Tales from Benecassim III (final part)

I got rather delayed getting to the festival on Saturday after exhausting myself at the beach (again) as I was so excited with my Tom and Jerry lilo that I just wouldn’t get out of the sea.

Yet another trip to the accreditations office to try and get my Scissor Sisters guest list saw much delay and faffing before I was finally upgraded just in time to see Scissor Sisters in the sweat pit Hellomoto tent. Sweating to Scissor Sisters seems appropriate however.

I thought I would be able to catch a few minutes of Morrissey when passing through the back stage area, however the Escenario Verde was strangely deserted, in the manner of an abandoned wild west town from a spaghetti western. Morrissey’s decision not to play after a fault on his private aircraft (which he later claimed was due to illness, conveniently coming after the organisers refused to pay him another €60,000 on top of his existing fee) forced it to turn back left a rather gaping hole in the Saturday night prime time schedule. FIB’s organisers attempted to plug this by shifting around some of the other acts leading to some confusion.

Scissor Sisters were predictably and undoubtedly one of the major successes of FIB. In many ways Scissor Sisters are an embodiment of everything Benicassim. A mish-mash of styles and sounds but in the end simply a great deal of fun. Jake Shears takes to the stage wearing extremely revealing white trousers that he then exchanged for a stolen hotel towel at the end of the set. The baying crowd got what they wanted when it was removed at the finale. Jake’s lap dancing skills certainly have not died.

Every song sent the sweaty crowd wild, though it was hard to see whether the band or the crowd were enjoying themselves more.

Lou Reed then proceded to mix some of his solo material with Velvet Underground classics. I often find when watch golden oldies that closing my eyes and listening to the music improves the experience as one can often get the cringing feeling of watching your dad on stage. The quality of material that Reed is able to rely on however, is simply too good for that.

Reed’s show was all the more admirable and showed his class even more when considered the mess that Morrissey’s no show could have left the festival in. FIB’s organisers should be commended for that – having such a strong line up makes it that much more resilient.

“Venus in Furs” and the closing “Walk on the Wild Side” made sure that even the most hardened Morrissey fan could go away happy on Saturday.

Belle and Sebastian echoed the feelings of all present when Stuart Murdoch exclaimed “I love this place.” It is impossible not to. A strong set from B&S made the night all the more enjoyable and even included a tribute to AWOL Morrissey with a cover of Smiths “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side.”

Soulwax were pushed up the schedule and used their set to showcase their forthcoming and impressive new album. Soulwax are a band keen to prove themselves against their own competing 2ManyDJs incarnation, and although they will never command quite as much respect live as they do when they spin their turntable mastery, they certainly had the crowd roaring and pogoing away to a set of largely unreleased material. Their new album “Any Minute Now” reveals the band as the belting rock/dance hybrids only glimpsed at in “Much Against Everyone’s Advice”, and the songs were only let down by the appalling acoustics, which drowned out much of the subtle electronica amongst the roaring guitars. Sound gripes aside, they sent the crowd mental; and no doubt increased this effect with their alter-ego DJ set at Monday night’s beach party.

Primal Scream had a good day at the office after threatening to pull out if their rather large and bizarre entourage was not granted guest access. Arriving with more than 25 extra guests they had picked up on the way to the site, the Primals lived up to their rock’n’roll attitude and threatened to walk out, but all was OK in the end.

Primal Scream blow hot and cold and this time they were on top form and the crowd loved it, even after Mani called all Valencians cheats and liars. You’ve got to love that Mancunian charm. “Vanishing Point” and “Rocks” got some of the loudest cheers of the weekend.

Sunday 8 August

The heat and lack of sleep was starting to get to me, but I managed to find the perfect way to recuperate ahead of an exciting night of music. I spent all day lounging by the back stage pool, after eating a banana for the first time in years – they were being handed out free at the camp site.

I got talking to some other journalists and generally enjoyed the sun and watching sharply dressed bands swan around and give interviews to various TV crews and newspapers. MTV2 kindly gave Franz Ferdinand a copy of Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required during their interview and Alex Kapranos cited New Order’s “Blue Monday” as a seminal influence on him musically.

The afternoon descended into a rather laughable farce after too much sun and cerveza were mixed with naked ladies swimming in the pool offering some mind bending liquids, to which a Spanish journalist succumbed. This led to a most comical affair when his scheduled interview with headliners Franz Ferdinand took place.

Some of us took advantage of our Spanish friend’s confused state to set the questions for him – resulting in the Glaswegians’ stating that John Leslie directed all of their videos and correctly naming Abingdon as the Oxfordshire home of MG cars.

Our interviewer also found time to ask if the band wanted to meet Jesus, for he claimed to be close to him. We were reliably informed that Franz had become God’s favourite band, something which is quite possibly true after their barnstorming performance later on.

We were also promised two new songs in the show, which were going to be better than anything released to date. We were later the first to be treated to one of the new songs. An honour if ever FIB were to provide one. More of this later…

I finally sidled away from the pool in time for a bit of paella breakfast at about 7 in the evening, had another refreshing shower at the camp site ate a free ice lolly and returned to the main arena, bottle of Stolichnaya in hand, for the night’s entertainments.

First up was Arthur Lee’s veterans Love, who saw to it that their audience did not love them, with the guitarist sporting a number 23 Beckham Real Madrid shirt ensuring that what crowd was left booed the rest of what was a rather difficult performance also due to Arthur’s rather spaced demeanour. To be fair though, Love were actually rather good and the string of 60s classics sounded as good as ever.

Wire were given an early evening slot though their influence on the acts at FIB is far greater than their showcase allowed, as Franz Ferdinand’s triumphant hour illustrated. The crowd we totally in the thrall of vocalist Graham Lewis during this consuming and mantronic performance.

Brian Wilson followed Saturday’s triumphant showing by Lou Reed and showed that age has not withered his ability to sing and perform to the highest standard. a number of Beach Boy favourites featured, including favourites “Good Vibrations” and “Sloop John B.”

At this juncture friends had to split, as that annoying trait of festivals in scheduling two things you want to see at the same time was before us. My good lady, Beth Wallach, was feeling a little more energetic than I and went to see LCD Soundsystem, while I took myself into the world of Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized.

“Sorry for the delay” a slightly baffled looking James Murphy, singer of LCD Soundsystem bellowed into the crowd; “we’ve lost all our equipment”. The crowd didn’t seem to mind – they’d spent the last half hour dancing their tits off to the intermittent DJ. Hats have to be taken off to LCD for putting on a pretty reasonable performance with a quarry of replacement instruments; they raced through their set with clattering drum beats, punchy bass and bellowing vocals.

Bypassing the main stage’s throng, I took the backstage route to watch Spiritualized from the far side of the arena. I noticed a familiar face as I passed the stage steps, then realised it was Mister Pierce himself. Then followed a roar and much snapping of cameras by me of one of my favourite bands on stage. I was told off by some security people, but I have the pictures now so who cares? It will remain with me as one of the most phenomenal sights I have seen, looking out at the crowd from the stage, seeing them disappear far off into the distance and up into the hill outside the main site.

“Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating” in Space provided the bedrock in a thought provoking, emotional and thoroughly powerful performance.

My group of friends, and I think the whole festival, was reunited for the most triumphant festival show of the weekend, from Franz Ferdinand. Band of the year by a streak and they didn’t disappoint.

A storming performance, begun with “Cheating on You” and including all the hits, “Take ME Out, ” “Matinee” and “Michael” closed in thunderous fashion with what seemed to be all of FIB’s festival goers belting out “This Fire.”

For me this was the perfect way to end my festival, leaving the last memory as the best. Franz Ferdinand were followed onto the main stage by Chemical Brothers who put on a faultless and spectacular show, though I “viewed” it from the backstage pool.

Beth went to see Canada’s Tiga, who provided a fittingly storming end to the festival, playing to a stalwart crowd who were still kicking it whilst the rest of Europe’s alarms went off for work on Monday morning. The tent was rammed right up until the very end of the set, where he was met by a roaring standing ovation from a foray of wide eyed punters still hungry for more. Finally at gone eight o’clock in the morning the festival organisers shooed the last of the worshippers off the site – knowing full well they’d be back to party even harder next year.

All that was left now was to pack up and walk to the station for our trip to Barcelona, which with the hot sun beating down upon us, was really nice after not going to bed all night. We were all rather dazed after so much fun, but not one person who was there would doubt that Benicassim is host to the most perfect festival on earth.

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