by John Moffatt
You love festivals but you’re tired of the cold, tired of the rain, tired of being knee deep in mud and to top it off you can never find the perfect outfit to go with your wellies. Then Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (or FIB as it is affectionately known) might just be the festival you’re looking for. Ditch the thermal underwear and waterproofs and pack your flip-flops and suntan lotion instead!
For the uninformed, FIB is thirteen years strong and prides itself on delivering ‘the best of indie rock, pop and electronic music’ in the summer sunshine of Benicàssim on Spain’s southern coast. Boasting luminaries such as Radiohead, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bjork, Oasis , Iggy Pop, Amy Whinehouse and the Arctic Monkeys, it has a history of producing a line up that can pack a punch well above its 30000 capacity.
This year was no exception as Pete Docherty stumbled about the stage with song list in one hand and guitar in the other. Consummately honed performances by legends like The New York Dolls and Leonard Cohen, and blistering sets of guitar brilliance by The Raconteurs and My Bloody Valentine. G’N’R were my childhood heroes – I’ve seen Slash play live and I can grudgingly tell you Jack White’s solos do indeed Sh@t on his curly locks from a very great height!
In the chemical infused dance tent the crowd went hell for leather for Justice. Tricky done his best not to make eye contact with the crowd but still gave a storming set. Although not the best performance (That had go to The Raconteurs) my highlight of the festival had to be Mika. He delivered a 3am set of such sheer joy that for 60 brief minutes you did feel like you were swept up in a big bubble of carefree cartoon motion. With the 30000 almost evenly split between the dance tents and main stage, you’re guaranteed a great view of every act – No cheap seats. The only disappointment was Gnarls Barkley. There’s no denying he has a great voice, but lets be honest, when you only really got one and a half goods songs, it really does show your lameness when you headline.
So is this the perfect festival? In some respects yes, it’s a small intimate version of Glastonbury with virtually guaranteed sunshine. However one thing was clearly lacking from FIB. On the fourth and final day, a strange foreign sound could be heard drifting across the festival. Throughout the assembled masses, heads were turning and questions asked as people tried to decipher what they were hearing. The band was Morente Omega & Lagartija Nick and they were singing i, some wired language – I think it is called Spanish. Now I don’t know about the state of the Spanish music industry, if it’s in a good or a bad way, but I do know that something’s deeply wrong if you spend four days at Spain’s premier music festival and don’t hear a word of Spanish sung or any Spanish bands until late on the final day.
It wasn’t just the lack of Spanish talent on stage that was the main problem. The festival organizers haven’t released any figures, but looking around at my fellow ‘fibbers’ it felt like the crowd was about 90%… er, British. Remember the 80’s when Brits flocked to the Costa Brava on cheap package holidays only to drink in ‘British’ pubs, eat in restaurants that served British food and bar-b-q themselves on the beach while reading a copy of The Sun? Well, come to Benichavssim and meet the kids. Attending FIB felt a bit like you were living an unwritten sketch for “Little Brittan Abroad”.
At a press conference, the organisers denied press accusations that the festival was in ’crisis’ because of the growing British invasion which finally reach tipping point this year. However, as the festival was not sold out you have to ask yourself not why the Brits were there in full force (that’s easy to answer) but why the Spanish weren’t! Call it a hunch, but at 190€ a ticket, 10-15€ for a snack, and a criminal 7.50€ a beer, the Spanish on an average salary of 8000€ – 12000€ simply couldn’t afford to go to a festival in their own backyard. And why would you charge Spanish prices when you have a growing number of Brits more than willing to pay over the odds for a little sunshine? It’s worth noting that FIB is so heavily sponsored by Heineken that its actual name is ” FIB Heineken” .
I can’t deny that I and my fellow Brits had a fantastic time and that FIB did deliver the goods in style. However, when I said there were no cheap seats, I told a little lie. There’s small hill over looking the festival site which was packed with locals every night. And every time I looked up, I got a slightly uneasy, one might say guilty, feeling as I held my 7.50€ beer and stood meters way from the biggest names in rock.
There is no photo gallery because a chav at the festival stole our camera!