After years of attending music festivals in the UK I thought it was about time I spread my wings to see what the rest of the world has to offer. Casting our wellies and waterproofs aside, we set off to see what makes Festival Internacional de Benicàssim one of the most established music festivals on the European calendar. Sun, sea and sound were the words which were cast across the stage as the crowds of FIB festival in Benicàssim danced until the Spanish sun cast a saffron glow upon the incredible scenery surrounding the festival (think endless rows of hazy mountains at sunrise.) It is hard to believe that what previously looked like an enormous abandoned car park could be transformed into something so full of life.
Not even the absence of headline act Florence and the Machine and the highly anticipated Bat for Lashes could taint the spirit of the festival as the first night launched into full swing with an eclectic mix gracing the main stage including the likes of The Horrors, De la Soul and Example. The newly reformed At the Drive In stole the show as they stepped up the bill and played their first show since they split over a decade ago, reeling off classic after classic including ‘Napoleon solo’, ‘Pattern Against User’ and ‘One Armed Scissor’.
After a day of curing our hangovers by cat-napping on the beautiful Benicàssim beach (you don’t get this in Reading), we arrived to the soulful sounds of Miles Kane. The atmosphere was even better than the opening night as thousands of people gathered around grasping their litre cups of Heineken waiting for headliner and living legend Bob Dylan to grace the main stage. Despite being 71 years of age he still managed to please the crowd, however it was more due to the fact that they were witnessing Zimmerman in the flesh and not the effect of his somewhat anti-climactic performance.
Honoured to be following such an iconic act, The Maccabees stepped onto the stage and injected a much sought after energy boost back into the crowd as they played favourites from ‘Wall of Arms’ and ‘Colour It In’, dedicating ‘Precious Time’ to their friends and fellow Friday night performers Bombay Bicycle Club. It was clear that for Orlando Weeks this was a defining moment of his musical career as one of their biggest crowds yet sang along to every word as they ended their set with ‘Grew up at Midnight’ from arguably one of 2012’s best albums ‘Given to the Wild’. No better band could have followed the Maccabees than Bombay Bicycle Club as they continued to please the crowd opening with ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ and then almost immediately launching into the nostalgic ‘Open House’ from the ‘Boy I Used To Be’ EP released in 2007. Festival goers were relieved from their indie induced coma as Chase and Status took to the stage and, as some might say, ‘smashed it’, ending the night with a drum and bass infused bang.
Saturday night promised to bring Manchester to Benicàssim and did not disappoint. Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds set to the stage after chants of Manchester slang ‘come on our kid’ and opened with Oasis classic ‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’. Even musical legend Bob Dylan could not conjure up an atmosphere as electric as the Brit-Pop icons as they fleeted between songs from their self-titled album and Oasis classics, ending with the entire crowd participating in an emotional sing-along to the definitive ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.
What better band to follow but headliners The Stone Roses, who continued the buzz from ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ right through to ‘I Am the Resurrection’. Surprisingly enough, in their words, they’ve still got it. Meanwhile on the smaller stage Dizzee Rascal blasted out Bonkers not once, but TWICE, and despite NME slagging her off and the fact that she stood out on the line up like a sore thumb, Jessie J gave a brilliant performance which put everybody in the mood to dance and left them screaming ‘I’m feeling sexy and free!’.
Finally after days of dancing, singing, screaming and drinking buckets of Heineken (dear god, so much Heineken), the festival reached its grand finale. Everybody was thoroughly entertained with an eclectic mix from energetic jumping provided by The Vaccines to the melancholic sounds of The Antlers and a good old fashioned sing along to everyone’s favourite ginger Ed Sheeran. Headliners New Order brought Manchester back to the festival for yet another day, coincidently on the birthday of Ian Curtis, as they played classics such as Blue Monday, and erm, well, that’s about it. Front man Bernard Sumner dedicated their final song Joy Division classic ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ to Ian, and the chorus continued to ring across the crowds long after the performance had ended. It did not end there, our dancing shoes were provided by the likes of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and David Guetta, (Depending on your preference of dance music, I know who I preferred…)
The four day long extravaganza ended with a blinding set by beloved house legend Maya Jane Coles as the sun rose high above our heads before every one headed back to the beach to recover/ continue the party.