Festival Internacional de Benicassim
Pixies, The Strokes, Echo and the Bunnymen, dEUS, The Futureheads, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, The Walkmen, Nada Surf, Calla, Franz Ferdinand, Rufus Wainwright, The Ordinary Boys, Lou Barlow, Art Brut, The Rakes, We Are Scientists, Babyshambles, Editors, The Organ, White Rose Movement, The Kooks, and Morning RunnerEdit this event
- Benicassim, Spain »
- Placebo »
- The Ordinary Boys »
- Lou Barlow »
- Art Brut »
- The Rakes »
- We Are Scientists »
- Babyshambles »
- Editors »
- The Organ »
- White Rose Movement »
- The Kooks »
- Rufus Wainwright »
- Franz Ferdinand »
- Pixies »
- The Strokes »
- Echo and the Bunnymen »
- dEUS »
- The Futureheads »
- Depeche Mode »
- Morrissey »
- The Walkmen »
- Nada Surf »
- Calla »
- Morning Runner »
Here’s what you won’t find at a festival in Spain:
'Comedy' jester hats
Girls with fairy wings
Concrete is less lenient on the bones than grass, but the fact that the whole festival seems to be scheduled around hanging out on the beach all day means you have ample time for relaxation. To break us into the schedule of bands and DJs from 8pm-8am, Scissor Sisters take the main stage at 3am on Thursday. With Jake Shears resplendent in a flowing yellow shirt and Ana Matronic looking svelte in sequined gold, they run through their hits with characteristic pizzazz, while their Elton John-inflected newies and upcoming single 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing' slot in seamlessly. Even the shrill 'Filthy Gorgeous' seems like a ribald revelation. Tah-dah indeed. Straight after, Erol Alkan takes the decks spinning glitchy electro and Rage Against The Machine to the psyched up crowd till 5:30AM.
But it’s Friday when the festivities really kick off. For a second we consider catching dumb-ass Doherty (that'll be Babyshambles, then) and toothless wonder Shane McGowan, but really, we'd rather have our sun-burnt skin covered in vinegar than listen the slurs of the supposed voice of a generation. After glimpsing The Ordinary Boys' Preston's pale legs, skanking his way through 'Boys Will Be Boys', we decide to hook up with The Futureheads instead. Sweating even more profusely than usual as the Spanish sun sets full in their faces, they open with ‘Area’ and speed through a set that leans heavily on the stellar News and Tributes album. Songs like 'Favours For Favours' and ‘Back To The Sea’ are imbued with an unexpected lushness, a layered melodic sensibility that you could never have predicted from their debut. And just when did Barry become such a rock stud? Once upon a time he was shy and unassuming, but now he jerks and judders ripe with confidence, his biceps straining against his short shirt sleeves… but anyway.
Pixies are up next and Frank Black’s anguished yelp rips through the splintered beauty of ‘Bone Machine’. Six glorious songs later - when we’re mid-mosh during ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ - Kim puts down her bass and they all slope off, stage right. Could we be witnessing the disintegration of the Pixies MKII? The barriers down the front are busted from the sheer force of Pixie love. After what seems like an eternity (20 minutes), they return with the classic ‘Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)’, but and even though they keep hitting us with classics – ‘Where Is My Mind?’, ‘Debaser’ and finally ‘Gigantic’ – the mood is somehow muted, and anyone who has seen them since they’ve reformed will have heard this set note-for-note before.
Not so for The Strokes, who begin with the gurning, gritty assault that is 'Juicebox'. Back in 2004 these New Yorkers were deflated musicians struggling to fill the booming emptiness of Ally Pally. This time they're on point. Nick Valensi clambers onto the drum riser, Albert's curls bob maniacally, while Julian tugs at his leather jacket collar and actually emotes. A bit. Sure, 'Heart In A Cage' and the droney ‘Ask Me Anything' are a drag, but the jangle pop of 'You Only Live Once' rubbing up against 'Someday' only ups the party ante. Even the rarely played 'Is This It', with all its resigned melancholia, is a thrill, particularly now that his vocal doesn't sound like it's being dialed in from a payphone in the outer Hebrides.
Saturday turns out to be a real test of stamina. Against the backdrop of a huge portrait of Oscar Wild's face, Morrissey is as arch and theatrical as ever, changing his dripping shirt every few songs and spending the majority of the show swathed in a Spanish flag. He dedicates 'I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now' to Syd Barrett and while 'First Of The Gang To Die' is a grand sing-along, the colossal 'How Soon Is Now' and the fey whimsy of 'Girlfriend In A Coma' are truly peerless.
Afterwards we scarper over to Rufus Wainwright, who is celebrating his birthday in a sweaty tent. Normally half of the Ruffy experience hinges on his witty repartee and outlandish costume changes, but here he is bereft of such props. Instead, the quivering eroticism of 'Vibrate', 'The Art Teacher' and crowd favourite 'Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk' have to stand on their own merits, which of course, they do.
"I was in an crap mood before, but I'm feeling brilliant now!" announces The Kooks' ebullient Luke Pritchard as their set on the main stage draws to a close. We still don't know why he sings in a confused Cornish drawl when he's actually dead posh, but it's hard to deny the insidious melodies of 'Naive' and 'She Moves In Her Own Way'. Not cool, but definitely fun. Unlike * Franz Ferdinand*, who are both and more. From the opening bars of 'Come On Home', it’s clear FF are the party band of the weekend. The crowd are just rabid for it, but instead of everyone facing the band during 'Darts Of Pleasure' and 'Dark of the Matinee', groups of friends are turning to each other and jiving like they're in a club. Drummer Paul is sadly absent, but hurray, it's because his wife just popped their sprog and Kapranos dedicates 'Take Me Out' to the new arrival. Finishing (after an drawn-out drum solo workout) with 'This Fire', the band take several bows as the floodlights flip up to illuminate thousands of exalted faces.
Unsurprisingly, half the festival then stampedes over to the tent where 2ManyDJs are spinning for a staggering four hours (and that's after they played with/as Soulwax just one hour earlier!). Everyone is completely mashed. Their flawless selection and deft mixing of tunes by The Gossip, Daft Punk, Justice and AC/DC takes our Franz-frazzled buzz up another notch.
Sunny Sunday. Revered in his home country of France for his multi-instrumentalist live shows, Yann Tiersen is best-known internationally for being the genius behind the Amelie and Good Bye Lenin! soundtracks. As he races from guitar to his violin, segueing from a post-rock epic to a jaw-dropping violin solo those assembled are rapt. At one point he dedicates a song about capitalism to “our friends in Lebanon”, which is met by a fervent round of cheers and a lone, pathetic boo. If you ever get the chance to see him live, snap up a ticket or ten.
Next up it’s zZz, a sleaze-ridden, schizoid organ drum duo from Holland. Imagine The Doors diminished to a White Stripes-type outfit circa the era when Jim Morrison was a crazed loon and you’re coming somewhere close. Over in the tinier tent, We Are Scientists' audience is spilling out onto the concrete, but it turns out to be a so-so set. ‘Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt’ and ‘Inaction’ are knockouts, but it seems the heat, even at after ten in the evening, is muffling their energy and dulling their quip-laden band rapport. (Although they do join Art Brut later to duet on their own song ‘The Great Escape’, a promising sign of camaraderie in advance of their upcoming Stateside tour.)
We spend most of Depeche Mode's set fascinated by Dave Gahn’s crotch-grabbing antics as he preens topless before the masses like a smutty messiah. Their back catalogue is vast, the stage looks like an intergalactic landing dock and the fact that it’s Gahn’s birthday lends the show a sense of occasion. But it’s songs like the gloomily atmospheric ‘In My Room’ and ‘Enjoy The Silence’ that turn grown men into swooning fanatics.
On another note, Placebo's Brian Molko is looking a lot less bald. This is a good thing. The fact that the band play eleven new songs IN A ROW is not. Luckily at gone three am, just when we were tempted to crash, The Rakes swoop in with their pressed trousers and bluster through ‘22 Grand Job’. The last time we saw them was in some grotty East End dive, where their terse tales of the city – work, partying and grappling for a human connection – were performed in situ. Here, beneath the stars, in the balmy Med' air they’re both gloriously out of place and heart-achingly resonant. With ‘Retreat’ still rattling round our heads as we board the plane back to the Big Smoke the next day, we can’t help wishing we could do it all over again.