B’Estival’s Rocking Horror Show

Romania’s B’Estival heralded its arrival in the European outdoor market with a little rock ‘n’ roll history, as shock horror rivals Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson appeared onstage together.

Whatever Cooper supposedly said about Manson putting on makeup, choosing a girl’s name and doing a rock horror show, they managed to bury the hatchet without trying to do it in each other’s heads.

Manson came on stage to join Cooper on "I’m Eighteen," with Cooper returning the compliment by joining Manson on "Sweet Dreams" during the younger ghoul’s headlining set.

It made front-page news and earned B’Estival rave reviews in a number of national papers.

Around 50,000 people showed up across three days, showing that company chief Guido Janssens and his team got their message through.

Last October, EMag!c began a marketing campaign to build the belief that Bucharest would have its own three-day Western European-style rock and pop music festival.

Janssens set up EMag!c with his wife Laura and Dutch promoter Leon Ramakers to provide some major U.S. and European touring acts with a safe partner in Romania. The company set out to win the confidence of a country lacking a concept of such an event, other than being used to seeing them flounder or get canceled.

EMag!c made it easy by staging B’Estival – an amalgam of B for Bucharest and Est for East – at the Romexpo complex near the city centre. It reached an agreement with R.A.P.P.S., the government-owned agency that manages Romania’s state property, to use a 10,000-square metre area adjacent to the main arena as a camping site.

It also decided to begin with two stages sited side by side, thereby cutting changeover times to a minimum and greatly reducing the chance of an inexperienced festival audience switching off.

Following a March 29 press call at RomExpo, when the company announced a bill including Cooper, Manson, Faithless, Morcheeba, Hooverphonic, Pink, Kasabian, Reamonn, Wu-Tang Clan and Phil Hartnoll, the interest built to the point that 80 percent of the 5,000 three-day passes were sold in less than three weeks.

In the month before the event, the festival Web site had 69,000 visitors, with nearly half coming in the last week – considered amazing figures for a country with such low Internet access.

Janssens said the Romanian audience still seems a little reticent compared to Western European crowds when it comes to making a day of it.

"When the doors opened on the first day (June 29), I think no more than a hundred people trickled in, although that figure increased a little on the second and third days," Janssens explained.

By the time the headliners were due on stage, the first day crowd had swelled to 16,000. The second day (June 30) nearly matched that by drawing 15,000, and the final day (July 1) benefited from the growing vibe and attracted more than 20,000.