Tales from Benecassim II

Following on from the earlier installment of our Tim's weekend in the sun, he now continues with detailed coverage of the first half of the festival…

FIB start, Thursday 5 August

This year’s FIB began with what would unfairly be described as a warm up gig, more some Hors-d’œuvre for the 17000 in attendance to lap up. Lap it up they did, Tim Booth, Ash and Zoot Woman putting in sterling performances.

Tim Booth interspersed a range of James classics together with his current solo album material. His set was respectfully watched by those present, without ever really generating the full party atmosphere that was to follow, with some in the audience looking rather bemused with his re-worked versions of James favourites like Laid.

Ash saw to it that the kids had something to jump about to and showed why they have become such staples of the festival circuit. Tim Wheeler and band bashed out hit after hit, energetically embracing the stage. Looking at them, it is hard to believe that Ash have been around for almost a decade, but their set was a fine chronology of Britpop hits, from Girl From Mars, though to Orpheus.

Stuart Price’s Zoot Woman came on stage at 3am and put in a crisp, clean and precise performance, much in the manner of Friday’s headliners, Kraftwerk. It’s Automatic and Grey Day had their loyal army of fans singling along into the night.

Overall, FIB start was a good way to warm up to the festival proper, without providing anything too heavy and tiring for the revellers, ahead of an hot, exciting and fun packed weekend. I tried to get myself to bed “early,” that is Spanish early, at about 4am. It was to be the best night’s sleep I got until the train back to Barcelona on the Monday…

Friday 6 August

A day spent lapping up the sun and enjoying the balmy bathtub waters of the Mediterranean left me in a great mood for the night ahead. On the way back to the festival from the beach I popped into the Spanish equivalent of an old mans’ pub and enjoyed too much chorizo and Serrano ham, whilst hoping to decipher from the TV that Patrick Viera had left Arsenal for Real Madrid.

Playing early before going off to play more gigs elsewhere in Europe, Kings of Leon brought my festival proper into being in the large and decidedly humid and sweaty Hellomoto tent. Initially the crowd struggled to stay engaged as the King’s played five new songs from their second album, but the packed tent warmed to them and the outlook looks promising for their next recording. Those assembled were brought stomping back to life as the set closed with a couple of old favourites from Youth and Young Manhood.

A quick shower and back out for the night and it was time for a bit of melancholic orchestral introspection in the guise of Tindersticks, in what set the stage for later exhilarating sets from Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk. Watching Tindersticks was a strangely Spanish experience, with those assembled transfixed on the lyrics from the Nottingham band’s extensive back catalogue, including my personal favourite, Bathtime.

It is a sad truth that often groups who play the sort of soft, ambient electronica that can transport you to a whole new blissful existence on record, can bore you to tears in performance. With this in mind, I approached the sticky inferno of the Hellomoto tent to watch Air, fully prepared to be disappointed – and was surprised, pleased and utterly elated to be proved otherwise.

The key to Air’s live success is their ability to melt into the background, and let the music and lights emanate out into the audience, making the whole experience a sort of gospel-like communal bliss. The crowd billowed out of the tent far into the surrounding area, but rather than jostling each other to see the stage, groups of people all faced each other, grinning and swaying their arms around to the music. The crowd was so much a focus of the performance, that favourites such as Sexy Boy were greeted by a roaring and cheering so intense the audience almost drowned out the band.

On to a rather different experience, one that I didn’t feel inclined to sit down for, The Charlatans put in a typical charming performance. It was notable that they chose to focus on their wide range indie favourites such as Weirdo and One to Another, opting to play only two tracks from their latest LP Up at the Lake, with the title track and Under Pressure being the only songs to feature. They look like they could get by for some time like this as the mass throng that had assembled around the Escenario Verde leapt into the air at the lovable Cheshire lads’ every floor filler.

The electronic spectacular took hold as the temperature dropped below 30 and the crowd swarmed around the main stage and into the hills behind to catch my childhood favourites, Pet Shop Boys. Neil Tenant was typically flamboyant and Chris Lowe immovable on keyboards.

Cloaked in silver and white, Tenant held FIB in the palm of his hand, beginning with the classic Rent, and rifling through favourites such as West End Girls, Always on My Mind, Being Boring, Go West (in a medley with I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You) and Left to My Own Devices.

The final dish on Friday’s electronic menu was completed by the fathers of electronica, Krautrock and 1000s of acts, Kraftwerk. On stage wearing sharp black suits with a neon grid pattern, the German pioneers did not let the crowd down in any way. Seminal hits Autobahn, Man Machine, We are the Robots, Radioactivity and The Model took the breath away.

I made the mistake of too much sun and too many litres of beer at the beach and could barely keep my eyes open at the end of the night, I think I managed to get to sleep at about 5.

the conclusion to Tim's review of FIB will be coming to a Glasswerk site near you very shortly

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