You’ve all heard of Benidorm, I presume. That Spanish resort town, filled with sunburnt brits and head fuckers for breakfast, even with its own TV show about the life and times of its seasonal inhabitants.
For one week of the year, however, the brits are pre-occupied with a different kind of Beni, Festival Internacional de Benicassim. As a veteran fib goer myself (this year was the fourth) bringing along a backpack with an Argos tent, a Chromebook, a few different cameras plus their owner, the only clean clothes I had left, and flashbacks of Benicassim campsites and extreme heat, I felt well equipped and mentally prepared to tackle the biggest party of the summer, all in the name of journalism.
Benicassim itself is one of the friendliest experiences you will ever have. International is mentioned in the name because that is truly what it is. Though I felt there were considerably less Spanish goers (and noticeably a lot less Spanish acts) the multicultural vibe is definitely known, and with the gloom of Brexit still hovering over our heads there felt a definite subconscious need for camaraderie, which when you consider the amount of EU flags we saw dotted around and more often than not, wrapped around sleeping people, is a comforting thought.
The general atmosphere of Beni and it's set up is really what makes it. Your ticket entitles you to 8 days of camping in their main area ‘campfest’ (you can also opt for glamping at a fairly reasonable price) and whilst alongside the various parties and events, the actual festival itself doesn’t start until 7pm, leaving you plenty of time to head to the beach, go into town, get your shopping done, and pregaming started, whilst not missing anything, and saving insane amounts of cash by raiding the Mercadona or the Lidl for the supplies you need to survive the night.
Financially, unlike British festivals, it won’t cost you a kidney and your first born child to enjoy Benicassim. Early Bird tickets start at 85 Euros, building to not more than 120, factor in the low, low cost of living out in the Spanish desert and even with a flight you’re still way ahead of the game, as long as you don’t mind inhaling 6 metric tonnes of dusk every time you wake up in the morning, and a hell of a lot of sun.
Although Benicassim has become almost a rite of passage, the reason we all keep flocking to this ant infested wonderland every summer is not only for its general atmosphere but for the music. Although fib tends to have a smaller lineup (spread over 5 stages) than the majority of British Festivals, its headliners alone have enough pulling power. I’ve found over the years that a lot of the Glastonbury lineup will make a few sneaky appearances, but you’ll have to take my anecdotal word for it.
The shortest of all music days, but what turned out to be one of the best, Thursday boasted sets from DJ Hannah Wants and Irish rapper Rejjie Snow, however, the two main acts of the night by far were grime music artist Skepta and electronic music entity Major Lazer. Skepta, who halfway through his set worshipped the crowd as individuals, claiming he ‘hated celebrities’ became the simultaneous shunner and bringer of hype. The energy in the crowd was electric, and the growth of the London grime scene became increasingly obvious from the gigantic, international crowd that flocked to see him. The first headline act of the long weekend extravaganza, however, was Major Lazer, which gave the newbies a taste for FIB life and veterans like me a heightened nostalgia of what it’s all about. Their set was planned to the millisecond and mixed in a haul of different samples from Eurotrash, bashment and dancehall, and of course starting with Pon de Floor, the absolute tune that filled me with nostalgia and brought me back to being a fifteen-year-old getting drunk on a bottle of Lambrini. Moving forward, they started the encore with their feelgood hit of last year, Lean On, which shows just how much their popularity has grown.
Friday saw the likes of more bands take to the stages, including the British rapping, indie, all-round shabby Rat Boy, the lo-fi garage rock Spanish girl band Hinds, now increasingly veteran rockers The Vaccines, and an emotional set from the harder rock of Biffy Clyro. Hinds played the main stage fairly early in the day, and although they started out with a small crowd it had almost quadrupled by the end, obviously attracted to their dynamic and the energy oozing from all four of them. They seem to be drawing quite a following from their various performances around the globe the last couple of years, and I’m pretty sure next year their names will be way higher up the bill. Finishing with Davey Crockett, throwing in a couple of new songs and even a Dead Ghosts cover, Hinds were one of the highlights of my weekend.
Though Friday was technically a lot more band heavy, Jamie XX took over for a disco-heavy and grime influenced set later in the evening, and the heavyweights of electronic music and putting on a fantastic show The Chemical Brothers headlined that evening. Starting with Hey Boy, Hey Girl and finishing their set with a combination of Galvanise and Block Rockin Beats, the show itself boasted spectacular lights, visuals and sound that made pretty much everyone go nuts.
This year Benicassim decided to up the ante with the dance stage, turning their previous second stage into the South Beach area set up complete with a ‘pool party’ - basically borrowing some Ibiza vibes from the another well known Spanish turn-up. Though the pool got pretty dirty after day one, the area itself was a success and saw the likes of Dan Deacon and John Talabot tear it up on the Friday.
If you’re a Muse fan, Saturday night was what you were waiting for. They headlined the main stage with a show-stopping two-hour set, incredible lights, showmanship and Matt Bellamy’s vocals in full force. Bringing out all the classics such as Supermassive Black Hole, you really cannot fault this band for doing what they do, and doing it heart-stoppingly well.
But on the contrary, it wasn’t just the superband that got the crowd going on that day. Disclosure followed suit on the main stage, starting with White Noise and playing a mix of tracks from Settle and Caracal, the boys radiated buzz as they always do whenever they take to the stage.
For the earlier parts of Saturday, however, it seems the indie and rock bands were out in full force, with Irish rockers Walking on Cars taking the main stage with the sun still glaring. For relative newcomers, they gathered a lot of support from a ferocious fan base, which, given the amount of Irish melodic voices heard around the festival is quite unsurprising. Bloc Party also mesmerised the visa stage, back with a vengeance and a beautifully revised selection of their catalogue, after a hiatus left them with just Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack as the original members. A brief chat with Kele himself before the show lead me to believe we can expect some new music from the new lineup very soon, and the band is sure to go from strength to strength after the writing process gets well and truly underway.
Echo and the Bunnymen and The Coral also played incredible sets, giving us a little blast from the past. For E&TBM we came for The Killing Moon but ended up infatuated with the set list, and after a five year hiatus, old time rockers The Coral perfectly matched their classics Dreaming of You and In the Morning with the release of their new album, Distance In Between, including track Chasing the Tail of the Sun, which Skelly himself thinks is the best to get the crowd going.
Although Muse did steal the show on the main stage, whilst the heavyweight rockers were letting the crowd fall in love we did sneak away for a few songs at the Visa Stage, where The Kills created an atmosphere that was lively, dramatic and addictive, even though a major amount of their fan base was stolen away. They were definitely one of my surprising highlights of fib, and deserve a medal of musical adoration in my eyes.
Sunday finally came around, and although I was completely shattered after running around a festival in sweltering heat, sleeping on a dusty floor of a tent and getting accidently sunburnt with the most awful tan lines you ever did see, the nostalgia was creeping in and I didn’t really want to go home. The mix of genres on this day was pretty special, Jess Glyne took the visa stage, where a surprising collection of men found themselves bobbing along to classics Hold My Hand and Rather Be. She also did a solo rendition of My Love, the Route 94 song that helped propel her solo career, as well as a collection of her own material. Following on from Glyne, Mac Demarco and The 1975 also played the Visa Stage, Demarco drawing a sizable crowd, arguably just as crazy as him. Known for his antics and his love of crowd surfers, he let good old ‘Tony’ climb his way onto the stage for a spot of light conversation before prompting his guitarist to crowd surf himself. The topless boys definitely knew how to do a show, and hardcore fans were lapping up every second, in fact every time they play they look like they’re having the best time, which is first and foremost what you want from a performer. The 1975 followed suit, again drawing in a large crowd with a pretty serious fanbase.
The main stage saw the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen, who this year decided to make some festival appearances after cancelling a load of them last year. The northern rockers played a great show but I’m yet to be fully convinced of their staying power. Kendrick Lamar took the headline set that night, bringing in a gigantic crowd and a chilled vibe all across Benicassim. The setlist was perfect, with How Much a Dollar cost, B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe, of course King Kunta and after a profound, heartfelt speech that referenced the attacks in Nice, Turkey, and the need to unite at the state of the world, Lamar ended his set with the notion that we’re all going to be Alright.
DJ’s Snakehips took to the South Beach stage later that night to help bring the festival down to a close, and although I would have perhaps liked to see Lamar play the friday alongside Skepta, especially seeing grime music start to crack america, I was more than content with the set up as it was. All in all, I ended up completely delirious with sleep deprivation, but it was so worth it just to be at fib again.
Would I come again? Just try and stop me.