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Do you remember Festivalbar?

The musical and television event of the Italian summer

Do you remember Festivalbar? The musical and television event of the Italian summer

In the 1960s the first jukeboxes arrived on the beaches of the peninsula. All you had to do was put 100 lire into the slot to listen to your favourite song. This ritual became so popular that the TV presenter and producer Vittorio Salvetti had a brilliant intuition: to collect the data of the jukeboxes to create an event that would celebrate the most played songs of the summer. This is how the Festivalbar was born. In the beginning, in 1964, it was streamed on the radio and then landed on TV, in Rai where it remained until 1982. The real turning point, which established the singing event for the typical Italian as a collective summer ritual, it coincided with the transition to the Fininvest networks in 1983. It changed its rules and format: the ranking was made by radio airplay and the event became a travelling show, shot every week, from May to August, from a different city, ending in September with the final hosted at Arena di Verona. The hosts were the youngest and most popular figures of the time, from Linus to Fiorello to Gerry Scotti, Federica Panicucci, Alessia Marcuzzi, Michelle Hunziker, and from Daniele Bossari to Ilary Blasi

Success was guaranteed by a mix of hit songs designed to win over as many people as possible. That's why everything was based on the concept of "tormentone", a song, often without real meaning or quality, that intrusively stuck into your head and never comes out anymore. In forty years of existence, Festivalbar has given the soundtrack of our summers a unique mix'n' match of hits. Supported by the major record companies, the show brought together the best and the worst of what the music scene had to offer. There were moments to forget such as Enzo Iacchetti singing Pippa di Meno, Cesare Cremonini's hair at the time of Lunapop, Mauro Reppetto's wild dance steps during 883 performances or the choreography of Las Ketchup in The Ketchup Song (Aserejé). Many others, however, have entered history such as Loredana Bertè dressed as a bride performing in Non sono una signora, Robbie Williams licking a fan's cheek, or Elio and the Storie Tese and Gianluca Grignani who remain silent on stage to protest against the imposition of playback (mandatory until 2002). 

There were even performances so cool that they seemed quite incredible, like when in 1990 Faith No More, led by the genius frontman Mike Patton, played Epic, when in 1995 Bjork appeared on stage with Army of me or when in 1998 Lenny Kravitz enchanted the audience with the beautiful If You Can't Say No.

The list of guests who have participated in the Festivalbar episodes over the years is very long: Kylie Minogue, Alexia, Giorgia, Neffa, Backstreet Boys, Eiffel 65, Oasis, Planet Funk, Articolo 31,... then in 2007 everything ended.

The show created by Vittorio Salvetti and, after his death, managed by his son Andrea closed with the edition of that year. Some blame the crisis of record companies (whose collaboration was essential for the event) and those who blame the change in the method of listening to music with the arrival of streaming and the success of YouTube. The only sure thing is that every season there is a news that announces an imminent return on TV, but nothing ever really happens. The social media are full of nostalgic profiles such as @gliannidorodelfestivalbar or Rivogliamo Festivalbar who regret the golden times in which the itinerant event announced the arrival of summer and ask loudly for a new edition. The question is: does the return of Festivalbar in 2019 have any value? The answer is that everything has its own time and the reason why many would like to bring it back into vogue is simply the attempt to relive a happy past moment. The nostalgia effect is a powerful bastard who can make you regret even Luca Dirisio, DJ Francesco and La Bouche.

Turn up the volume and enjoy the 10 hits and moments that have made the history of Festivalbar. 


Gianluca Grignani - Falco a metà, 1995

1995. Gianluca Grignani has just made his debut on the stage of Sanremo, immediately becoming the new girls' idol. When the Festivalbar team told him that his performance would be in playback, he rebelled and went on stage with the microphone in his pocket. As the notes of his song Falco a metà flowed, he walked, dodged and raised water and other small objects that rained down on him. Before the music ended, he got angry and left the scene, while from the audience someone was shouting, "Scemo, scemo!".


Britney Spears - Baby One More Time, 1999

Usually, the Italian public (or at least those who should represent it in the media) is famous for its lack of timeliness. In other words, trends and stars arrive very late compared to other countries. So we happen to realize only now that in the old episodes of Festivalbar are hidden the first performances of stars who would later become planetary. Some examples? Britney Spears in 1999 with Baby One More Time, Beyoncé with Destiny's Child in 2001 with Survivor, Amy Winehouse in 2004 with Stronger Than Me and Rihanna in 2006 with SOS


Tiziano Ferro - Perdono, 2002

Tiziano Ferro in his early days. When he receives the prize at the Verona Arena, the young singer with his voice broken by tears pronounces the most populist of the quotes: "I can't believe it! Last year I was on the couch watching it...".


Luca Carboni - Mare, mare, 1992

Tommaso Paradiso of the '90s. Luca Carboni, who sings Mare Mare, inflames the crowd of the Festivalbar and invades the Italian airplay like the Thegiornalisti with Riccione. Still today it is one of the most beloved "tormentoni" of all time.


Paola & Chiara - Vamos a Bailar, 2000

God only knows what happened between the Iezzi sisters to split so drastically their careers. In 2000, however, the duo was at the top of its popularity and won the Festivalbar award for Best Radio Tormentone with Vamos a bailar...but also for the most flirty choreography. 


Ace of Base - All that she wants, 1993

Since we are nice, we would not comment on the brunette singer's haircut and her dance moves. Despite this, All that she wants is a hit and even if they are a bit ashamed many still remember all the words by heart.


Sabrina Salerno - Boys, 1987

As one wise guy wrote: "Sabrina Salerno's Boys is somehow the symbol of a decade, a revelation for teenagers in full summer hormonal explosion".


Righeira - Vamos a la playa, 1983

In 1983 the Festivalbar was won by Vasco Rossi with Bollicine, but Vamos a la playa by Righeira became a classic, one of the most iconic songs on the show created by Salvetti.


Kè - Strange World, 1996

An alien with sculpted cheekbones and green eyes sang one of the most beautiful one-hit wonders of the 1990s.


Corona - The Rhythm of the Night, 1994

In Festivalbar there's always been a tradition of kitsch hits that includes "masterpieces" like Rhythm Is A Dancer by Snap! and Summer is crazy by Alexia. Corona was, however, the best example. Very popular, she also managed to co-host the 1996 edition of the show and commit one of the most famous Eurodance scams. Corona was not the real singer, but she was just the frontwoman of a made-in-Italy project. The voice we heard was that of the vocalists Jenny B and Sandy Chambers.