If you’re looking to prove yourself a true connoisseur of music by attending a festival abroad, you’ve probably considered Benicassim. The relatively short flight and warm weather make it an obvious choice, allowing you to combine a relaxing holiday in the sun with all the debauched fun of a music festival.
For those with the foresight to book a hotel in Benicassim Town I’m sure that’s case, but for the proles slumming it in the camp sites things aren’t quite so rosy.
There are many mistakes to be made when attending a festival – especially if it’s in a country with a subtropical climate and your skin is approaching translucent – so in the interest of making this piece as helpful as possible my friends and I decided to make plenty of them.
Those that live for holidays can get into the spirit early by making their first error several months in advance. I suggest waiting until all flights to Valencia Airport (which is the nearest to Benicassim) are fully booked and face value festival tickets have sold out before making any attempt at buying either. For maximum effect, be sure to have the necessary money in your bank account from the moment tickets go on sale and absolutely no reason not to buy them before they’re all gone.
Now you’re ready for your first taste of Benicassim extortion. Websites such as Seat Wave and Viagogo will helpfully break down all the different ways in which they’re ripping you off before presenting you with a sum total that is usually around £80 more expensive than originally advertised. It’s worth noting that they do at least offer insurance against counterfeit tickets, so if you enjoy living dangerously you may prefer to opt for an eBay seller with dubious credentials.
After purchasing your ticket you’ll be warned that in order for it to be exchanged for a wristband you’ll need to show your passport, a copy of the passport of the crook who bought the ticket and sold it on to you, and a letter of authorisation from said crook, confirming you as the victim of the transaction. This turned out not to be true, as the people manning the exchange desk didn’t seem at all bothered as long as your ticket’s barcode scanned and you were carrying some sort of maroon rectangle.
Should you fly to Alicante you will be greeted at the airport by a fat-headed Spaniard in a taxi. This man is a liar. He will tell you it costs 20 Euros to get to Alicante station by taxi (it doesn’t) and that from there it’s 60 Euros for a to (he’ll swear blind there is no station in Benicassim – there is) and something like 30 Euros to reach the festival in a taxi from there. The good news is that for a pre-arranged price of just 60 Euros each he will take you directly to Benicassim, leave you at the wrong camp site and insist the agreed fee was actually 70 Euros.
In Fat Head’s defence he does ask if you’d like to put a CD on, but as no one carries CDs anymore you’re likely to spend the two hour journey listening to ‘90s techno dance on Spanish radio.
We arrived at FIB Camp at around 6pm on the Tuesday and it was already quite busy. There are little shanty town-looking areas that provide tents with a decent level of shade, but as the wait was at least five minutes long it made much more sense to instead pitch up under an emaciated tree in a dust bowl across the road.
The sheer folly of not only failing to book a hotel room but also being too impatient to wait for a spec in the shade doesn’t hit home until the following morning, when the sun beats you out of yourwith a relentless barrage of hot and humid abuse that persists for around twelve hours. The rocky floor is impossible to sit or even walk bare foot on, so if you’re flash like me you’ll take an old towel to sleep atop. The truly extravagant amongst you may even spring for a mat or lilo, but given the added heat they produce I don’t advise it.
Once you’re wide awake the desperation sets in. Theis like a sauna but the sun and floor are trying to kill you. If your solution to this problem is to immediately get up, go into town and buy chairs, umbrellas and mats you’re probably going to be OK. If you opt to sit in miserable silence for a few hours and wait for the problem to resolve itself then you’re probably one of my friends.
UPDATE – I THEREFORE RECOMMEND BOOKING A HOTEL OR AT LEAST A FANCY GLAMPING PACKAGE FROM FESTICKETS, SCROLL THROUGH THEIR VARIOUS OPTIONS. I WISH I DID FIRST TIME I WENT
If there’s one benefit of doing things in a lazy, piecemeal fashion it’s that you appreciate little (tiny, even) luxuries a lot more. First you get a chair and find yourself saying things like, ‘I had a really good sit this afternoon,’ and you’ll mean it too. Next come umbrellas, which should really be the first thing you buy, but as having a good sit is better than even the best stand or lean it’s seldom the case. After a day of hiding from the solar enemy beneath 18 Euros worth of shade, during which time you’ll develop a real hatred for the Spanish and other olive-skinned races that walk freely about the deserted camp, you’ll hopefully build the confidence to buy some wooden mats and use them to walk around the tree from Evil Dead that your umbrella is tied to.
I believe the best option for pasty sun dodgers is to flee your immediately after waking up, get to the showers and then find a bar in town with adequate shade and a toilet which doesn’t resemble the one Ewan McGregor climbs into at the beginning of Trainspotting. Stay there until sundown.
As harrowing as all that sounds, the nights in Benicassim are great. Having a sleep between the sun going down and the later bands starting makes a difference, but it isn’t easy if you camp next to a gang of Spanish girls who organise a noisy summit right next to your tent whenever you want to get your head down. It also helps if you steer clear of a trio of idiots from Devon who, being avid watchers of The Apprentice, try to make you the first customer of their ridiculous festival-based business ventures in between pestering your friends for cigarettes.
You’ll need to be slick if you’re to sneak any alcohol into the performance area, as Spanish security guards are far more willing to touch people up than their British counterparts. It’s easy enough to throw things over the side of the fence to a friend if you do it without looking obvious, so take your phone and ring to let the thrower know the coast is clear. Also, don’t forget: a mis-thrown plastic bottle is a funny story, but a mis-thrown glass bottle is manslaughter.
Finally, here are a few extra bits of advice that I’m too busy to build paragraphs around:
– Don’t buy chicken nuggets from the big tent in FIB Camp. They cost 6 Euros and are served with flavourless Benson’s crisps.
– Don’t wait until night time to take a shower. It gets windy and you’ll tire yourself out chasing cold, weak streams of water.
– Don’t get talking to a Spanish slap-head who roams the bars in Benicassim Town, telling all in sight to remember the name Enzo Zidane and likening himself to Adolf Hitler. He will offer to buy you a BMW, Mercedes or Mini (depending on your preference) once this generation’s Enabling Act passes, but he remains a man to be avoided.
– Don’t forget that each drink ticket costs 2.5 Euros, or else you’ll end up thinking that two tickets for a Coke and a bottle or water is a good deal.