Festival Imperial 2012 successfully introduced a type of event that had not yet been done before in Central America. Organizers tried for a “festival” in the truest sense. The La Guácima venue in Alajuela, north of the capital, featured multiple stages, an area for souvenirs and other merchandise, food stands selling everything from sushi rolls to hunks of chicken and (of course Imperial brand beer). Fans from all over the region, including media from as far as Ecuador (400 media members were accredited), joined the one-of-a-kind festival experience in Costa Rica.
No, you still can’t spend the night on the festival grounds, which is common at the biggest festivals in the United States, including Coachella or Bonnaroo. Yet this year’s concert had more in common with those festivals than the two previous versions. The festival’s producers, C3, as explained in this week’s story, gambled by going for a younger demographic and focusing on bands that were more “now” instead of bringing in long-established stars, who perhaps are past their heyday.
The move worked. Preliminary numbers from organizers fulfilled expectations, and 30,000 attendees came for each day of the festival. They arrived despite criticism that the music was too eccentric or too weird for the Costa Rican scene.
But we hope the next Festival Imperial – whenever that may be (organizers are unsure, and this is the first festival in four years) – maintains the more trendy approach.
There’s no doubt we would love to see musicians like Sting or Duran Duran, who played at the previous festivals in 2006 and 2008, perform again in Costa Rica. And we will acknowledge that some of the acts at Festival Imperial might be old news by 2013. But here’s what was special about the sponsors and producers attempting such an ambitious show: At Festival Imperial 2012, Costa Rica got to be at the forefront of what’s popular in music.
You might shake your head, frown and say, “If that’s where music is going, then I want nothing to do with it.” Many critics, expecting rock stars like Sting, did say that. And organizers said they would like to bring in more rock and more Latin bands in the future.
But the atmosphere, the fact that you can enjoy a festival with multiple acts playing on multiple stages in Costa Rica deserves plenty of praise. Even if you thought the hard-driving beats of dubstep were too cacophonous or psychedelic rock seemed too strange, there was still an experience to feel and to enjoy with 30,000 other festivalgoers. If the main stage act seemed lame, check out the local act on the smaller, more acoustic Forrest stage. If you strike out there, check out the latest fashion or novelties at the shops in the souvenir area, or take a bite to eat at the food court. Although the focus was mainly electronic, the range of music was wide and included rappers like Cypress Hill or rockers like TV on the Radio, among others. The festival also was fantastic for the 10 local acts that played.
Want to hear drum-and-bass? No problem. Folk? Yes, please. Hardcore. There’s a little bit of that too. One act, Sonámbulo, even earned an invite from the producers to play a major festival in the U.S., Austin City Limits. Costa Rica is now exporting its own music through this event.
It helps too that tickets were reasonably priced – roughly $110 for both days. Bringing famous acts to Costa Rica sometimes seems barely affordable for concertgoers. Bob Dylan costs close to $100 and only 6,000 tickets are available.
It’s worth mentioning the community benefited too. The national brewery delivered $50,000 toward the development of towns near the venue – Rincón Herrera, Rincón Chiquito and La Pradera – as well as the Red Cross of La Guácima, which was on hand throughout the fest and provided excellent medical care when needed.
Funds will go toward social works and improving infrastructure, such as sidewalks in Rincón Herrera, a pharmacy in Rincón Chiquito and a sports field in La Pradera.
The construction works are expected to be completed before September. And we hope by the beginning of 2013, we’ll be hearing the lineup for the next Festival Imperial. Happy Holy Week, and we’ll see you April 13!