Welcome to the Latin Quarter. Eight days, 100 bands, a sleepy town on the Med. The Benicassim organisers were on to a plan when they hatched this one 11 years ago. One of Europe’s most hedonistic festival experiences will once again welcome 30,000 people to this corner of the idyllic Spanish east coast to enjoy the sun, surf and the small matters that are Pixies, Scissor Sisters, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Morrissey and Depeche Mode.
Any British or Scandinavian punter can well appreciate the appeal of said few in parching temperatures, low humidity and clear blue skies. No matter how mucky northern festival Europe is, on some of its better days it can get so hot that you can be left begging Michael Eavis’ cows for rain. None of this nonsense at Benicassim, where you can be quite safe in the knowledge that if you start to turn into a greasy bacon rasher, you can take a stroll from your tent to the beach and cool down in the crystal clear Mediterranean waters. Just mind the jellyfish.
The bands and organisers have also taken into account the Spanish sun. The campsite is open three days before the festival proper. Things don’t usually start till 4pm and the festival day runs till 8am the next day with headliners cropping up around 2am.
This leaves plenty of time for other activities, or recovery. If beach bumming is not for you, Valencia is an hour away for sightseeing, shopping, eating out and nightlife. Why not hire a bike and enjoy the country scenery with the sun on your back as you discover some of the back alleys of Benicassim town? If crowds are not your thing, the local rail network will quite easily lose you to nearby pockets of deserted towns like Gandia with its all night beach bars and friendly locals.
Many international festival goers are turning Benicassim into a European holiday with Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Rome all popular ports of call along the way or afterwards. It may be high season for air travel but there are still a few good deals to be snapped up. With good rail connections, car hire and boat an option, any backpacking adventure is more than feasible.
5 THINGS YOU MUST DO:
1. Have some paella. Lots of it.
2. Go for a dusk stroll on the beach front.
3. Wear a jellyfish as a hat without being stung.
4. Watch Morrissey topping up the tan and heckle him.
5. Not be a typical English holiday lout.
The festival launch night on Thursday 20 July welcomes the Scissor Sisters back after a year off. Also there to bed-in festival goers are the likes of Trash maestro Erol Alkan and alt folk rockers Howe Gelb (with his full gospel choir) and Teitur.
Along with their strong showing as headliners, British bands are out in considerable force with Art Brut, Babyshambles, Echo And The Bunnymen, Editors, Mojave 3, Madness, Matthew Herbert, Placebo, The Futureheads, The Kooks, The Ordinary Boys, The Rakes and White Rose Movement all billed.
The dance stage is outrageously awash with talent: Tiga, Radio Soulwax / 2 Many DJ’s and Coldcut to name but a few. There are dozens of Europeans DJs and bands whose names you will never ever be able to pronounce just waiting on the side stages to be discovered. Look hard enough and you’ll even find the delights of Nada Surf, Rufus Wainwright and We Are Scientists nestling on the Vodafone Club stage.
If it all gets too much, there’s an enticing slice of nocturnal festival culture to experience – and I don’t mean Hare Krishna, herbal highs or gnome hats. Drop by the Proyecto Demo tent for a bevy of unsigned Spanish artists who have fought regional battle of the bands heats. The International Short Film Festival is a major fixture in the Spanish film calendar, with established and new Spanish filmmakers showcasing their film-shorts.
A catwalk will be rolled out for The Mustang Fashion Weekend which will hold a fashion contest where dozens of designers will be competing for Young Designer of the Year. And lest we forget fresh Spanish cuisine in salivating abundance.
5 BANDS YOU MUST SEE:
1. Pixies – Nuff said?
2. Nada Surf – College rock genius.
3. Radiosoulwax / 2 Many DJs – What comes before part b? PART-AAAY!
4. Yann Tiersen – enchanting multi-instrumentalist French composer of the Amelie soundtrack
5. Jay-Jay Johanson – Dreamy trip hop.
By Monday morning, post festival, you’ll be cursing that you’ve lost your swimming clothes, spent an extra 300 on the overdraft and can’t find your passport for your Tuesday morning flight, only to realise that this evening you still have the beach party. There, Queens of Noize and Miss Kittin will completely obliterate the place to a close.
Best festival experience of 2006? Quite possibly.
Benicassim 2006 runs from 20th – 24th July. Three and four day tickets now sold out. Limited day tickets still available.