The festival is called Rock in Rio for a Better World — but the pathway to one of the world's largest rock festivals includes rock star prima donnas, bruised egos, and more than a million music fans braving the sweltering heat of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in midsummer.
The festival kicks off tomorrow, and before the Jan. 21 conclusion it will showcase 159 bands, including Guns N' Roses, R.E.M., Britney Spears, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Beck, and 'N Sync.
"We want it to be an international party, a place where people can listen to music but also get sensitized to the fact that we can improve the world," said Roberto Medina, a businessman and founder of the festival.
Critics say the mish-mash of musical styles could turn fans off, but promoters argue that acts are organized so each day will have a different theme, which means headbangers with a soft spot for "Bye, Bye, Bye" are plum out of luck.
The first Rock in Rio, in January 1985, set the world record as the biggest paying music festival in history, with 1.38 million people attending. The show helped reopen the Brazilian rock scene — and rock market — to the rest of the world, after years of dictatorship. The second festival, held in 1991 at the giant Maracana soccer stadium rather than an open field, lured a much smaller 700,000 fans over seven days at an event headlined by Prince, Santana, and Guns N' Roses.
Now, for $18, concertgoers can get into one day of shows at the specially built "City of Rock" in a distant suburb of Rio — or they can spend $126 to attend all seven days. The shows will run from Jan. 12-14 and Jan. 18-21.
"Rock in Rio has the most impressive lineup of talent anywhere in the world this year," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of concert industry magazine Pollstar.
As rock stars converge on Rio de Janeiro, reports are already surfacing about their excesses: British music magazine NME writes that Guns N' Roses have been most extravagant in their demands, renting an entire floor of the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, with frontman Axl Rose securing the 185-square-meter Presidential Suite, complete with ocean view and a Jacuzzi, which he has requested to be filled with roses and champagne.
Brazilian bands have resented the festival's rolling out the red carpet for foreign bands — specifically, the bands' being given headliner slots, and much heftier payments, than the $10,300 paid to domestic bands. Six of Brazil's most popular rock bands, including O-Rappa and Jota Quest, dropped out in protest of the unequal treatment, pointing out that they sell more records domestically than the foreign headliners.
Medina insists that the show is international, as it aims to reach 1 billion viewers through television, though about half the concertgoers are expected to be from Rio, 40 percent from other cities in Brazil, and 10 percent from other South American countries.
Promoters said they have gone to great lengths to ensure that Rock in Rio 3 is not a repeat of Woodstock '99 — the third edition of the famous New York festival that ended in fires and riots.
"We were there to study their mistakes," said Nelson Fiedler, who designed the City of Rock. Some $36 million was spent on marketing and on the City of Rock, which features a 15-floor-high main stage that is going into the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest concert tent ever.
In a bid to head off some of the problems that may have aggravated Woodstock fans, Rock in Rio offers lower ticket and beverage prices, shorter distances between events, and a 750-person-strong security team that will have the backup of 3,000 Rio police officers.
Since Rock in Rio will be held at the height of the city's summer, promoters say keeping tempers cool is a priority. They also hope Rock in Rio's emphasis on "making the world a better place" will inspire fans. Five percent of the profits will be donated to Viva Rio, an anti-violence organization in Rio, and to United Nations backed projects.
Reuters contributed to this report.