A ritual and a social gathering. A place with a unique atmosphere. A way to forge an identity and to weave a network, in addition to one of the fastest growing industries in recent decades, a generator of jobs and the main source of income for musicians.
These are some of the definitions that journalists Claudia Montecinos (Santiago, 1992) and Javiera Calderón (Santiago, 1990) give in the pages of Upstage: the history of mega-concerts in Chile, a complete investigation that reviews three decades of great musical events in the country, from the remembered visits of Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi and Silvio Rodríguez, in the jump from the 80s to the 90s, until the era of the great modern festivals made in Chile.
Edited by Ril, the volume, already available in bookstores and dispatch services, is presented as an exhaustive analysis of an industry that flourishes and emerges – as we know it today – with the return to democracy, to expand and professionalize in the new century at the point of experience, international links and not without stumbling blocks along the way. A book that, paradoxically, comes to light just when live activity is going through its worst moment as a result of the pandemic, in the world and in Chile -with the recital of The Offspring at the Movistar Arena in March 2020 as the last milestone -, leaving a question mark and the obligation to overcome new challenges in the immediate future
“It’s strange and for us it was a bit demotivating to think that we were talking about something that is no longer there, describing an industry that after the pandemic was going to be completely different,” says Montecinos.
“But based on the comments we have received, I think there could be no better time, because there is a longing, a need and an expectation for the concerts to return soon,” adds the author, who was born precisely in the days when the Chilean stages and stadiums began to receive illustrious visits from abroad in a more systematic way, after 17 years of dictatorship that partially delayed Chile’s conversion into a stable place for major international tours.
Although the work focuses on everything that has happened since Stewart dazzled with Hot legs (“A song that talks about legs without a face or a heart”, the authors emphasize) to the local media and to 80 thousand attendees thirsty for this type of experience, the researchers are not unaware of the pioneering milestones that cemented these instances of fanaticism and massiveness; from the visit of the Mexican Jorge Negrete in 1946 (“received by almost 3,000 people upon his arrival at the Mapocho Station, something unprecedented for the time”), to the personal efforts of Creole “variety producers” to bring legends like Paul Anka and Bill Haley in the mid-twentieth century, added to the activity in the dictatorship, distributed between shows by Argentine rockers and jazz legends to the underground scene of punk and Canto Nuevo in venues such as the Garage Matucana and the Café del Cerro.
But it is in the transition to democracy towards the end of the 20th century that the culture of mega-events begins to settle definitively in the country. “Argentina and Brazil were already large squares, but in general there is an uncovering after the end of dictatorships in several countries. I imagine that once the pandemic is over, something similar could happen. Of course, there are other Latin American countries that experienced similar processes but that did not develop an industry of these characteristics, ”says the author.
In this sense, the journalist highlights the debt capacity of the population and the establishment of the neoliberal system in democracy as the factors that led to the definitive growth of a sector that initially knew of glories but also experienced more than one setback, such as the remembered Rock in Chile -the first local megafestival, with David Bowie and Eric Clapton, of low attendance-, the second date of Michael Jackson in the National Stadium in 1993 that was never made and the aborted first visit of Iron Maiden in those days.
“We did not want it to be a list of concerts, but milestones that generated a change in the industry, in the production models, in the audiences, there are some that are determined by the political context (…) Without that economic and political system There would not have been the explosion of the industry that there was. In many aspects the need for consumption has been installed, and the concert industry knows how to take advantage of it, mixing the emotional aspect and putting a price on it. There is that duality that is interesting to know and be clear about ”, says Montecinos.
“” These stories don’t go down separate lanes, they go in unison. Many of the things that are happening in the country have an impact on this industry and the industry develops thanks to the changes in the country ”, adds the author of the book, which effectively transcends the simple list or anecdote and delves into the transformations of the public and in the development of new actors in the sector, adding graphs, figures, interviews and testimonies – in addition to photos and even images of the original entries of the shows – that help shape the panorama of the last decades.
What to expect from the next 30 years of live music in the country, amid the uncertainty of the activity? “I think great changes are coming, especially in the transition period,” says Montecinos. “The global context is super important, because if Chile is controlled but Argentina and Brazil are still complicated (with the pandemic), it is super difficult for great artists to come to great festivals. There, the opportunity that opens up is for the industry to turn local. And they will have to do smaller things, in open spaces, they will not be able to do events in winter, for example ”, he closes.
* Upstage It is already on sale in various stores (Tienda Nacional, Record Shop Chilena, Antarctica, Lolita, Trayecto, Clepsidra, Prologue, Promúsica, Melomaniaco, Ril Editores). It can also be purchased by writing directly to the authors on Instagram @arribadelescenario or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The book launch will be held next Wednesday, April 21 at 7:00 p.m. and it will be broadcast on RIL editores’ Facebook and on the Instagram account @arribadelescenario.