• Rockin Costa Rica

      Suzan Crane looks at the heavy-hitting international music groups headlining in Costa Rica. Originally published in Landings, Nature Air’s in-flight magazine.

      rockin_costa_rica-1Surf, sand and scenery have long been Costa Rica’s stock in trade. But recently the small Central American nation has been rocked to its core as heavy-hitting international music groups thunder to its shores. This year alone, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Korn, POD, Megadeth and Aerosmith have staged concerts here, portending a cataclysmic live music revolution that will continue through 2010 with MxPx in August, Green Day in October and subsequent dates rumored for Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam. Inside talk hints at U2 and ACDC in 2011.

      It’s not that Costa Rica hasn’t hosted its share of marquee names in the past: Santana rocked the house in the ‘70s while Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel and Sting headlined a festival in the ‘80s. Aerosmith, Dio, Depeche Mode, Bon Jovi and Misfits were among those that followed while the recent Festival Imperial featured Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus and Duran Duran. But until this current spate of activity, major concerts were more sporadic as groups flew right over this skinny neck of land connecting North and South America.

      rockin_costa_rica-2This year, however, has proven to be a banner year for rock fans in Costa Rica as back-to-back headliners crashed the flood gates re-opened by Iron Maiden’s triumphant virgin voyage here two years ago. The success of that show prompted investors with  little experience but deep pockets to dip their toes into the potentially lucrative mega-concert pool, joining established veteran outfits such as Miami-based Evenpro in luring bigname international acts here. This, however, can be a tricky little bit of business as Costa Rica’s music fans, passionate though they are, exhibit the same fickle tendencies as any other consumer group.

      According to Darren Mora, an independent concert producer long entrenched in Costa Rica’s music scene, several of this year’s shows were highly successful while others were publicity-inflated busts. “It’s a strange market,” he observed. “People seem to care which company is involved in bringing the group in. There was a lot of money invested over the past year and as backers begin to understand the market better I think it will balance out., he said. “We’ll still get the big bands but perhaps not the steady invasion we saw in 2010.”

      On the flipside, according to uber-manager Doc McGhee, the logistics of touring Central America offer viable and cost effective possibilities – the ability to truck rather than fly gear to each country, for instance. Although McGhee client Guns ‘N Roses cancelled their Costa Rica show (several explanations surround the aborted concert, including a faulty stage setup), he would “certainly consider” booking other clients here in the future, including Kiss.

      rockin_costa_rica-3Costa Rica remains a potentially attractive stopover for reasons that exceed economics. It’s a great place for artists to take a break as did Metallica and Steven Tyler, both of whom jetted to Guanacaste for R&R pit stops at the Four Seasons.

      “The beauty of this country is unrivaled,” observes Megadeth co-founder and bassist David Ellefson. “We’re grateful that we got to hang here for some days.” In fact, a video documenting Ellefson, Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane and yours truly romping in famed Manuel Antonio National Park was featured on Teletica News and in La Nacion, Costa Rica’s premier daily.

      While the Megadeth guys were living “pura vida” in the days before their outdoor gig at La Guacima racetrack, San Jose was awash in a sea of black Slayer, Metallica and, of course,  Megadeth branded headbangers – some of whom caravanned from neighboring countries.

      During the concert, 15,000 fans – amped to the max – spontaneously combusted as the mutinous strains of “Symphony Of Destruction” propelled the human mass into the barricades and then onto the stage in an orgasmic frenzy that bespoke their appreciation.

      Although a bit foreboding for the performers, the crowd’s delirium was contagious. “Costa Rica is one of the best kept secrets of the modern world,” marvels Ellefson. “The fans are incredibly passionate and their infectious enthusiasm carried over to the band.”

      While superstar visitors get to temporarily revel in Costa Rica’s
      bounty, some music icons have planted roots here. In Manuel
      Antonio alone exists a burgeoning community of expatriate rockers such as Creed/Alter Bridge bassist Brian Marshall who owns boutique hotel Mango Moon, the aforementioned Whitfield Crane, former Metallica associate Niclas Swanlund, and – ahem – me, a longtime music publicist who has happily been reunited with friends and former clients who have come here to perform.

      Pura Vida and Rock On.