be expected with tens of thousands of attendees. Some complained about water access. But it’s worth remembering that there were three free water fountains, where we wouldn’t expect any. Hardly a surprise to see lines waiting to refill bottles.

We’ve been critical of certain things in the past, but it’s hard to find any major faults with Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024 as the organisers seem to have nailed it this year. It’s not to say that it was perfect – large events always have issues – and of course it’s extremely expensive for many. However, it delivered value in abundance.

The music at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024

The South American tour of Lollapalooza is essentially the template for Festival Estéreo Picnic, meaning that it can reliably attract properly world-class foreign artists, while the local talent pool is strong enough that there’s plenty of classy support acts.

Thursday

Zhu at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024
Zhu shone in the tent

The first day was probably the most eclectic, swinging confidently through genres as a day with something for everyone. It was hard rock that stood out though, with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard providing the best performance and Limp Bizkit drawing the biggest crowd. Zhu’s set in the dance tent was also first rate.

Fred Durst’s mob literally had the ground shaking as that enormous throng pogoed in unison. Bizarrely dressed in a hi-viz jacket, Durst has lost a lot of his explosive energy but retains a certain charisma. Main stage headliners Kings of Leon were somewhat overshadowed with their plodding set and competent performance that lacked spark.

Before Limp Bizkit on the second stage was King Gizzard, who provided an absolute sonic masterclass of glorious sludgerock. Finishing the night was a limp performance from Bad Gyal. Bringing Spanish reggaeton to Latin America was a brave move, and it didn’t really pay off, simply coming across as a pale imitation.

Future Islands

Maca & Gero did a good job of opening the main stage, although they played to a sparse crowd. The third stage was by far the most interesting. Buha 2030 set down a hard rock (is it jazz infused?) marker, with Kiwis Leisure bringing a Madchester feel and Future Islands providing a dark synthpop finish. Only three bands, but such a sonic range. 

Friday

This was probably the day for cool kids. Visitor numbers were still low enough to feel part of something alternative and plenty of fashion kings, queens and gender non binary monarchs in the crowds. Arca was the single most fabulous show, bringing her hi-beat technopop to really set the third stage alight. A small stage featured a swing and all the performance art you can imagine.

Arca at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024
Arca is adored by the fans

The big stage headliners were solid all round. Sam Smith did what they do, captivating and connecting with the audience naturally, casually dropping in hit after hit throughout the show. James Blake was slightly more awkward, his posh-kid schtick didn’t really stick. Black Coffee finished off with a banging set that energised everyone as much as his namesake.

Over on the main stage, Phoenix were punctual and loud but not much more, with Greta Van Fleet being the first to really put some power in the stage, leaving things wide open for genre-hopping chameleon SZA. She didn’t disappoint, with a stage setup that mimicked a trawlerboat on the high seas replete with a buoy to lift her into the heavens.

The smaller stages were also packed with quality. Anamaría Oramas and Matar Fuma provided a solid start to the day before Okraa put on a fantastic display in the tent. All three suffered from audience ignorance as the festival took a while to get going. No such problems for Akriila, Overmono and Verraco later in the day, with Four Tet closing things out perfectly.   

Saturday

This was the day where the festival really hit its stride in terms of numbers, but also went a little more mainstream. Two rising reggaetonero stars dominated the day, Blessd absolutely tore through the second stage before Feid conquered the main stage.

Feid’s show at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024 was spectacular

Karol G’s fella has a big shadow to step out from, which he went a long way towards doing at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024. A fleet of drones assembled in the sky to form a Colombian flag which then morphed into his grinning face logo. With awe suitably inspired, the lights came up to reveal a fantastic cartoony set. He went on to drop in cumbia and frequent references to medallo. Repetitive and bland music, but a superstar show.

El Kalvo at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024
El Kalvo speaks out

Somewhat more low-key but just as inventive was El Kalvo on the third stage, mocking up a Bogotá street to pay homage to the city he loves. He also found time to call out the genocide in Gaza, collaborator Hi-Kymon running across the stage with a Palestinian flag.

In the dance tent, Penyair brought a rawer, scratchier take on hip-hop. Before them were guitarless trio Homie! who certainly made their groupies happy. It was dance that ruled though. The Blessed Madonna put on an assured set and various Kaputt DJs paid tribute to a sadly missed Bogotá icon. Nuclear Digital Transistor’s dark techno finish was the perfect cap to the night there.

Afro Legends band at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024
Afro Legends – Pacific style

Earlier in the day, Afro Legends opened the main stage powerfully by being both Afro and legends, with Fruko y Sus Tesos carrying on the traditionalist theme after them. Lolabúm and More were strong early bands, far more inventive than Grupo Frontera on the main stage, whose inoffensive MOR latin-rock makes them a sort of Mexican Coldplay. 

Also a bit flat were Placebo on the second stage, Molko’s lyrics a bit lost in an overpowered bass setup. They made little attempt to communicate with the crowd, standing in stark contrast to Blessd, who absolutely put on a show. Pyrotechnics and charisma set him up as a rising star. MIA also had her own “reggaeton moment,” calling up dozens of the audience to dance with her. Opening for Feid wasn’t easy, but she did a good job.

Sunday

By this point, everyone with multi-day wristbands was somewhat dazed and confused, but the lineup was strong enough to bring hordes of day-trippers, making for a bizarre mix throughout the crowd. Both The Offspring and Blink 182 rolled back the years in triumphant performances.

The Offspring got circle pits going for the first time in the weekend

Formed before most of the audience were born, these two bands still have plenty in the locker. The Offspring were up first and the better of the two, ripping straight into classics, inspiring circle pits and doing extensive crowdwork. Blink had the fest’s biggest single audience but fewer songs to sustain it, not that anyone cared much. They managed to transfer their puerile banter pretty well into Spanish, if that’s a positive. 

La Etnnia band at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2024
La Etnnia brought a huge crowd

La Etnnia took the day’s prize for the ‘Why won’t the organisers put local bands on big stages award.’ Thousands flocked to see them on the third (!) stage. Verito Asprilla provided a challenge there, while Los Dinosaurios Murerion Ayer and Volcán played the big stages early but had the quality to be much further up. 

Oblivion’s Mighty Trash came from Medellín but were faintly disappointing, as was Esteban Rojas. Kevin Kaarl from Mexico was somewhat better, but it was Arcade Fire that did the job of sustaining the post-Blink energy. Great closers, they had Bomba Estéreo on stage to sing ‘Fuego’ and were a calm bridge from the high to the comedown. 

At the end of it all, we were certainly tired and emotional, but also euphorically happy. This is now absolutely an event that fully deserves to be in the festival tourism conversation. It’s so well set up and run that even with no experience of Colombia, the Spanish language or Bogotá itself, you’ll find it easy to navigate. This also goes for Festival Cordillera later this year (September).

The real big draw of the event is simply that you’ll be able to see some really interesting bands that you’d have no chance of catching elsewhere. Add to that a clutch of globally famous stars and you have a potent combination. Plus, the Bogotá scene is enthusiastic and energetic, meaning rapturous responses to everyone.

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