Benicassim 2011: I Bet You Look Good On The Hispanic Dancefloor

The only monster FIB review in the blogosphere… it’s taken me a while to sit down and write, but now that I’m no longer employed for the summer here you go! Also heading to Underage this Friday with The Fly so keep your eyes peeled. HJ x

hat would make a self-confessed camping virgin travel hundreds of miles to do battle with insects and pop-up tents (or slow cookers, as they should be known)? The 16th outing of FIB, of course. Known simply as Benicassim to most of us lazy Brits, this is one annual festival that isn’t really worth a comparison with the UK circuit. The holiday vibe at the site in Southern Spain is a million miles away from the mud and orienteering of Worthy Farm, and rather than being cooped up like livestock we had a town to explore, beaches to visit, and supermarkets to raid for chorizo, horchata and, erm, deodorant.

Besides the music, there were also film screenings (missed as was at the beach), a fashion show (again, at the beach) and even the chance to take part in university-accredited courses such as music journalism (should’ve left the beach for that one). The main USP of travelling hundreds of miles is that there are warmer climes to enjoy until about 7pm, before returning to the campsite and inducing artificial insomnia via cheap sangria in preparation for the 2am headliners. Lovely organiser Vince Power even chucks in a eight free days of camping. This year, the 4 day event went something like this:

Jueves/Thursday

After a day spent exploring cultural sites (the beach and the supermarket bread aisle, respectively) we headed back for Paolo Nutini’s set on the main (Maravillas) stage. Seemingly tipsy (please don’t sue me for libel!) as he stepped onto stage, the Scottish crooner’s set was not only 1940s OAP but also decidedly DOA. With two multi-platinum albums behind him, the bar was high for Paolo who peaked early with crowd-pleasers ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ and ‘These Streets’. Seemingly going through the motions for the mostly British crowd, he deviated from tried and tested material just once for a quick flirtation with ‘Over and Over’, a Hot Chip cover. Overall, Nutini brought the foot-tapping and limb-shaking music we all expected and delivered it with soul, but there was something repetitive and spent about the set that only a true groupies, sorry fans, could ignore.

Paolo Nutini onstage at FIB (image copyright of Fiberfib)

Drum and bass devotees came together for Chase and Status, who were headlining the Fiberfib.com stage. Touchingly, MC Rage catered for the amnesiacs among us by screaming “Chase and FUCKING Status” between numbers. From the first African-accented word of opener ‘No Problem’, to the Asiatic scarefest Eastern Jam and intermittent commands to ‘bounce’, right through to closing track ‘Fool Yourself’, the pair’s reputation for delivering an energy-packed and unpredictable live experience was sealed. Twenty years on and boasting another Liam, I think we’ve found an act who will become as definitive as The Prodigy (whose seminal hit ‘Firestarter’ still rocked the dance stage during a DJ set some 15 years on…).

Continuing the dubstep mood of Thursday night we went back to the Maravillas for Pendulum, who pleased a mostly Antipodean and British crowd with the material which everyone wanted to hear. Closing with Watercolour from last album Immersion, they declared the crowd to have been “fucking brilliant” (oh we were).

This look is the definitive "our mood swings are more swingy than a swingy thing, like a Pendulum" and explains how one of the worst names ever was conceived

On the Fibclub stage, I caught a negligable amount of Crystal Fighters’ set, which is a shame because watching happy people dance to “we were born to be alone, everybody all alone” would have totally smacked of postmodernist irony and would have made writing a blog so much easier. Still, I’m seeing them later in the year so I can dance/write polemics then.

Viernes/Friday

Friday night was spent exclusively at the Maravillas, where Brandon Flowers, Elbow, The Strokes and Friendly Fires were top of the bill. I chose the showers over Flowers, but three out of four ain’t bad and I heard most of his set from the campsite. Unfortunately for the Killers’ man, the unanimous highpoint was ‘Mr Brightside’ (a track which his band played at last year’s FIB) rather than anything from his own foray into solo artistry, Flamingo.

Illustrative purposes only

Elbow provided  a high point of the weekend, delivering their music with passion as well as a high level concern for the wellbeing of fans that was often absent elsewhere. Whilst kicking, beer-spilling and even cartwheeling in crowds is commonplace, frontman Guy Garvey was having none of it, instructing fans to move back to prevent a crush. Although there was none of the tomfoolery seen at their Glasto performance (backwards Mexican wave, anybody?), tracks like ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and epic closer ‘One Day Like This’ were raw Mancunian slices of indie rock ‘n’roll. The relationship between the North West of England and Eastern Spain is surely back up to par, after fellow Mancs Oasis caused a furor over sound problems  at the fest in 09.

Fresh from work on their latest LP, ‘Angles’, The Strokes had six new tracks in their roster alongside higher octane classics such as ‘Juicebox’ and ‘You Only Live Once’. Their set was well-received, although the loudest cheers were heard (rather predictably) for ‘Last Nite’. Ten years on and its still causing a commotion,  with ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ and ‘Machu Picchu’ falling short of such appreciation. I can only analogise this situation to playing Strokes Top Trumps – would a Julian beat an Albert? Subjective.

Topping off Friday were the boys from Friendly Fires, who lived up to their agreeable moniker. Returning to the festival with a higher profile (the band played the FiberFib.com stage two years ago),  they attracted fans in their droves with their early hours set. Swishing and trying out fancy footwork to ‘Hawaiian Air’, the atmosphere was as magical and jaunty as current album Pala, although much like The Strokes it was an older favourite (‘Paris’) which brought out the best in the crowd. Still, they got to show off their creativity and charm which has ensnared the mainstream and permeated the charts of late, much as they did here  a few days later.

Sábado/Saturday

Saturday was a bit of a blur, probably due to the phrase “uno Heineken por favor”. Hours of beach and a snack or two later, it was time for some cutesy folkpop-by-numbers from ukulele-wiedling Mumford and Sons, who paved the way for Arctic Monkeys, giving Benicassim their all. Mumfords were one of many acts who attempted to engage with the crowds in both Spanish and English (n’aww). Luckily we could rely on the artists in showing gratitude towards the locality which – let’s face it – isn’t always the top priority for us (litter-dropping, beer-swigging) fans…

Anyway, I digress… After a few years out on the road regurgitating their first three records, it was time to bring ‘Suck It And See’ into the mix on the Maravillas. Arriving on stage to the unmistakable sound of ‘You Sexy Thing’ by Hot Chocolate, the band played a catalogue of hits including ‘Brianstorm’, ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ as well as new tracks including ‘Don’t Sit Down Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”. A vibrant and sometimes brooding atmosphere, coupled with chanting of well-known, quasi-misogynist lyrics such as “oh, you know nothing, but I’ll still take you home!” and some RIP-to-romance numbers like ‘505’ (for Alexa?) combined to make an exciting set.

What A Scummy Man: Jk Benicassim loved Alex and his Lego-esque hairdo

Stuggling to stay awake during Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ is a bit like passing out on your own birthday, but unfortunately that was this writer’s fate (do excuse the crap analogy, it was more like passing out on Christmas and being poked in the eyes by stray pine needles). By the time that Bobby Gillespie and co. took to the stage at an ungodly hour to bring us classics like “Movin’ On Up” and “Come Together”, I may or may not have been sitting on the ground, craning my neck like some kind of wounded giraffe. A treat for fans of the Scream boys/Denise Johnson but it was the inclusion of ‘Country Girl’ (from 2006’s Riot City Blues) that brought the set from a retrospective to a collection of modern classics; ultimately it was an epic celebration of the band’s work since their rise to fame/notoriety circa 1991.

Fresh from Kate Moss' star-studded nuptials, Bobby Gillespie goes back to the day job as he poses backstage at FIB (image copyright of Fiberfib)

After the kitsch kerfuffle caused by Fake Blood’s (the Brit DJ best known for ‘I Think I Like It’) set on the Fiberfib.com stage, it was time for bed (how he managed to mix in tacky house classic ‘Get Down’ by Paul Johnson into his most aforesaid hit I have no idea). After that, I have clear memories of losing my torch and the girl in the tent next to us insisted on talking as though she was devising a parody of ‘Homecoming’ by The Teenagers for half of the night.

Domingo/Sunday

Officially burnt, I skipped the sun in favour of reading the official festival programme under a parasol. It was a pretty interesting programme too – a bilingual booklet full of interviews and info on the acts. Shame I hadn’t read it on the first day…

Professor Green took the festival by storm, playing all of his singles with the kind of gusto I haven’t seen him deploy in the daytime. Predictably, everyone besides the most diehard INXS fans went wild for ‘I Need You Tonight’, and the reaction to ‘Jungle’ was huge (two girls in particular, seemingly dressed as spandex cowgirls from the future, complete with Cher Lloyd-style baseball caps and fairylights adorning their jackets appeared to be having some kind of religious expeience). Pro even seamlessly slipped in a cheeky Chase and Status sample (‘Eastern Jam’) on the aforementioned track, turning his ‘Norf Lundun’ sound up to 11. My personal highlight, however, was the plug shout out to Radio 1 before ‘Just Be Good To Green’. Keeping it real (and tethered to the BBC) has never been easier.

Portishead played the Maravillas at 11pm, providing one of the most haunting experiences of the festival. On a darkened stage, surrounded by screens showing the surreal animated videos commissioned for their music, the band played a set which was both uplifting and heartwrenching. Currently staging a comeback, they opened with ‘Silence’, perfect for the festival due to its spoken Spanish first verse. This was followed by a veritable ‘best-of’ including Mysterons, Sour Times and Glory Box. Beth Gibbons gave an inimitable vocal performance throughout, despite the somewhat ‘early’ set time.

(Apologies for sound quality – not my upload)

Closing the festival were Arcade Fire, who played a breathtaking

(just breathing out)

set. The Canadian septet provided the Win-ning (sorry) end to the festivities, reprising hits from across their career. Faster tunes like ‘Ready To Start’ and ‘Keep The Car Running’ were perfect for high energy dancing, with more mellow ones like ‘The Suburbs’ providing a chance to cool off and just sway. The generous group even took the opportunity to raise some funds for (singer Regine’s crisis-stricken home country) Haiti during the show. A two-part encore comprising arena-worthy ‘Wake Up’ and tearjeaker ‘Sprawl II’ was also well received. Whilst this writer can’t speak for all present, I felt invigorated with hope for all mankind, and imbued with peace and love. Sponsored by Heineken.

– My verdict: Go amigo! The upbeat Spanish affair gets a stellar 4/5.

What did I miss?

Anna Calvi – does listening to ‘Suzanne and I’ on the plane count? Kate Bush 2.0 would have been a magical addition to my weekend.

Art Brut – added to the bill at the nth hour, Art Brut weren’t even in the programme. Clumsier than The Libertines and cuter than Pulp (see: stalky ‘ode to luv’ Emily Kane): if only I’d known.

Bombay Bicycle Club – heard most of their set from inside my tent. Still wish I’d been there to hear ‘The Hill’ (insert secret reason for significance here).

Beirut – and the award for the act I am most devastated about missing goes to Zach Condon and co. How can I build a time machine? Answers on a postcard (from Italy) please.

Insider tips:

– Be an earlybird: Act erm ‘pronto’ and get your 2012 ticket for £40 off the normal price (£125 for the 4 day event, 8 day camping included).

– Get a room: A hotel. hostel or apartment is advisable in the heat.

– Become an insomniac in advance: seriously.

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Singles Apr/May + Royal Wedding

If I wasn’t boring I’d be at the Camden Crawl blogging with Vice, enjoying fringe events such as the Nightjar (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cumberbitches take note) and the film festival curated by Guillemots, as well as obviously listening to music from the likes of Tom Williams and The Boat, Little Comets and Beth Jeans Houghton. Except I’m cripplingly boring and my A Levels (officially) start this week.

Instead I’ll just churn out five of these babies:

“You never review new singles!” “Done” (Apr/May)

The Shoes – Cover Your Eyes (Crack My Bones LP released March, single TBC on Southern Fried)

Late night French radio is good for two things as far as I’m concerned. Besides the super-detailed meteo, sometimes a gem slips through the wireless with all the ease of a Parisian breeze. They’ve mixed for a menagerie of indie bands and had their music featured on Gossip Girl but that’s where the comparisons with serial remixers Justice, samplers Daft Punk and advert song duo Air respectively should end. As brilliant and French as those acts are, Cover Your Eyes is a brooding, dramatic slice of indie which leans more towards the pop than the electro. Seemingly taking its lead from Gaelic influences as well as British indie, its main hook and lyrics (e.g.: the “mathematics of a heart laid bare”) could have been plucked from 80s new romanticism…but how fresh it sounds. I think the whole album could be a winner, as long as I don’t hear “Cliche” on a cliche-d Toyota advert before 2016.

4.5/5

For fans of: Delphic, Zach Hill, Sebastien Tellier.

Japanese Voyeurs – Get Hole (was released 18th April on Fiction)

It’s not very often that I get ridiculously excited about a band who were formed before about 1997, or a band like Japanese Voyeurs who are possibly all talk. Question: is it possible to be a grunge band in 2011? Question: is it possible to have a pain-inducing riot grrrrl wail when the only Veruca Salt of your childhood probably courtesy of Roald Dahl? I’m going to stop asking questions because its ruining the crazy contrast between Exorcist-girl vocals and irregular Pantera-esque chords. Japanese Voyeurs aren’t Japanese but they’ve definitely been doing some voyeurism into Courtney Love’s back catalogue (is “Get Hole” actually a ridiculously obvious ref?!) … and, coupled with even more angry postmodernism, it works. Question: is this for real? Answer: I stopped caring after the first 30 seconds. Memo to Taylor Momsen: watch and learn from Romily Alice, Little J.

3.5/5

For fans of: the 90s, Rolo Tomassi.

The Sound of Arrows – Nova (was released 25th April on Geffen)

Winner of the most self-indulgent video ever award (they made it themselves), this is most certainly a guilty pleasure from the Swedish pair. This is Basshunter and MGMT collaborating at a party hosted by a porn baron, and it fails to conjure up the 80s vibe of Hurts because its a join-the-dots attempt at mainstream electronica with a homoerotic vid I think was intended to go viral. Controversial its really not, however it is strangely compulsive thanks to their Scandinavian pronunciation and predictable themes of stalking (“I’ll never stop following you”). The Top comments on the video sum it up…at the tenth play, I think I have Stockholm Syndrome.

3/5

For fans of: Saint Etienne, Pet Shop Boys, The Teenagers

Barbara Panther – Empire (Album to be released 16th May on City Slang)

Barbara Panther is a Rwandan singer from Brussels via Berlin, mixing potent electronic beats with poetically gothic lyrics, however because she is black she will ultimately draw superficial comparisons with that other black electronic pop singer, Santigold. I personally think any such comparisons would be a waste of time…Barbara Panther sounds like she’d be far more at home among the 70s and 80s artists on my favourite leftfield compilation ever, Disco Not Disco from Strut (which I’m lucky enough to own in physical form). She is vintage and trance-like without wearing her influences too obviously. The Lom remix of Empire deconstructs and reassembles this colonialist anthem (just kidding) with ease, and it is possibly better than the (utterly crazy) original.

4/5

For fans of: Flykkiller, Bjork, Summer Camp

Frankmusik – Do It In The AM (released May 3rd on Cherrytree/Interscope)

Club 18-30 choon which is the wrong side of electronic. Frankmusik’s polished-up vocals plus an appearance from Far East Movement (“who?” I hear you cry) can’t save this turgid cross between an X Factor winner’s third single and the theme tune of a BBC3 documentary on safe sex. Do it the morning kids, in the AM, before your parents find out or you fail your GCSEs! Oh, how the (relatively) mighty have fallen. On the subject of this vacuous piece of Americana, Mr Frank told some kind of Far East Movement fansite that “this new record has got a bit more finesse to it”, which I’m assuming he thinks is the French word for overproduced.  “I’ve finessed the songwriting, the songs are a lot more punchy”, he continued, before defensively adding that his critics could “suck a dick”. FYI that would be in the PM because the AM is far too jam packed with bitches and hoes and Facetime with the lads back in East London. Pitbull circa 2009 he ain’t.

0/5

For fans of: Rohypnol

Got me feeling like a royalist…or not

http://www.vbs.tv/en-gb/watch/rule-britannia/rule-britannia-royal-wedding

Watch!! There are royalists and republicans alike in VBS’ latest production Rule Britannia: Royal Wedding. I loved the wedding myself (softy at heart), as well as tat like this  , but this vid shows the crazy extremism of some and the anger at what is seemingly a symbol of conspicuous consumption by the firm during crazy austerity era 101, as well as the view from the Kings Road and the set of a porn film which really does have the crown jewels. Another great doc which explores the politically sensitive relationship from the point of view of the great unwashed and beyond – some royalists, others ready to burn the palace.

*For what its worth, I love them, and genuinely wouldn’t have had any objection to them shredding quantitively-eased money into beautiful confetti and endless rainbows.

HJ x