They Built This City On Rock ‘n’ Roll

Builders have been working around the clock to make sure a 200,000-square metre site near Madrid is ready in time for Spain’s first Rock In Rio.

Diggers have been clawing at the ground and creating the network of trenches that will eventually carry the water and electricity needed to service the event and any others staged there in the future. It will be landscaped with a huge fountain as its centrepiece and will have bars, cafes and shopping malls.

"Wherever Rock In Rio is held, the site is always called Rock City," explains Roberta Medina, Rock In Rio’s executive vice president and daughter of event founder Roberto Medina.

At the end of January she began stepping up her marketing campaign for the first Rock In Rio in Madrid by taking four dozen journalists from various papers and TV and radio stations on a tour of the Arganda del Rey site.

She’s no stranger to large or offbeat projects, having become used to decorating the biggest Christmas tree in the world.

"It started in Rio in ‘96 and was created for one of the clients attached to my father’s Artplan advertising agency. It began when the tree was 48 meters high and then it grew up little by little every year until its eighth birthday, then it stayed the same size for four years. Last year it started growing again and has now reached 94 meters," she explains.

"Every year it has a different theme: Christmas balls, candles, bells, and angels, etcetera. What’s special are the decorations and light designs because it’s not static. There are different sequences of lighting effects that make it interesting to see all the time. It’s not enough to see it only once," she says of the idea that’s now spread to Lisbon, Warsaw and Bucharest.

Fabiano de Queiroz, who works out the bill for the European Rock In Rios with the local promoters in Spain and Portugal, said, "The local councils from Madrid and Arganda del Rey guaranteed that they’d be finished with the groundwork and be ready to hand over the site to the builders by the beginning of March."

He says that leaves plenty of time to build the semi-permanent facilities on the site, which will eventually be an outdoor space to be used for a variety of entertainment events. It’s about 15 minutes outside of Madrid on the main A3 to Valencia, close to Madrid’s Barajas airport.

Some of the surrounding land has been earmarked for the new terminal or terminals that are part of the airport’s expansion plan.

The Rock In Rio staff at Madrid’s Palacio de Deportes, where the festival has set up its base, are determined the event will match the benchmark set by Rock In Rio in Lisbon a couple of years ago.

The 2006 bill at Bela Vista Park, including Shakira, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Jamiroquai, Carlos Santana and Roger Waters, attracted more than 330,000 people. A survey carried out by researchers from Acziona Qualitative Market Consultative found that 42 percent of Portuguese residents polled felt it was the most significant event held in the country that year.

"Within minutes of the start of my first meeting with Roberto Medina, I knew that I wanted to do Rock In Rio in Spain," Gay Mercader of Live Nation told Pollstar shortly after it had been announced that he’d be the Spanish promoter working on the event.

Mercader isn’t renowned as a festival promoter, but he was firmly converted to the cause, and the fundraising for a better world ("Por Un Mundo Mejor") that goes with it, after visiting Rock In Rio in Lisbon in 2006.

"When my partners and I went to Rock In Rio in Lisbon last May, the first thing we noticed was the number of parents with kids among the massive crowd," Mercader explained. "Apart from some old hippies who bring their children, you don’t often see that at festivals. The age range must have stretched from 7 to 75 and there were a lot from each age group.

"Roberto’s belief is that if you make it comfortable for people, they don’t have to queue for hours to eat or go to the toilet – and the toilets are clean when they get there – then you don’t have much crowd tension at festivals," Mercader added.

Rock In Rio in Madrid (June 27-28 and July 4-6) has already confirmed The Police, Alejandro Sanz, Lenny Kravitz, Franz Ferdinand, Jamiroquai, Tokio Hotel, Chris Cornell and James Morrison.

The confirmations for Rock In Rio in Lisbon (May 30 to June 1 and June 5-6) include Rod Stewart, Alejandro Sanz, Metallica, Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, James Morisson, Xutos & Pontapés and Machine Head. More acts are being added to both bills.