[A live review so late it’s almost completely redundant? Why yes it is…]
I don’t think that a more exhausting festival exists. If it does I don’t really want to know. 9 days of holiday, 8 nights of camping, 4 days of music. Music all night, coping with 34 degree heat all day. One of the best weeks of my life? Most probably.
Monday 14th, 3.30am, journey to Gatwick. Meet everybody else at the Easyjet desk – check in – security – flyflyfly – ohwowlovely we’re in Madrid – sorting out metro tickets with my awesome Spanish skills (no really, screw you A Level Spanish, I’m brilliant at it when it matters) – tiring metro funtimes – 3 1/2 hours on a train to Valencia – the others getting a train an hour later because they didn’t book – McDonalds in Valencia purely because it’s close – another train – Liverpool boys telling me to drink their vodka – obliging – Benicassiiiiim – walking to the camp site – ohshitwecan’tputupthetent – beer tent – SLEEP 24 hours after we got up.
Then it’s a few days of sleeping, exploring, beaching and drinking – until Thursday when the music started. We were right at the front of the main stage for the very first band coming on. Eager things that we are.
Krakovia were completely unknown to all of us, they’re Madrid based, a little dark and very good fun. Slight oxymoron? Perhaps. I don’t know. I chattered to some Spanish boys who were big fans. Next up were Nada Surf who proved that swearing actually really is very big and very clever by getting a crowd of thousands screaming the words to Blankest Year back at them (the lyrics being “oh fuck it, fuck it, I’m going to have a party”). After that we’re right in the very front row for Sigur Rós who I’m assured were fantastic but I left after one song…
All because I wanted to see Lightspeed Champion over in the Vodafone tent. Most of my friends decided to stay and watch Sigur Rós so I accused them of being fools before spending 10 minutes or so shuffling out of the crowd with a couple of people who I assured would love to see Dev Hynes and that yes, it would be worth missing Sigur Rós for.
On entering the tent we were very excited by this:
It’s basically a remote control blimp with a camera attached that flew around the tent between acts. We may be a little too easily amused I think. I went and bought some Fanta (orange-flavoured-sugary-additive-filled goodness for meeeee) and rambled on about how fantastic Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is and how excited I was. Friends were starting to get slightly bored of me but luckily Dev and his band came on-stage before they could strangle me. I was right, definitely worth missing Sigur Rós for. He played quite a bit of the album (including Galaxy of the Lost, Devil Tricks for a Bitch and Tell Me What It’s Worth which everybody in the tent seemed to know the words to, something he seemed surprised by), 3 new songs all of which were very good but unfortunately I can’t remember the names of (sorry), an interpretation of the Star Wars theme (probably one of the highlights of the week…we just stood and watched in amazement) and finished it all of with Midnight Surprise.
Dev Hynes, complete with hat
It was interesting to see Lightspeed Champion live, it’s been said before that Dev’s performance is weaker than when there are the female backing vocals to support him but I wouldn’t agree with that. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just a little different and I like that the live performance isn’t just a carbon copy of the album. Definitely worth seeing live at some point if you can, I’m certainly keeping an eye on upcoming dates.
After this my evening is a bit blurry, we sat down for ages, wandered around for a bit, went back to the camp site for a while, completely forgot about Battles (Argh, I hear they were incredible) and the next thing I know it’s 4am and we’re heading back to the main stage to watch DJ Supermarkt just because we’re impressed by the name. We danced. We got tired. We went back to the tent and slept.
Friday, we get to the main arena quite late and end up seeing the very end of Babyshambles, getting there just in time to see them to finish their set with Fuck Forever. Saw the New York Dolls perform Piece of my Heart (singalongfuntimes) in tribute to Janis Joplin and then we then headed over to the Vodafone tent to watch Fujiya & Miyagi for a while. I’d never heard of them previously but have listened to their album Transparent Things a couple of times now, which opens with Ankle Injuries, a track that I was addicted to after hearing it that evening. All of this only to waste some time before venturing to the Fiberfib tent to see Hot Chip. We were right in the centre of the tent and so couldn’t really see anything but the atmosphere was incredible. By the time Over and Over was played I think it’s safe to say that the sweat was dripping off everybody, special thanks to my dear friend Andy who I ran into unexpectedly while out there who decided to wipe his hands on his sweaty body then put them on my face…lovely. Highly appreciated. I had to miss Spiritualized but I haven’t actually read the best reviews of their set so I was probably better off seeing Hot Chip. I would have only really wanted to see Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space anyway. Left the tent to Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper being blasted over the speakers and thousands of people singing along. After that it was My Bloody Valentine over at the main stage and as none of us can claim to be particular fans we sat down quite a way back and enjoyed the lasers that accompanied their show! They were nowhere near as loud as I expected them to be. We were fairly exhausted so headed back to the campsite for sleepytimes.
Saturday I’m afraid I can’t really even talk about because I was plied with so much vodka (I was forced into drinking games) that I don’t really remember it. I can tell you that I saw The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Kills and The Raconteurs and apart from that, not much else. I’m sure I thoroughly enjoyed myself though.
That leads us quickly on to Sunday or ‘The Day of the Most Horrendous Clashes’ as I like to refer to it. Leonard Cohen v. Death Cab for Cutie, Morrisey v. Justice. Eep. (Personally sicked by people who considered The Courteeners v. Morrisey v. Justice bad)
We started off with watching a bit of The National who are a band that everybody raves about and I’ve never really “got” why they’re quite so fantastic. Sad to say I’m still not joining the legions of adoring fans even after seeing them live; maybe they’re just not for me. As their set finished I realised that the FiberFib tent was actually running about 30 minutes late so dashed over to see a bit of Leonard Cohen on the main stage. A 100% direct clash with Death Cab was the most upsetting thing about Benicassim for me. Caught the first few songs and was amazed that considering the amount of people who had done nothing but complain about him playing, the diversity of the crowd. Despite being a fan and being raised on his music, I was determined to see Death Cab so sadly had to make my way back to the FiberFib tent and found my crowd in the very centre of the stage about 6 rows or so from the front. Well done to them for getting such a lovely position.
It was a varied set, I thought it might be a little too focussed on Narrow Stairs but was gladly proved wrong. (I do like Narrow Stairs for the record, I really like it. I just also really like their other albums.) One of the (unexpected) highlight for me was I Will Possess Your Heart, on CD I find the introduction a little tiresome but live there was this incredible sense of what it was leading up to. I had a chat with some nearby guys about whether they’d play We Looked Like Giants (they didn’t) and before we knew it they launched into Transatlanticism and the set was ending. People left, we moved forwards. Next up, Calvin Harris. I HATE Acceptable in the 80s and The Girls. They’re almost guaranteed to make me change radio station or tv channel if I hear them but bizarrely it ended up being one of my favourite sets of the festival. Whatever is said about him, it can’t be denied that he and his band have a fantastic amount of infectious energy and you can’t seem to help singing along to tracks that you previously thought hugely irritating. We were right at the front at this point so I got to high 5 Calvin as he ran around the press pit. I’m easily amused.
Their set finished and nobody moved. Fairly sure that nobody left the tent and more people were pressing in all the time. We watched with eager anticipation as amps were brought on and seemingly hundreds of cables were plugged in.
Setting up for Justice...
The whole time the tent was just getting hotter and hotter but we were in the second row, there isn’t any chance that we were moving to get water or fresh air. It got busier and busier until the point that you couldn’t move at all. I don’t mean you’d have trouble getting out if you wanted to, I mean you were rooted to the spot you’re stood on. I mean that lifting your arms from side was difficult because of how closely packed together everybody is. I mean that if your did somehow manage to lift your arms you had better not want to put them down again because it was just not going to happen.
When Justice finally come onto the stage, the tent erupts. You immediately realise that for thousands, this is the most eagerly anticipated moment of the festival, of the summer, of the year. Unlike most English festivals there is an unspoken unity between nations at that moment. We’re surrounded by English, Spanish, French, Maltese, Greek, so many countries gathered in a modestly sized tent on the east Spanish coast. Although that sounds like some message of peace, that tent couldn’t be more alive with thousands of people jumping and clapping, screaming and waving huge crucifixes to the French duo’s opening songs. Although there is absolutely no malicious feeling amongst the crowd it isn’t long before the Spanish security team begin pulling people over the crush barrier at the front. A tent built for 10,000 has been filled completely to the brim and outside there are thousands more. As the act progresses, the heat becomes more oppressive, the crowd more manic and about 4 songs in, the security team make the motion to pull me and a friend over the barriers and we decide that it’s probably worth it.
During that process, my shoe is lost and I get grumpy that I’ll be walking back to the camp site barefoot. As D.A.N.C.E picks up we ponder whether we’ll ever see the boys again who are still stuck in the very centre at the very front. As we watch from the side of the press area, the boys calmly stride out, holding my shoe aloft. We hang around for a song or two more before we decide to pick out way out of the tent.
Our "WE HAVE SURVIVED" photo.
This takes us a good 10 minutes or so of climbing along the side of the tent, picking our way in and out and as we finally reach the entrance we realise that we’ve only completed half the journey. For every person in the tent, it seems there is another one outside. Now that we don’t feel like we’re about to die we decide to stay in the middle of the crowd outside so that we can see (or rather hear and dance madly to) We Are Your Friends as their finale.
Looking towards the tent
Looking away from the tent
As the track finally begins to die, we walk over to the main stage just in time to see Morrissey whining about techno and people that are currently watching Justice. I decide that Morrissey is an idiot for about the hundredth time in my life and as I prefer The Smiths to his solo work anyway, we wander round the arena chatting to people and generally relaxing after the madness of Justice.
Eventually we decide to head back to the camp site and spend hours talking while the sounds of people refusing to let go of We Are Your Friends continue long into the night.
Monday night is the beach party and we have a good time until some morons think it’s a good idea to rip up the decking that goes along the beach to use on the bonfires. We go back to our tent at about 4.30am and realise there is no point sleeping. I nap for half an hour or so and then we’re awake, packing the tent up and beginning our journey home which is beyond exhausting. Naps are taken as often as possible throughout the day and the Benicassim adventure ends with us arriving back at our own beds at about 00.30 on the Wednesday morning.
Tips for future Benicassim-ers:
1. Don’t listen to people who tell you that one camp site is hugely better than the other. It’s different for everybody and most people will fall in love with wherever they stay. We were on CampFib by the arena and when we visited friends staying at Benicamp we were glad for it. Others thought Benicamp was 1000 times better.
2. Suncream is your friend and nobody is too cool to cover themselves in it. I got burnt anyway and it wasn’t fun, I dread to think what it would have been like if I hadn’t bothered at all.
3. Book all your travelling in advance. 2 of us did this, the rest of our crowd didn’t. Long distance trains WILL be near to or fully booked and our return journey was panicky when I spent 10 minutes sorting out tickets to Madrid from Valencia for K & B. The friends I ran into out there had to get a train out of Benicassim a day earlier than their flight because all other trains were fully booked. There are thousands of people trying to get out of the town, it’s common sense.
4. Water water water water water. Drink it. Lots and lots. Even if you’re not thirsty. Especially if you’re camping and so being subjected to high temperatures constantly.
5. Accept that you’re going to be incredibly tired for over a week. Music continues until about 7am and by about 10am your tent will be unbearable.
6. Don’t pitch your tent on an ants nest. Not that we did that or anything…Aftersun made a surprisingly good insect repellent though, we wasted a lot on the damn ants.
Have some tracks by artists that played at Benicassim because I’ve neglected you for so long:
MP3 Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You Into The Dark | Website / MySpace
MP3 Lightspeed Champion – Flesh Failures | Website / MySpace
WMA Leonard Cohen – Dance Me To The End of Love (Live) | Website / MySpace
(2648 words, wish I could churn out that amount for uni work…)