Benicassim 2008

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Too hot, too much Moz and too many DJs. But it wasn’t all bad at Benicassim, as Matt Eland reveals.


Benicassim is HOT. Bands and DJs play through the night, so by the time you’ve gotten back to your tent it’s already pretty sweaty, leaving the surf as your only respite from the sweltering heat.
Booze, another respectable coolant, is cheap cheap cheap, the town’s numerous supermarkets getting besieged for those 50 cent cans of Malou (along with fresh baguettes and cold meats, the only things we can eat in the absence of a microwave).
It’s pretty intense (not as intense as the sunburn – I saw one girl with her shoulders burnt off…there were whispers of people lubing themselves up with cooking oil), so we’re lucky that the facilities are so good. There are flushing toilets, and a shower block, so as hot as the campsites are, at least they don’t smell of piss.
The festival kicked off with Sigur Ros, who seemed to be missing something…the ebb and flow was nice, they have different textures of songs to go with the sparse, effecting soundscapes they’re known for, but there’s something missing. They’re not quite as immersive as I’d hoped them to be.
It’s a different story with Battles, who are making a habit of destroying every other band on the bills they find themselves. The crowd goes mental, turning into a swirling pool of death while John Stainer and co build layer upon layer of madness, leaving Battles the one band that people talk about for the rest of the festival.
I kick off Friday with Metronomy, who seem to be more interested in those lights on their chests than playing some decent music. It’s faintly embarrassing watching them try to be cool and offhand, so I check out El Guincho, who’s everything that they’re not.
He wanders on stage dressed like the sidekick out of Nacho Libre and proceeds to batter the percussion set up while two guys with laptops provide the beats behind him. It’s infectious to see someone having so much fun, and gets everyone actually moving, instead of swaying aloofly and looking behind to see who’s watching.
The most interesting thing about Fujiya and Miyagi is the video accompanying the set, so I go and fall asleep by the big screen, only to wake up at intermittent points of My Bloody Valentine.
I can’t offer anything constructive on their performance, only that it seemed like a really weird dream, which is a good way to experience MBV, I suppose. I catch a bit of Spiritualized, then admit defeat. It’s time to return to the tent (missing Mika, dammit).

I start Saturday by listening to the Ting Tings from a safe distance back at the campsite, then go and watch Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash. They’re okay, even though I’ll never, EVER get the whole rockabilly thing.
Thankfully, the Brian Jonestown Massacre aren’t as impenetrably unlistenable as their My Bloody Underground LP, but that bloke with the tambourine is wearing thin.
I catch the end of American Music Club, and after what proved to be a brief peruse of their recorded output, I’m shocked to discover that they’re pretty good – likewise Eef Barzelay. Maybe I’m just chuffed to find some good old fashioned rock music as a respite to all the bloody DJs.
I pass out by the big screen (notice a pattern emerging?) and dream bits of The Kills (okay) and The Raconteurs (bloody boring) before Gnarls Barkley at three in the morning. Luckily, they don’t place too much emphasis on Crazy, bashing it out halfway through the set, and a talented band does a good job of cutting through much of the production on record.
They do a Radiohead cover (Just, I seem to remember) and it’s all pretty good without being amazing, even though Cee-Lo‘s voice is one of the best things EVER.
The reminder of Sunday is a bit of a disappointment – The National suffer from poor sound, and are a little bit boring. Leonard Cohen‘s return to touring seems to be agreeing with him though, and there’s a bit more energy than there was at Glastonbury. You can’t go wrong with ‘Hallelujah‘ either.
Micah P Hinson‘s set is better during the faster moments, which come as a surprise given his rather unassuming onstage demeanour. Everyone’s going mental for Justice, but despite a pretty impressive intro they seem like they’re just mucking about before they kick into DANCE.
I take my leave, feeling like an old fart, and watch Morrissey, quite appropriately. He starts well, but the music gets more formulaic as the set goes on, reminding me why he does my head in so much. A ‘meat is murder’ rant makes me want to sink my teeth into a juicy burger, before I remember that I left it til the weekend to cash my last traveller’s check…
Pictures: Courtesy of Danny North.

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