Benicássim Festival 2013, Spain


With rumours adrift of last minute cancellations, there were fears that the Festival Internacional de Benicássim (FIB) was destined for the gloomy path of bankruptcy. Yet a last minute buyout ensured that it’s future is bright, as the FIB geared up to host this year’s 19th annual event.

Nestled on the coast between Valencia and Barcelona, the quaint seaside town of Benicássim is hardly one that screams festival character. Yet, thanks to nocturnal nightlife, Mediterranean beaches, almost guaranteed sun, and no mud (hurrah!), Benicássim is an obvious choice for any festival-goer.

As Thursday evening dawns, punters peel themselves away from the beach. Finally let loose on the festival site, we get our first glimpse of the three stages that govern the main arena. Dusty paths, scattered palm trees and a backdrop of mountainous countryside make this a spectacular festival setting.

Thursday

Opening Thursday evening, synthpop duo La Roux returns to our radar. A synchronized dance-off breaks out during the superhit “In For The Kill”, while frontwoman Elly Jackson keeps things energetic throughout the set.

Slowing things down as nightfall breaks, dazzling UV lights illuminate the iconic smoke-covered stage that belongs to Beach House. Victoria Legrand’s dreamy vocals ring out, as she flings her hair from side to side in time to the beat. It seems the hypnotic atmosphere is a little too much for some though, as exhausted over-indulgers take the opportunity to have a quick nap on the ground among the somewhat sparse crowd.

With naptime firmly over, it’s time to rise for Queens Of The Stone Age. A rather aged looking Josh Homme and his band are accompanied by impressive graphic displays, and strobe lighting that makes even the soberest crowd members feel a little giddy. New songs from the band’s recently released Like Clockwork album go down a storm, but it’s “Make It Wit Chu” and “No One Knows” that are the real winners.

Closing the mainstage, Hurts wind things down for the evening, as punters opt for a relatively early night (by Spanish standards, that is), ahead of tomorrow’s antics.

Friday

After another scorcher of a day, festival-goers spend Friday wandering like zombies through the streets of Benicássim. Taking shelter under any accessible form of shade  – whether it’s shop signs or trees on a roundabout; this really is no place to have a hangover.

Friday night gets going with Dizzee Rascal. Always the crowd pleaser, Dizzee doesn’t fail to rejuvenate lethargic partiers. Hits such as “Bassline Junkie” and “Bonkers” gain huge singalongs, and new material promises that the return of Dizzee in the coming months will be colossal.

No strangers to the FIB, Liam Gallagher and co. are a huge hit here. On his best behaviour, Liam is at ease with his crowd, never breaking his trademark hands-behind-back pose throughout the set’s entirety. We are even treated to some Oasis classics. As the familiar intros of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory” ring out, the crowd roars. Liam comes down to greet his audience at the end of the set, successfully winning over our affections – despite his current love child scandal.

Friday night’s headliners take the form of Primal Scream. Looking lanky and worn, frontman Bobby Gillespie flails across the stage in a shiny silver shirt. “Movin’ On Up” and “Rocks” trigger a loud crowd chorus, but the performance itself is a tad forgettable, and ultimately somewhat disappointing for such an iconic band.

As the early morning approaches, Friday night transforms into a DJ extravaganza. Skream storms through a delicious set of dubstep and deep house beats, while Zane Lowe closes the mainstage with an eclectic mix of heart-thumping basslines.

Saturday

Northern England owns Saturday night at Benicássim. Manchester lads The Courteeners are up early on, with an impressive set of bouncy indie rock that culminates with an energetic rendition of “Not Nineteen Forever.”

A dapper looking Miles Kane is the best surprise of the night. Bobbing with guitar in hand, his mod haircut and smart attire make it impossible to not think of a young Paul McCartney standing on stage. Talented guitar riffs and bouncy chorus lines make him the perfect warm up for his good pals The Arctic Monkeys, who are up next.

Slick-haired Alex Turner greets what is undoubtedly the biggest crowd so far at the FIB. The God-like band pour out hit after hit, incorporating a slow rendition of “Mardy Bum” and culminating with an encore of “When The Sun Goes Down.”

As the set draws to its close, Turner announces “we need a little help from our friends for this one, if you know what I mean?”. We sure do Alex. Best mate Miles Kane joins the band for the set’s conclusion, as the audience witnesses the reincarnation of Lennon and McCartney uniting on stage.

Keeping up the Northern theme, Leeds lads Kaiser Chiefs follow. The energy of frontman Ricky Wilson is enough to capture any audience, as he leaps across the stage, sprinting from one end to the other. Although the music is now a tad dated and the songs overplayed, he keeps us completely entertained, as he climbs like an ape up the side of the stage – much to the security guards’ dislike.

Sunday

As the final day dawns, we are greeted with the news that hot favourite Azealia Banks has had to cancel due to a throat infection. Damn. Nonetheless, the show must go on.

Rather unusually, the evening’s proceedings begin at the Pringles FIBCLUB stage. Inspired by the Indian Holi Festival of Colours, hordes of people gather to launch multicolored dust bombs at one another. Rainbows of hues splatter the vicinity, creating one giant multicolored mess.

Meanwhile, new boys Palma Violets prove a mental live act. Embodying the rock star persona a little too much, they leap across the stage, crashing into the drum kit, launching themselves into the crowd and welcoming one stray backstage audience member onto the stage for a boogie with them.

In what couldn’t be more of a contrast, cute little Jake Bugg later draws a mammoth audience, as he effortlessly strums at his guitar and sings pitch-perfect vocals. Acoustic numbers “Country Song” and “Broken” are the most mesmerizing of the set, while “Two Fingers” and “Lightning Bolt” gee up the crowd for a good dance.

The ever-entertaining Killers bring the FIB to its mammoth finale. Opening song, “Mr. Brightside,” couldn’t be more of a crowd pleaser, with Brandon Flowers seemingly more energetic and smiley than ever. The frontman surprises us with his perfect Spanish (as confirmed by the Spaniards themselves), asking us to put on our “zapatos de baile” (dancing shoes). Pushing the blistering heat to the back of our minds, we oblige. Confetti pierces the audience during the big finish of “All These Things That I’ve Done,” while fireworks explode at the culmination of “When You Were Young.”

As the weekend reaches its conclusion, and the reality of going home dawns, punters make the most of every last second, partying well into the early hours of Monday morning. The festival itself promotes a huge party atmosphere, which explains its predominantly young following. Yet at times, the heat is simply too much. With little shade on site, and such exposed surroundings, it’s almost tempting to wish for some British rain and mud at times! Nonetheless, the two-in-one deal of beach holiday cum music festival that Benicássim offers is enough to entice any godforsaken nine-to-fiver. Roll on the FIB 20th birthday event in 2014!