By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Next to the main stages with performances of Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé, a further highlight of this year’s Rock in Rio is the “Rock Street” area. An entire strip full of music, street performers and bars conveying the feeling of a stroll through the pubs and music scene of Great Britain and Ireland.
Rock Street, newly added to the attractions of the Rock in Rio festival in its last Rio edition in 2011, is produced by New York musician Bruce Henri, who will also perform himself in one of this year’s highlights: the Rock Street Big Band.
Rock Street is not only a fun attraction for the public, with its smaller stages and street performances, but also a great opportunity for musicians. In the last edition, many expatriates showed their talent and this time artists from all over Brazil are joining the event.
“The cool thing about Rock Street is that it is very artist oriented, we were all treated with much respect and consideration, and there are all sorts of street artists there, not just musicians doing a busking thing,” Alan Pratt, who played in Rock Street in 2011 and will this year perform at a different stage at Rock in Rio, told The Rio Times.
This year’s theme will be Great Britain and Ireland and is based upon the country’s many bars and pubs and their dedication to and history of music. The décor features scenes from Camden Town in London, known for its punk-rock style and artistic houses and Grafton Street in Dublin with its Irish pubs and buskers.
“We chose the whole area [of Great Britain and Ireland], because there are so many good things. We included Ireland, because we wanted to have Irish dancing. [...] The bands on stage will mostly reflect English rock and pop, such as the Stones, Beatles and Police, as well as Irish punk,” Bruce Henri told The Rio Times.
Special highlights of this year’s Rock Street will be the Celtic Jam session, Orchestra Voadora, Irish dancers, as well as magician Mágico Romano and Dutch hula-hoop artists Lisa Lottie.
Opening the shows every day will be the Rock Street’s own Big Band led by Bruce Henri. The jazz inspired combo will be joined by guest appearances and focus on songs by the Beatles. Henri explains, that they play, “Beatles from a different angle, Beatles with a twist. We take the songs to a different direction; they can be Latin, funky, jazz. Beatles is a common language. Everyone knows them.”
Rock Street offers an alternative to the big stages with smaller crowds and attractions on and off stage. “I was amazed at the audience reaction there, I figured I would just be like elevator or background music, considering how many people were milling around and walking through Rock Street,” Alan Pratt described.
“But they stopped and really listened… I mean really listened!” he said. “Folks are going to Rock in Rio to hear music, they weren’t there to socialize and fool around, it was all about music, and I expect it to be the same this year,” he added.
Learning from last edition’s experience, Henri has improved small things from security details, to a more flexible schedule and to moving the concentration of Rock Street away from night hours towards the beginning of each day’s performances. Also new this year will be a second stage in Rock Street: “It gives us a chance to spread the crowd, as it gets very concentrated around one stage. We also give room for the food sector,” he explained.