How to Survive Rock in Rio

The massive crowd at Rock in Rio in Rio de Janeiro in 1991. | Photo courtesy of Rock in Rio.

The massive crowd at Rock in Rio in Rio de Janeiro in 1991. | Photo courtesy of Rock in Rio.

On paper, the inaugural Rock in Rio sounds overwhelming. The City of Rock, the festival’s permanent home base near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, takes up 48 acres of space. Its zipline in front of the main stage stretches out more than 600 feet. Three different “Rock Streets” will host more than 60 shops, which, when combined, reach nearly a third of a mile. Over the course of four days, 60 acts will perform on six stages, including headliners No Doubt, Metallica, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. “It’s like going to a theme park of music,” Rock in Rio executive vice president Roberta Medina says.

Just like heading to Disneyland, a plan of attack is essential—even if that plan is destined for tatters by the last note of Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” on May 16. We caught up with Medina—whose father created the festival 30 years ago and has been a major force in its execution and expansion—to talk tips and tricks for getting the most fun out of the two weekends.

Dress appropriately. While the permanent infrastructure makes the City of Rock a more civilized concertgoing venue than, say, a polo field in the California desert, the festival’s sheer size and number of attractions mean a lot of walking. “Ladies, forget your high heels,” Medina says.

Zip to the Zip. As the day wears on, lines grow quickly at the amusement park-like attractions, the zipline in particular. Making those the first stop of the day means avoiding long waits in the evening. Of course, since it’s lit by the stage, the view gets more spectacular at night, so attendees’ mileage may vary.

Know your must-sees. Even Medina knows that, despite the festival’s conflict-free scheduling (acts on the two biggest stages are staggered so as to never overlap), not everyone will want to see every performance on the Main and Evolution stages. It’s important to start the day with an idea of who is a must-see and who can be skipped for a food/drink/shopping break.

Eat and drink. Not to indulge in parental-style nagging, but it’s almost impossible to drink too much water over the course of the day. And a full afternoon and evening of walking around a setting this size will build a fierce appetite. “You won’t want to stop,” Medina says. “[But] you have to remember to drink water and eat something.”

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