Tonight I became a MONSTER! No, I didn’t change into a zombie or get bitten by a werewolf, but I did participate in one of the wildest music festivals I’ve ever been to in my life. Every year, in Viña del Mar, Chile, there is a music festival/singing competition. How it works is a band (sometimes no name bands, sometimes up-and-coming bands, and sometimes established bands) will perform in front of a massive audience of 20,000 people in the Quinta Vergara Amphitheater. The audience decides if they like the band or not by cheering or booing. That’s why they call the audience el monstruo, because if they don’t like you, they’ll chew you up and spit you out.

This festival kind of reminds me of what I heard about the competitions at the Apollo Theater back in the day. If they audience liked you they’d cheer and if they didn’t like you they’d boo. A lot of famous people got their start at the Apollo, and this festival does the same thing by giving artists a shot at fame and stardom — and others an opportunity to re-evaluate their musical careers.

Franz Ferdinand at Viña del Mar festival 2006 picture by Nestor Gallegos

I really liked the way they put on this international song festival. They split the artists into two categories, pop and folk. I’m not really into folk music, but it was easy to choose the events geared more towards the pop audience and popular culture. I got a really nice program so I could follow along with the artists, and their music was for sale if we liked what we heard. I found it to be an amazing platform for new and established artists. This festival is broadcast around the world and the artists get to share a stage with some of the biggest names in music today.

I finally took my seat when the first band got onstage. I liked walking around and talking to the people, but it was time to be a MONSTER! I knew the audience would be super critical, so I prepared myself for the worse. Thankfully, the first few bands were really good. They had catchy hooks and the beats were insane. Everyone there agreed and cheered for those guys. The fourth band wasn’t so lucky. They must have been nervous. The lead singer knocked over the microphone. When he went to pick it up he tripped over a cord. The audience laughed, and I know the dude was embarrassed. As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, el monstruo unleashed its wrath. He didn’t sound that bad, but he wasn’t that great either. You should have heard some of the things they were yelling. The poor band ran off the stage, where I know they cried. Thankfully after that, we took a break.

By the end of the day’s competition, el monstruo was tamed by this band from Canada. They were really good. We didn’t stick around for all six days of the competition, but the concept was really cool. The environment was alive and the music flowed through the air as if it were part of the breeze. I loved it! I’d like to come back for all six days next time. I know a great band back home that could rock this festival, but I’m scared of what el monstruo will do to them. It doesn’t hurt to try, but a tomato could cost you an eye. OK, I must be tired now because I’m rhyming. Good night!