We arrived late on the Wednesday night and got a coach from Castellon train station to the festival site. We had to stand since the coach was already mostly full of drunk Irish people, one who kept insisting upon getting past us in order to use the non-existent toilet. It took us at least two hours to put up our tents and it’s not because we’re entirely clueless when it comes to camping, (although most of our tents were pop-ups) it’s because we were literally doing it with our eyes closed. The dust that was whipped up from the gale force winds was unrelenting. So there we were either clutching at the corners of our tents or sitting in them to weigh them down whilst someone else went to find heavy rocks – the ground was too dried out for pegs. Nevertheless we eventually managed to get them up, or rather just gave up and figured if we slept in them they wouldn’t blow away.
The next day the winds had dropped, thank god, so we headed towards the beach and had lunch at the place we had dubbed our ‘usual’ when we went to the festival in 2009. It’s called El Torreon Terraza Restaurante and is fairly basic, always packed around festival time but the service is great; they managed to get us a table for 8 within about ten minutes every time. The club sandwiches and paninis were fantastic there. After spending the day at the beach we went to the local supermarket and got ourselves some outrageously cheap sangria, drank that back at the tents and then went into the festival site to see the first of the weekend’s bands. Highlights included Paolo Nutini – one of my friends claimed he was so talented and so good looking that her “ovaries were exploding”. Apparently a good thing. After Paolo was Plan B, who despite the Spanish evening heat was still clad in a full suit. Yet that didn’t affect his set which was just as good as the last time I saw him at Glastonbury (see former post). Headliners The Streets also got the crowd going and in high spirits for the rest of the weekend. I went to sleep that night with their song, ‘Heaven for the Weather’ rattling around my head and it seemed to stick in everyone else’s as well, for all you could hear that night was people whistling or singing the tune.
Two words: The Strokes! Absolutely brilliant. They’ve been one of my favourite bands for years, and as a result I was sceptical as to what they would play and whether my expectations would ruin it for me. In the end I had no reason to doubt them; their set was incredible and went as follows:
- New York Cops
- Alone Together
- Machu Picchu
- Last Nite
- Taken For a Fool
- Is This It
- Under Cover of Darkness
- What Ever Happened
- Life Is Simple In The Moonlight
- You Only Live Once
- You’re So Right
- Under Control
- Hard To Explain
- Take It Or Leave It.
Following the Strokes, we watched Friendly Fires who were also immensely entertaining, mainly because lead singer Ed Macfarlane had some of the best and weirdest dance moves I’ve ever seen. Along with a colourfully loud shirt. Their catchy feel-good summer music infected the whole crowd and soon we were the ones donning the crazy dance moves.
After another day of sleeping off the night before on the beach we went into the arena to catch the best of Saturday’s bands. Mumford & Sons played with their usual finesse, leading to spontaneous barn-dancing during the fast-paced songs and out-of-tune warbling during the slower numbers. They even played a couple of new songs which, frankly, were a welcome change. While their first album has been incredible and fully deserves all of the acclaim it has been given, I think it is about time they bring out something fresh. If anything they must be getting bored of playing the same songs over and over again. Let’s hope they’re not a one-trick-pony, and can pull an equally good second album out of the bag.
Next up, a band that have no trouble following hit albums with even better ones – The Arctic Monkeys. Cheekily (or arrogantly) coming onstage to Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’, and playing a set which consisted of a medley of songs from all four studio albums, they were breathtaking. Alex Turner was phenomenal; his voice was alluring, he looked amazing and even his crowd interaction wasn’t bad. He’s not known for being terribly chatty but the effort was made – he even tried his hand at a few Spanish phrases much to the crowd’s delight. I would also like to give a special mention to drummer Matt Helders who was equally brilliant; quietly brilliant. He slips into the background all blurry-armed and you forget how essential he is to the band and their adrenaline-fuelled, lyrically flamboyant sound. They were my personal highlight of the whole festival.
Following on from the ‘Monkeys were Primal Scream, a band I raved about after seeing them at Glastonbury. Maybe it was because of the fact that they were so good the first time I saw them, or perhaps it was because it was past 2am when they came onstage and the Sangria was wearing off and the sleep deprivation kicking in, but I didn’t enjoy them half as much as I did at Glasto. Don’t get me wrong, they were still really good, but their more chilled out set sent me to sleep after the previous excitement of the Arctics.
After accidentally getting off the bus at the wrong stop and going to a terrible ‘tapas’ bar (which definitely was not tapas but just chopped tomatoes on soggy toast among other fairly awful concoctions) we actually ended up finding a lovely quieter pebbled beach to spend the afternoon on. Then we walked home in order to get food and drink, forgetting about Sunday trading hours and realising everything was closed. Luckily we found an independent fruit store heaving with festival goers as it was the only place selling cheap alcohol. Sunday’s line-up wasn’t as appealing to us so we only went into the arena for headliners Arcade Fire. I’m not a huge fan and have never bought into all the hype surrounding them although I can admit they sounded good. Which they should have really, for an eight-man band.
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) is unlike any other British festival as it has more to offer than just the usual festival experience. For one, you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather and there’s a beach to spend your days on. Secondly, the music doesn’t start until the evening, headliners play from around midnight and the last of the main stage finishes at 4am with other acts, djs and things going on until 7. Because of this you don’t tend to see as many bands as at a festival in the UK but the ones on offer, especially this year, are well worth the trek over. The vibe of Benicassim is unique and this might be due to the fact that it’s more international; there’s a wider mix of people from all over the world sharing one incredible experience. I would definitely recommend this festival as it’s like a 2-in-1 experience; a week’s holiday in the sun with the chance to see some incredible bands. What more could you want?