Live Music + Gig Reviews

Benicassim Festival @ Benicassim – Day 1

19 July 2007

“James Lavelle?”
“This is your booking agent. And we’ve got a gig for ya! A festival no less. It’s in Spain, so sun, sand, sangria and some music.”
“Sounds great. When are we on?”
“That’s the best bit. The festival runs from Thursday to Sunday, and you’ll be the last act on. The closers. Le act finale, as the French say!”
“Wow! Sounds ace. We’re really making progress aren’t we? Headlining festivals now! And they said DJ Shadow was the talented one… Who are we on after?”
“Hello?! Are you still there? Who are we on after?”
“Uh, ah. muse…”
“What? Who?”
*more silence*

Yep, Sunday night, the last of the thirteenth annual Festival Internacional de Benicassim saw Muse blow UNKLE away. And in other extraordinary news, a bear was found defecating in a forested area and the Pope was outed as Catholic. Because let’s be fair, Muse blew everyone away. As soon as the starship Bellamy + co touched down in this car park in southern Spain it was on a totally different level to anything seen over the past four days.

Still, what a four days it had been. Veering from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the hot to the very hot, from Bright Eyes to Iggy Pop.

Thursday was opening night with a stripped down bill which had only two of the four possible stages open. Starting proceedings on the Escenario Verde main stage were Mando Diao, who tried very hard to make anyone care about their Strokes-a-like garage rock, and in the end failed quite miserably. Best wait for Albert Hammond Jr. on Saturday for your fill of that particular flavour.

Casting aside the false start, tonight was always going to be about one act: Iggy and The Stooges. So it was a little sad that their performance erred far more on the side of ridiculous than sublime. If you’d been anywhere near their Glasto show you probably could have guessed how this would go. Not looking a day over four hundred, with a face resembling a chamois leather in a blast furnace, Iggy throws himself around the stage, humping amps, dousing himself with water and generally behaving unlike any sixty year old you’ve ever met.

A shame then, that once you were passed the point of gawping at the sight of a man who should by rights be offering you Werther’s Originals legging it around, fucking electrical equipment in jeans tight enough to make Caleb Followill‘s eyes water, and the oh-so predictable, and yet oh-so-amusing stage invasion, the set was a bit empty. Says a lot when a band who’ve been hanging around for as long as the Stooges have to resort to playing their best song (I Wanna Be Your Dog) twice.

Bright Eyes didn’t play anything twice. Conor Oberst also managed to navigate the entire set without calling anyone a crackhead, so double kudos there. Dressed entirely in Borrell baiting white and leaning heavily on his newest album Cassadaga the man from Nebraska was magnetic and accomplished. Oberst has never been one to embrace the crowd banter during his sets, but the simple statement “Now heres a little country for y’all” caused the crowd to erupt into a frenzy of dancing and clapping for the newly found anthem Four Winds.

Oberst’s departure left a veritable battlefield of souls looking ready for casket fitting at the back of the Escenario Verde. And this on an opening night designed to easy a weary punter into the festival with only half of its stages actually hosting acts.

Plus, half of those were populated with one Peaches Geldof, who set about seeing how long you can actually leave between two records and it still be called DJing. Still, she managed to fill her respective tent, presumably with people either too drunk or too deaf (or possibly both) to care about what they were listening to.

Last up for day one, a far more reliable source in Jojo De Freq. Just like Erol Alkan’s graveyard slot last year, it brought back to life the undead, swamping the place with electro dirtier than a favela toilet. While Klaxons and Justice were thrown in for good measure, there was enough to make Bugged Out and Nag Nag Nag disciples happier than a 17-year-old with nudie pictures of Lovefoxx and a UV flashlight.

6am, the game was finally over for day one, when realisation dawned that the sun was starting to outmatch our smiles. So much for the easy introduction.

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