Festival Diary: Benicassim 2006

benicassim_features Benicassim 2006, with 30,000 festival goers taking in everyone from Morrissey to Scissor Sisters, runs from 20-24 July.

musicOMH will be ambling around between the tents, the beach and the sea, sipping nonchalantly on cold beers, and blogging live throughout the festival.

25 July 2006, 11:06

It’s been 26 hours since I last slept.

The idea of an all nighter has its pluses and minuses. The beach party was terrific. A stage had been erected on the beach front and anyone could attend – festivalgoers, tourists and locals, all crammed onto this stretch of beach.

Queens of Noize worked the crowd well enough with a boozy party set, the complete opposite to Miss Kittin‘s ice cool persona and cutting edge light show which projected tunnels and waves of green light into the darkness. Flares were set off at the back and mini raves ensued; bottles of red wine, beer and water were shared in good faith and MDMA was offered at a staggering rate.

I managed a shower at 5am but feel terrible. My feet are blistered, eyes sore, I need a shave and a proper bed. Our Euromed has just psulled out of Valencia for the three-hour trip to Barca then London. The word “sleep” never sounded so good. Will be back with a final post later.

24 July 2006, 22:13

One last hurrah then.

Tents are packed, important documents at the ready, campsite sing-alongs are sung. Last remaining booze neatly polished off, we’re approaching the beach for the send off party.

The plan is to get teetotalled and not sleep. And there’s still Miss Kittin to come 😉

24 July 2006, 13:53

Sunday’s proceedings for me began quite subdued.

Yann Tiersen is of that rare breed who creates a spectacle that defies conventional boundaries. Pulling an impressive turnout to Escenario, Tiersen delivered an eye opening set of erratic violin-work and shoegazing guitar fests.

Thank the maker for Madness. All festivals need a bit of fun. After several days of sun, sea, sangria and a serious lack of sleep, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t start to feel it. Madness perked the metabolism marvellously. If you ever feel like shit and need some wake up juice, I seriously recommend sticking on Baggy Trousers and House of Fun.

One thing UK festivals could learn from their European counterparts is to place big screens on their side tents. Every tent stage had a big screen and mini screens outside so that if you showed up five minutes before We Are Scientists and find it impossible to wriggle your way in, you won’t miss much. The quirky trio didn’t really do it for me, perhaps because of the distance, but even with speakers outside they sounded pretty drab.

Depeche Mode have raked in an enormous crowd. Locals have taken to sitting on the rocky hill behind the arena and the footbridge over the road next to the site. The immortal Dave Gahan is wearing a skin tight open waistcoat and leather jeans as he paces and writhes across the stage like a man possessed. The Mode fair well, soundwise are solid and visuals stunning. They don’t really hit the nail on the head until the Violator portion of World In My Eyes, Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence.

It was approaching 1am when the prospect of The Rakes at 3.40am started to look less than endering. Myself and musicOMH film editor Jon Bright vainly tried the dance stage, pista and Vodafone stage to try and find something to keep us going – Placebo on the main stage frankly couldn’t.

We had run out of decent music. Rework were on in the Vodafone tent regurgating the same flat beat for 10 minutes plus. The pillheads throughly digged all their slack jawed glory. The dance tent was no better with lord knows who on, but someone definately had to hang that DJ.

We tried some fringe fare. There were drag queens singing Spanish versions of Beyonce and Kylie. The market was piss poor and the crowds only aggravated us further. We finally acknowledged our predicament and headed to our tents.

Which brings me to now Monday afternoon. Two 1.5 litre bottles of water, four coffees, seven cigarettes, a croissant, pastry and vegetable sandwich later I still feel pretty sedated. The beach party will get going at midnight tonight and go on till 6am Tuesday. My bags will be packed by then allowing me at the end to take a morning shower, walk to the bus stop for the 7am to Valencia airport, catch a cab to Valencia rail station for the 11am train up to Barcelona, catch the aerobus to La Prat airport for my 6.30pm flight back to Heathrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit some sleep and a few more blogs in between that. If not, you know the reason why amigos.

24 July 2006, 11:19

You may have noticed the frequency of this blog has nosedived.

It must be something about the juice pumped out of Spanish power sockets, but each time my phone seemed to be fully charged, it ran out of battery power after a few hours.

It has also gradually gotten hotter, nestling in the low 30s, making it very difficult to do much during the day. Sure, London has been obscenely hot while we’ve been away, but I challenge anyone to take on the Spanish sun and not be knocked for six.

A few loose ends to tie up then: Saturday night, while strictly dance night, also saw a few decent guitar bands. Nada Surf treated a very large crowd at the Escenario Vodafone Club to their impeccably angsty, college rock melodies. Over on Escenario Verde I caught the tail end of The Kooks who proved a huge draw and are showing growing signs of comfort on their inevitable route to those arenas. They could even take a leaf out of Franz Ferdinand‘s book, who are on serious form and can command a crowd with a swing of a guitar and click of their heels.

More to come about Sunday, just need a bit more coffee and cigarettes. Your patience is duy appreciated.

23 July 2006, 12:29

Escenario Electronica was the place to be last night.

Jay Jay Johanson was perfect preparation for a blistering six hours we spent in the tent. His icy, euro tinged mellow trip hop settled everyone. Johanson picked up the pace towards the end to usher in Justice who began the process of raising the roof with a sweet 20 minutes.

If there is an anthem for the weekend, Tiga‘s You Gonna Want Me is emerging as the forerunner as both Justice and 2 Many DJs could not resist dropping it, the latter doing so mashed with Guns ‘N’ Roses‘ Welome to the Jungle.

The dance tent is blessed with hanging evaporated water fans that keep you cool, and if you stand under them long enough, soak you through to your underwear. No problems there – I’ve gone, or rather been forced, into going commando.

23 July 2006, 10:38

There’s only one man who can begin his set with Panic and get away with it. Who? Well, it had to be Morrissey.

Immaculately turned out (as ever), Mozza was in Spanish mode with an amber open necked shirt. He even wrapped a Spanish flag around his waist while giving it the Moz step.

The set revolved around the commercially huge succeses of You Are The Quarry and Ringleader of the Tormentors. I’ll Never Be Anyone’s Hero Now was dedicated to the late Syd Barrett, but I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for just how good How Soon Is Now sounded. It’s easy to be cynical about Mozza and The Smiths, but I was completely bowled over. Sorry I ever doubted you, Moz.

22 July 2006, 18:06

I’ve been in this cafe bar since 10am. The heat has been murderous and the others joined me not much later.

Filled out some postcards, played trumps, read a book, ate and slept and got know sangria a little better. Sun now going down – Nada Surf, 2 Many DJs and Morrissey in a couple of hours.

Even musicOMH’s deputy music editor Tim Lee has woken up from his afternoon slump and may fulfil his threat to shoe a Kook this evening.

22 July 2006, 07:36

My phone died on me yesterday. I’m finally at a charging point onsite.

Last night was okay. The Futureheads were as expected – snotty, angular, predictable.

The Pixies set was a difficult one. Firstly they didn’t really look to be interested much. Fifteen minutes in the band stopped midway through Monkey Gone to Heaven (early to drop that, I know) after the front barrier collapsed. It was half an hour before they returned with Gigantic and then it became a case of pick the hit, with Broken Face and Nimrod’s Son set highlights. The band said little and with their recent announcement that they will just tour and not record new material, a big question mark hangs over this current return.

Echo and the Bunnymen cloaked the stage in dark purple lighting for much of the set that from afar it looked like there was no one onstage. They were a good stop gap between the Pixies and The Strokes. Unfortunately much of my efforts at this point were focussed on finding food and friends. The arena area is too small, and after a band has finished, ridiculous bottlenecks build up. Post Pixies the queue was so bad for the ladies’ loo that women were queueing for the men’s room only to be turned away by site staff.

The reception given to the Strokes was the biggest I’ve seen so far. Dozens of Spaniards around our set made a concerted if annoying attempt at singing along in pretty bad English.

The New Yorkers tore through much of First Impressions of Earth with the likes of Juicebox and Heart in A Cage sending the audience into stitches.

The problem with The Strokes live is that their sound is really flat and Julian Casablancas is not the same vocally as he was a few years ago, with these ones groany and croaky.

The dance tent, Escenario Electronica, is pimped to the max with lasers, screens and evaporated water releases for Tiga. I came in midway to a sordid, sweaty and very steamy rave. Sadly my calf muscles were about to explode so I opted fo kip (it was 3am). Just as I set my head on my pillow The Knife blared out from the stage. Bugger, I thought to myself.

21 July 2006, 20:55

Surprise, surprise, Babyshambles have shown up on time fo their 6.50pm billing in the Escenario tent.

Given the festival crews have all day to get it right, the PA is in good stead, which carries Babyshambles’ wishy washy material in all of its recorded-in-a-living-room glory.

Pete Doherty is topless and given a messianic reception throughout, stumbling, twirling and rocking the inebriated rock star clique.

As with Albion when the good songs are aired (Pipedown, La Belle et La Bete, Fuck Forever) thngs are fine, the problem is, as with the album, they’re few and far between. Still there were some special moments like Time For Heroes and a guest apperance by Shane McGowan for Dirty Old Town.

The Walkman were woeful, so we’ll leave it at that. I have my beer and my patch of grass by Escenario Verde for The Futureheads, Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Strokes. Not bad, non?

21 July 2006, 16:30

Apologies for the lack of detail in my last post. I am half recovered from last night, renergising from a beachside cafe.

I counted at least eight new Scissor Sisters songs which all bode well for the new record. One had the similar, clangy Thomas the Tank Engine rhythm as Laura. Many of the others have a decidedly more dancey feel to them.

Jake Shears and Ana Matronic were as wonderfully outrageous as ever, conversing many a lewd remark in fluent Spanish. This was the fifth time I’ve seen them since their early days and they have not dropped their performance levels one notch.

Erol Alkan’s reputation precedes him and he certainly cemented it with a heady two hours of electroclash which woke the whole arena up. A lot of people went back to their tents with blistered feet.

Must, must renergise. I plan to watch eight bands this evening starting with Babyshambles in two and a half hours and ending with Tiga in 12. No rest for the wicked. Think I should lay off the rum tonight.

21 July 2006, 06:22

21 hours and 22 minutes. Thats been my day.

Scissor Sisters wheeled in over half a dozen newbies, but the real hero was Erol Alkan‘s set which was trash wrapped, bound and smuggled through customs. What a day.

The asshole in the next tent who snores like a mongrel is not lettting up. I need a weapon. Actually I need sleep.

21 July 2006, 02:55

The arena area is the smallest I’ve encountered at such a large festival. It’s claustrophobic with people in your face everywhere.

Sunday Drivers and Howe Gelb have faired reasonably, but the anticipation for Scissor Sisters’ immiment headline slot is there to see with the Escenario Verde area filling rapidly. Rumours are abound that a big preview of the band’s new album will be aired. I need more rum.

21 July 2006, 00:05

Curious observation. The Escenario Verde (main stage) is adjacent to a dual carriageway with a footbridge which heads to the beach.

Stand on said bridge and get a free, more than decent view of the big bands. Whoever said nothing in life comes for free?

20 July 2006, 16:59

Are we at a music festival? I mean really, honestly?

We’re drying off after the first (of many) dips in the Med. It was cool, if a tad salty.

Words can’t really describe the feeling of floating in the sea after a few beers, knowing that in a few hours the festival launch night, Fibstart, begins. There are at least 14 hours left of this festival day. That 8am start seems so long ago.

20 July 2006, 09:41

I woke up in a pool of perspiration this morning and this was without my sleeping bag and much on.

Thankfully we’re camped nearest to the festiival arena and right next to the ice cold showers.

The sun pretty much nudges you towards the beach and town to escape the heat. I’m cheekily sitting in a bar charging my equipment while I blog. I hope I’ve pacified the bar manager by ordering croissants and a bladder-flooding amount of orange juice. I think I’ll explore old town Benicassim in a bit.

19 July 2006, 23:12

This is bliss. 11pm and the air is soothing. I’m lying in my tent sipping a cerveza while Jen and James chat above the Pixies.

There is plenty to do, with Benicassim’s frightening mix of bars 2O minutes away.

Monkey Gone to Heaven is on and it kinda feels a bit like it up here.

We’ve been here hours and not heard one shout of “bollocks”. No vomiting yet or pisshead nutters, the night is young. I think I like it here.

19 July 2006, 20:35

They do things differently here on the continent.

Take the camping arrangements. You are hand led and told where to pitch your tent, which has the effect of sardining everybody together.

It was unbearably stifling when we set up camp at 4.30pm. On the plus side the tents are under tracks of gazebos which keep them in the shade all day.

Estimates that a third of the 30,000 festival goers are Brits are accurate – we’re bloody everywhere, and marking our territory in a manner not seen since the days of the Empire, and yes, one our party has a Union Kack tent.

My phone is dying, so I’ll make it snappy. The sun is going down and we’re on the beach people watching. Some buffoons in front of me have overturned a battered old boat. They actually think its seaworthy. The fools.

19 July 2006, 11:27

Three days of mind blowing R&R in Barcelona is disappearing behind us as our train pulls out of the heart of Catalunya.

Clubbing until a few hours before departure was not a good idea, though it meant we saw a decent tramp fight in Placa Reil.

Hungry, hungover and feeling pretty hostile. Three hours to go and no smokes. At least there’s air con. Next stop Valencia.

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Festival Diary: Benicassim 2006