What Wacken has to teach Altavoz (and vice versa)

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By Juan Sebastian Villa.
Photography by Juan P. Trujillo and courtesy of Disctopia

Wacken Open Air, the bigest metal festival in the world, brought about in a small town in Germany, has a lot to teach to events like Altavoz on how to position themselves as a world renown festival. The improving process that came through so clearly in 2013 under the direction of Felipe Grajales next to David Viola and Mónica Moreno shows that this festival has fire, but what’s required now lies not on hands of the Staff.

Last year altavoz broadened it’s borders in a move that aims to make it a school for the cirlcle around music in Medellín. Using as cornerstone a series of public formative workshops that seek to give tools to its participants and make them more competitive and efficient when it comes to take their projects one step forward, Altavoz wishes to unite the alternative media, producers and artists under the banner of independent music (A term we don’t fully understand, but we let it pass at least as slang).

This process, continuing in 2014, adds to the audition process that Altavoz will have whis year instead of receiving recorded material. This decision wishes to adapt to the particular music situation in Medellin, where recording professionally is still a luxury, and the school is still based around live shows.

Wacken and Altavoz are two diferent beasts. Wacken Open Air is a privately founded event that works on it’s own capital, this allows them freedoms that the directives of Altavoz push to earn each year from public fonds. A clear example of this strugle is the appearence in 2012, and further improvement in 2013 of a second stage. W.O.A has 4 stages that offer a variety of experiences, but such logistic needs, next to it’s humongous camping space, bring us to the bigest diference between this two.

Wacken Open Air understands that its 80.000 yearly assistants won’t even fit in hell, less if you add around 6.000 more souls that make up staff. That’s why instead of looking around for a space inside a city, Wacken solves it’s space problem using a small town (Named Wacken) which economy revolves during these 3 days around the event. Black t-shirts and long manes from all around the world fill up the 7.1 square kilometers that this settlement offers, and even with foour stages, more than 60 bands confirmed so far and much more than 10 people per square meter, Wacken manages to get away with it. I can’t be the only one wondering how they manage it; Anything near to the tents on the Quiddich World Cup?

If you think that making Altavoz in a town in the peripheries of Medellin would be more of a problem than a solution, I think you’re right. But not for the reasons you would think.

If there’s something that Medellín needs to learn from the festival where heads bang the most in the world, is that commitment comes from their fans. Our international film festival is made in Santa Fe de Antioquia, far from Medellín, and it happens similarly to the Wacken. Even tho it has no cost, and doesn’t compare to a ticket that went past 100 euros, Santa Fe gathers the crowd it does because the festival has an identity. It possesses cultural capitalm such as Wacken does; and Altavoz has to reenforce its identity through a dificulty we fight to change as a media. Figures like Jorge Barón spoiled Colombia to believe entertainment comes free. Altavoz can’t afford to bring bands that would make the city burst, neither to organize in a place that allows camping and other luxuries to make it easy to people from other places mainly because the public in Medellín doesn’t understand the responsibility it has with the events in his own house. Altavoz couldn’t be done on the outskirts, even if that allowed it to develop its potential, because its public likes it the easy way.

But Medellin don’t just have free festivals. Del Putas Fest, Brutal Nation, Hip4 among many others have to struggle with a public that wants to see Mötorhead, NACH, Crystal Castles and Varg Viekernes straight out of jail at the price of bag of chips. If as a public we don’t pay 50.000 COP for a private festival that could even bring 3 international bands, we can be certain that Antioquia will never get the events it dreams of. If you think Román Gonzales, Felipe Lopez or other organizers only bring the bands they want (and it might aswell be true), Bajo Asfalto encourages you to create your own Fest, and offers its support with the best coverage we can give.

Altavoz has on it’s behalf advantages that people at Wacken Open Air can’t enjoy. Although both come with burning suns and sure rain, Altavoz greeted the public in 2013 with a top notch floor. A short google search will show that the mud is a mandatory amusement in the W.O.A, and no one seems to complain. Altavoz is cheaper as a festival (Not taking as a reason its gratuity. Your taxes pay for it). Thanks to the mannagement in 2012 and 2013 Altavoz is a festival where food and souvenirs come in wallet friendly prices because it’s organizers want that even the most punk of all can ease hinger and thirst without feeling sore pockets… Or so we think. But mainly it allows quality bands without a lot of background to stand on a top notch stage and shout its music to the world.

Medellín is enclosed by mountains, yes. But that doesn’t mean we ignore that our growing musical sceen needs to conect and share with others. In 2013 Altavoz established its first bussiness comferences, that next to the good relations with QuitoFest gives musicians, producers and managers a space to create bonds with other scenes. Other festivals. Other horizons.

The strength of Wacken resides on its legitimacy on metal circles around the world. They don’t only look for bands they’re intrested, but use tools like their Metal Battle, which allows countries without prominent metal scenes to make its bands battle over contracts with labels, support, and mainly to earn visibility and solidify their musical space in their own country. India, China, Israel, Lithuania and Southafrica are but a handful amongst the many countries that have adopted the model of Metal Battle, and there’s a lot to learn from it. Won’t we be the first latin american country to have a Metal Battle?

Medellín, from the times of Rodrigo D No Futuro, has only a fistful fighting to open the borders and see a musical conection worldwide. And festivals like Wacken Open Air have their arms wide open to scenes as the colombian scene.

The final effort lies upon you. Upon the public. Put your boots on, your hand in yout pocket, and support the scene as a whole (Musicians, festivals, organizers, producers and media included), and remember that demanding without showing your effort is bad manners.