The street into the volcano is lined with flowers. Tens of millions of them. Hydrangeas to be precise, erupting from enormous bushes like banks of blue clouds.
“It’s like this gorgeous a lot all yr spherical,” the driving force says casually. “They alter colour, too. Quickly they’ll be pink.”
This information barely has time to register when the street makes one closing hairpin flip and, far under us, the volcano’s caldera comes into view. At its coronary heart is the village of Sete Cidades, half surrounded by two darkish lakes – Lago Azul and Lago Verde as they’re identified right here on the Azorean island of São Miguel, Portugal.
Alongside the southern shore are the competition grounds, a constellation of white constructions surrounded by the towering, lush, inexperienced partitions of the volcano that type a pure amphitheater for this weekend’s occasion, the primary ever Atlantis Live performance for Earth.
The 2-day occasion is a nonprofit live performance and conservation celebration hosted by Nicole Scherzinger, who can even carry out, and that includes Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, Mod Solar, Girlfriends and headliners, Black Eyed Peas and Pitbull (Queen and Sting will make digital appearances).
To date so regular, however what makes this greater than your typical music competition is that the occasion is giving equal billing to a world collection of solution-driven conservationists and organizations together with Blue Azores, The Ocean Cleanup, Re:wild, Sea Legacy, Jucce, The White Feather Basis and Innerspace.
Including to the individuality, after all, is the venue: a literal volcano. Neglect the barren picture of a smoldering crater, this volcano, 3 miles large and impossibly lush, is a tranquil and inexperienced oasis. Between bands and audio system, blackbirds, goldcrests and waxbills placed on a present. The stage faces the lake with a just about vertical, closely forested cliff rising up a whole bunch of toes to the rim of the cone behind it. Till Pink Floyd performs an precise live performance on the darkish aspect of the moon, there can by no means be a extra acceptable venue for a rock live performance than this.
The bold occasion is the brainchild of musician Nuno Bettencourt, an area son of the Azores and one of the crucial revered, and highest paid, guitarists on the planet.
Bettencourt first got here up with the thought to throw a competition inside a dormant volcano seventeen years in the past, whereas canoeing on Lago Azul with a buddy. The concept percolated for a while whereas Bettencourt did what he does, write songs and produce tracks for the likes of Robert Palmer, Perry Farrell and Janet Jackson.
However by the point he’d launched his media, television & movie manufacturing firm Atlantis Leisure in 2016 with companions Rene Rigal and Steve Schuurman, the imaginative and prescient was actually beginning to take form.
After all, like anybody in the present day who decides to tackle the immense job of making a competition, notably one inside a volcano on a distant island midway between North America and Europe, the specter of Fyre Fest is all the time lurking someplace within the background.
Bettencourt was no totally different and for a sizzling minute he thought he might need a catastrophe on his arms: “Three days in the past, I used to be sitting there within the rain crying as a result of I believed we weren’t going to do it,” he tells me backstage one night. Whereas Continental Europe and far of North America baked in a lethal heatwave, the Azores, in accordance with a number of locals, had been struggling by way of “the worst summer time ever.” Fixed rain and unusually chilly temperatures contained in the volcano within the weeks earlier than the occasion created Woodstock ‘94 ranges of mud and distress. Cranes needed to be introduced in to raise vans full of substances out of the mire. It was in that second, Bettencourt admits: “I hit my accomplice up and I mentioned for the primary time: ‘I’m scared. I feel we failed.’”
Earlier than that evening was by way of, nevertheless, Bettencourt’s worry turned to dedication. “On the finish of the day, we went house and we had been like, you recognize what? Fuck it. The artists are right here, we now have all of the content material we labored on for months. No matter occurs we’re gonna put the bands up.”
On the morning of the primary day of the competition, the clouds cleared, the temperature soared, the bottom dried and by mid-afternoon, the ten,000 robust, principally native crowd began pouring in. Little doubt the change within the climate and the pure setting contributed to their exuberant temper, however it’s additionally true that this live performance is just about the largest factor to occur to this volcano for the reason that final time it erupted 5000 years in the past.
The gobsmacking great thing about the venue was not misplaced on the artists both. Mod Solar was so blown away by the place he informed the viewers: “The day I landed, I known as my mother immediately and informed her you need to come right here, so I purchased her a ticket and right here she is!” The gang’s greeting of the Karma singer’s mom was so effusive, she began to interrupt down in tears.
She was not the one one overwhelmed by the day. A child, perhaps 12 years previous, propped up on his buddy’s shoulders, sang alongside to the band Girlfriends dynamite efficiency of “Excessive Once more” from their newest launch, (e)movement illness, like his life trusted it. It’s not clear if he crowd surfed to the sting of the stage or if the pressure of his fandom merely levitated him there. Later, I watched a decidedly middle-aged mom completely lose her thoughts, whereas busting out some alternative strikes, for the Black Eyed Peas, a lot to the apparent humiliation of her teenage son. Even his too-cool-for-school angle vanished, although, after they launched into “I Obtained A Feeling” and mother and son leapt about in shared bliss.
After all, this Competition was by no means supposed as a purely hedonistic musical occasion, and for the organizers the environmental element was each bit as essential. Nonetheless, there was some concern that the group won’t be on board. “I used to be nervous that when the bands completed everybody would simply go get beer,” Bettencourt says, “so we introduced in additional, big screens from Lisbon to flank the stage. That approach, even folks within the beer traces may see the messages.”
Between the performances, as an alternative of commercials for pickups, beer or banks, the screens displayed slickly edited movies highlighting the work of the environmental companions, assembled and edited by his group at Atlantis. “The bands are straightforward,” he says. “It’s the messaging and the conservation half that’s laborious.”
Robin Moore, vp of re:wild, one of many main environmental companions of the occasion, spoke on stage between acts to spotlight not simply his personal group’s work to guard and restore international range by way of native collaboration, however that of the group’s companions as effectively. His entrance, whereas not as dramatic as Pitbull’s – he was preceded on stage by The Most Unhealthy Ones, six backup dancers in cat fits and 5 inch stilettos – was, nonetheless, nearly as enthusiastically acquired.
Afterwards he informed me, “The general power and the vibe is wonderful. The viewers appears actually engaged. It looks as if they’re all right here for this. It’s superior.”
By the top of the weekend, no matter issues or worries Bettencourt and his companions had at first of the week had vanished. The sensation backstage after Pitbull’s rapturously acquired closing efficiency was electrical. Folks hugged and cheered each other, Champagne was uncorked, there have been tears of happiness and reduction.
I requested Bettencourt how he felt now that he’d pulled it off. “It’s so surreal,” he mentioned. “I’ve been dreaming about this for 17 years and it actually occurred. I’m actually joyful and excited, however I’m nearly shaking and scared as a result of, watch out what you would like for as a result of now we’re in. We’re all in. It’s time to stroll the stroll, dude.”