Benicassim 2011 Review of Thursday

Where else do you get a line up like this……..
Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Streets, Plan B, Paolo Nutini, Pendulum, The Stranglers, Tiny Tempah, Elbow, Brandon Flowers, Mumford and Sons and Portishead (among many others)…..?
Festival Internacional de Benicassim (or F.I.B) is rapidly becoming the festival to go to. I headed there for the first time this year and I can honestly say, I had the best week of my life!
Having booked our benicassim tickets through nearly 12months before the festival, and got them at the bargain price of £125…..compared to the £200+ you pay nearer the time. The ticket price did include 9days camping, however, not wanting to camp in the 30°c + heat, myself and 3 friends opted to stay in an apartment, and travel to the festival- creating a festi-holiday if you will.
We searched around for apartments near to the town of Benicassiam but they were all sold out- with 50,000+ people heading there for 1week in July, you can see why. Eventually i came across BeniTravel – – a company whose sole purpose is to sort out your festival needs. Through them we I managed to organise, in just one quick email, our apartment, our airport transfers and our shuttle buses to and from the festival- simple!
Staying in the lovely Marina D’or resort, located about 15mins on the bus to Benicassim we had a good couple of days relaxing before the festival started on Thursday 14th. As we had to exchange tickets for wristbands etc, we arranged to get to the festival early, at 6pm. We wanted to allow plenty of time to get the “official” stuff out of the way, without missing any acts. In actual fact the system could not have been smoother. The whole process of going through security, exchanging tickets, getting wristbands and ultimately getting onto the festival site took less than 20mins. A sign of a very well organised team.

Next stop was to get our drinks tickets- rather than having huge queues at the bar, you go to one of the many ticket exchange booths, hand over your Euros and get drinks vouchers in denominations of 2.50€. Having transferred 40€ for myself and my fella, we were on our way to the bar- naturally! Having drank a tad too much on the bus, I just fancied a water, my bloke wanted a lager= 2 tickets or 5€! Let me explain, water was 2.50€, red bull was 2.50€, half a lager was 2.50€, a spirit and mixer was 7.50€…… So, whilst there were no queues at the bar, I wasn’t sure if that was because of the ticket system or the drinks prices! However, we handed over our tickets, and got our drinks, but my 75cl bottle of water was lid-less- something that really annoys me at festivals. For some strange reason bar staff now deem it acceptable to take your lid off your bottle in case you through it into the crowd. But, a can of red bull- oh that is fine for you to keep hold of! Anyhoo, off we went in search of the main stage where we could hear some sweet music coming from.
We settled down to watch Russian Red an indie spontaneous phenomenon who has become one of Spain´s biggest artists in the past years; an extremely rare story of success in Spain for an artist that plays folk-pop-rock and composes and sings in English. Having heard none of her music before, I was massively impressed with her style, originality and the stunning tone of her voice. It really was the perfect way to ease us into the festival.
After a short break, which gave us chance to figure out the festival site (mainly toilets and bars!) we headed back over to the main stage to see Paolo Nutini. Now, although I knew a lot of his songs (the ones that have been released) and I kind of quite liked him I was not really fussed about watching him. But, he was there, we were there, it made sense! However, from the first song he blew me away! His general style of easy listening, indie-folk-pop was not what he was playing on stage. Every song was that little bit faster, each base line was that little bit harder and his voice….wow! His voice was really rocky, and pitch perfect and I for one was not expecting that. The crowd was going mental for him, and I have to say- I was too! Most definitely the surprise of the festival for me.
After another little venture around the site, which I have to say was so easy to navigate round- once you got your bearings you could easily work out where everything was, from bars, toilets, stalls, stages, and food carts- all within 15mins walking distance. We headed to see Plan B, whom is an artist/ performer I really admire. I like his original grime style, to his soul in The Defamation of Strickland Banks. He had the most incredible beat boxer warming up the packed crowd, (didn’t catch his name) who really got the crowd going with variations of Faithless, Reel 2 Real, and Seal. Plan B came on and performed an awesome set, combining the more edgier/grimy stuff, with a collection of songs off his multi platinum second album. He also played to the packed out crowd by mixing in a few well known covers, including Seal’s Kiss by a Rose. The staging was awesome, is voice was that good at one point I thought he was miming- he wasn’t. All in all I was blown away by his set and could’ve quite easily listened to him for another couple of hours!
Alas, places to go, people to see! Next up were The Streets, who are currently on their last ever tour, before going their separate ways in September. Playing a number of tracks off their first album (Original Pirate Material) and a few off A grand don’t come for free, the majority of their set was their new album Computers and Blues and Cyberspace and Reds. Whilst it is understandable that a band wants to showcase their new material, to generate record sales/interest etc, I also feel that when playing a festival crowd you have to mix it up a bit because people have not necessarily come to that particular act! Anyway, Mike and the rest of the band played a mammoth set, with loads of crowd participation. I have spoken to a number of people who really enjoyed them, however if I am totally honest, I was disappointed.

We left their set early and headed to the bar, where we picked up a couple of (overpriced) beers and sat on some sun loungers opposite the second stage and watched Chase&Status, who, I have got to say, blew me away. At 3 o’clock in the morning, the crowd was still well up for it, giving it all they could for these two very talented British DJ’s. Having not seen them live before, or heard much of their stuff I bought their album “No more Idols” a couple of weeks before the festival and I was very much impressed. They have collaborated with some of the biggest artists of the moment, and hearing them play live really bought home to me just how talented certain DJ’s are, occasionally they got lost in the beats and the lyrics, but not these guys- they really are at the forefront of each track.

F.I.B 2011 was my first F.I.B experience and I know for a fact it won’t be my last. Will I be brave enough to camp next year? Who knows…………..!

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