UPDATE 3 (4/22): At last, it has been cancelled. After a mere 4 acts played on Saturday, the final day of the festival will contain no performances whatsoever. The stages are being tore down, and attendees have been advised to seek legal action.
UPDATE 2 (4/21): Metal Open Air has been
officially cancelled all but cancelled. The festival resumed, but with only a fraction of its original lineup – reportedly, over 30 of its 47 acts are no longer playing. However, the main remaining international bands (Blind Guardian, Grave Digger, and Anthrax) have all quit.
In the last couple of years, Antiquiet has provided you with a few recaps of Brazilian festivals that worked very well, and came close enough to reproducing the quality of US/UK large-scale festivals – to cite just the latest examples, Lollapalooza Brazil and SWU. Unfortunately, such was not the case with Metal Open Air, which was set to be something in the line of Germany’s monstrous Wacken Open Air. Taking place on April 20-22 in the town of São Luís, it kicked off with a handful of cancellations and structural issues.
The first set of problems came up when attendees found out that the camping area was set at nearby horse stables, devoid of any bathrooms, light or water supply. Due to a delay in getting the stages ready, as well as having the festival grounds meet certain security standards, the concerts began nearly five hours late – but the crowd was already aware that they weren’t getting what they came for.
At first, the line-up looked strong enough for a metal-only event. However, it suffered its first loss on Thursday, as third-day headliners Venom announced that they were no longer participating: according to a statement by the group, their South American visas were mistakenly sent to Africa. Things spiraled down from there, as a handful of Brazilian acts began to cancel their performances, stating, one by one, that they weren’t paid in time. Furthermore, Saxon, one of the main international acts, also announced they weren’t showing up, with a clear-as-crystal reason: “Saxon is sad to announce that they have to cancel the performance at Metal Open Air in Sao Luis Brazil due to a serious breach of contract by the promoters. Having waited since march the 15th for the fee to arrive as of Friday 2pm no money has arrived.”
But the worse was still to come. “Supergroup” Rock & Roll All Stars (comprised of Gene Simmons, Sebastian Bach, Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan, Mike Inez, among others), arguably Metal Open Air’s most eye-catching act, were set to headline the second day, making their only appearance in the country, with Charlie Sheen as a master of ceremonies – for some reason. Surely enough, as with so many other acts before, the group simply didn’t get paid; Shannon Tweed, Gene Simmon’s wife, tweeted: “Allegedly the local promoter in Brazil can’t be located so we can’t pay the crew, musicians, pilots, etc & won’t make that show! #shyster.”
For those keeping count, that’s two out of the festival’s three headliners not showing up, and at least 10 of its 40-some other acts cancelling (or threatening to cancel). Metal Open Air’s organizers attempted some last-minute damage control, by releasing official statements. Rock & Roll All-Stars’ no-show was curiously described as a breach of contract by the group: upon hearing that Charlie Sheen was unable to show up, the festival attempted to reduce the band’s fee – a proposition that was obviously refused, entering contractual breach territory. Sure enough, no comment was provided on why the band didn’t receive any beforehand payment.
More interestingly, the organizers claimed that the festival’s sponsors, as well as the state’s (Maranhão) government, were to blame for most of the problems, after having allegedly pulled out a large portion of their invested budget at the last second. As if that didn’t sound fishy enough by itself, the state of Maranhão went right ahead and put out a statement of their own, saying that they had never been contacted by Metal Open Air, and don’t even invest in such events, ever. The release went on to add, in an almost humorous tone: “In this specific case, there’s the aggravating history of previous events made by one of these organizers, which have already resulted in similar issues.” Shyster indeed.
While first-day headliner Megadeth did end up performing (several hours behind schedule), rumor has it that other major acts, such as Anthrax and Blind Guardian, were on the verge of pulling out of the lineup as well – not to mention more Brazilian acts. Obviously, the public reaction to this is already a disaster, and there’s no telling how long the backlash will last. One can only hope that Metal Open Air’s clear and absolute lack of planning and poor execution won’t set back all the progress that Brazil – and South America, in general – has been making with major festivals.
A tip of the hat to Whiplash for the timely information.