Rock in Rio is a massive music festival that originated in Brazil and is now held regularly in multiple countries. There have been seven version of the festival held in Brazil, seven of them held in Lisbon, three held in Madrid, and a single festival held in the United States. The festival does not occur on an annual or scheduled basis.
The First Festivals
1985 was the first year of the Rock in Rio festival. It lasted for ten days between January 11 and January 20 and was hosted in Rio de Jainero, the capital city of Brazil. The area used for the festival was named the “City of Rock”. It stretched for a total of 250 thousand square meters. Their stage was the largest music stage in the world at the time of the first festival. It hosted a total of 15 national and 16 international attractions.
There were more than 1,400,000 people in attendance at the first festival. They consumed more than 900,000 hamburgers and 500,000 slices of people. McDonald’s set a Guinness World Record during the event for selling over 58,000 hamburgers. That record remained in place until 2011 when Bob’s sold 79,000 at the fourth edition of the Rock in Rio festival.
A number of high profile entertainers were at the first event. There were a total of five headliners who would each headline for two nights of the event. They were AC/DC, Yes, Rod Stewart, Queen, and George Benson. Other notable bands and musicians at the event included Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, James Taylor, The Go-Go’s, Ozzy Osbourne, and The B-52’s.
Queen set a record at the time for playing in front of the largest paying audience in history. There were between 350,000 and 500,000 people in attendance for each of the Queen shows. The shows were also filmed and broadcast in multiple countries with over 200 million people watching.
The second festival didn’t occur until January 1991. It was held between January 18 and January 27. Once again, numerous records were set. For example, the A-ha’s, a headlining band, broke the existing record for a fee-paying audience at a rock concert. The other headliners were Prince, Guns N’ Roses, George Michael, New Kids on the Block, and INXS. Other notable performers included Carlos Santana, Billy Idol, Joe Cocker, Run-DMC, and Paulo Ricardo.
The founders of the festival eventually decided to hold similar festivals outside of Rio with the same name. It was a somewhat controversial choice, but the festivals were extremely popular nonetheless. The first of these alternative versions was Rock in Rio Lisboa. This alternative festival took place for ten days in 2004.
A new City of Rock had to be constructed at the location of the festival. It was built in Bela Vista Park and could hold an audience of 260,000 people. There were a large main stage and several side stands and tents where others could perform simultaneously.
The headliners for the first Rock in Rio Lisboa were Sting, Britney Spears, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Metallica, and The Food Fighters. Additional noteworthy performers included Alicia Keys, Ben Harper, Evanescence, Kings of Leon, and Slipknot. The alternative festival was such a huge success that more would be held in Lisbon, Madrid, and eventually the USA.
Rock in Rio has remained one of the largest musical festivals in the world since the first festival was held in Rio. Even when visiting other countries, the festival still attracts hundreds of thousands of people on a slow day. The latest festival was held in Lisbon in 2018 with the next planned in Brazil in 2019.
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