The first Holi One Festival to be held in Costa Rica passed with flying colors. Literally.
Held at the Pedregal events center in San Antonio de Belén, northwest of the capital, the celebration channeled India’s Holi Festival – a religious ceremony involving brightly colored powder and paint tossed with abandon to welcome spring. Costa Rica’s Holi One, an iteration of “the world’s largest color party,” was put on by Holi One World and attracted a sellout crowd of 9,000. The display of vibrant pink, orange, yellow, green and blue powder, sold for ₡1,300 ($2.60) a bag inside or ₡3,500 ($7) for three in advance, was set to popular electronic and rock music from Costa Rica and beyond.
The day began at 11 a.m. with Tico audiovisual artist Piloy, and next up were two members of Source, Ser and 1og1c, whose dubstep and techno performance accompanied the visuals of Vikati. The short line to enter was populated mainly by women in cutoff jean shorts and white tank tops and artsy-looking guys, all generally between the ages of 18 and 26.
At 1 p.m., German DJ Christopher Cherubin took the one and only stage and pumped energy through the audience, which was already prepared with bags of powder. A little after 2 p.m., a countdown ensued. Cinco. Cuatro. Tres. Dos. Uno. Powder flew everywhere.
At first the poofs of color above the audience resembled multi-colored cotton candy clusters all floating side by side. But soon the plume began to morph and blend into a greenish-yellow haze. Beneath it, people rubbed colors into each other’s hair, clothes and faces, and some donned goggles and even gas masks. The powder had an acidic taste and smell, regardless of the fact that it was made from rice flour and food-grade coloring, and is both hypoallergenic and non-toxic.
For the remainder of the day and night, every hour on the hour, the audience erupted with colored powder.
At 2 p.m., the rock band Alphabetics took the stage and were greeted with an overwhelmingly positive reception. When the sound system malfunctioned and shut down for about 15 seconds, the band continued, and thousands of pairs of hands shot into the air in a demonstration of support. By 2:45 p.m., the line stretched out beyond the parking lot.
Santos y Zurdo, an electronic gypsy band, had nearly the whole place dancing, and DJ duo Jalamelule won the now tie-dyed crowd with versions of popular favorites such as Daft Punk’s “Around the World” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Patterns came on at 5 p.m., and although the backup dancers were impressive, the female vocalist appeared in a princess costume and repeatedly screeched into the microphone as if she were an annoying audience member. The crowd lost interest, and some attendants went off to explore some of the shopping areas, where jewelry, clothing, art and more were on sale. The beer line got very long, as did that for the bathroom, where many young women pointlessly wiped powder from their hair and faces. A marketing campaign involving poker chips, attractive women in blue mini-dresses, and four-poster beds, apparently set up for smokers who agreed to trade packs of various cigarette brands for Marlboros, was strangely alluring.
Huba & Silica, a beloved drum-n-bass duo, performed at 8 p.m. and easily won the affection of the crowd, which had become a sea of color-splashed young adults, some of whom had perched themselves on each other’s shoulders. Many danced wildly, and at one point, an alien-like creature joined the performers on stage and sprayed everyone with a fire extinguisher.
At the end of that set, and for the first time that evening, the audience demanded “otra” (a Spanish call for an encore) and the men performed one last song. When they finally left the stage, the crowd again called “otra.”
Other performers included Florian Kunicke of Germany, Bartosz Brenes, a Costa Rican-born DJ who lives in Europe, and Hard Rock Sofa of Russia, all of whom did their part to keep the dance party going.
By 11 p.m., much of the crowd was still enthralled, but some kids began trickling out over the color-stained concrete, hoping to beat traffic or make curfew.