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The Charm Of Benicàssim

Evelien de Vogel ditches the mucky, festival field in favour of a sandy, white beach

Written by . Published on August 5th 2011.


The Charm Of Benicàssim

EVERY year, 40,000 nutters head off to Benicàssim, Spain, to be part of the epic experience of what is one of the biggest, best and most-loved indie festivals in Europe, the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB). But what is it that makes Benni lure in thousands of Brits year after year? Yes, the line-up is downright amazing, but you won’t find an act performing here that doesn’t play at one of our own glorious festivals.

British festivals are usually tormented with rain and turn into complete mud fests. Not Benni. The Spanish sun raved on for the full eight days, while a swift sea breeze made the heath more than bearable at 35⁰C. 

Many of my friends warned me about the heath, the horrid campsite, the mega-bugs and the possibility of hurricanes, but I’m not averse to a challenge, so very early on the 11th of July, I found myself on the way to Spain. It was far from the perfect journey (read: when I was on the train to the airport at 5am, I realised I left my entrance ticket on my nightstand), but as soon as I set foot on the small train station of Benicàssim, I was sold. Steep mountains on my right hand, a glimpse of the sea on my left and right in front of me, the festival site.

Main StageMain Stage

The heat was a slap in the face, but there were fully air-conditioned buses ready to drive us (the whole of Britain, who seemed to arrive at the same time) to the campsite, which was, by the way, only 500m away; the Spanish were clearly aware of our lack of heat tolerance. 

By the time I got to the campsite, about 3pm, only three hours after opening, the site was already packed. I was very lucky I was staying with Spanish friends, who took it upon themselves to secure a brilliant spot very early in the morning. And  trust me, you really want to secure a spot in the shade.

Arctic MonkeysArctic Monkeys

While my friend dragged my suitcase through the dirt, I went through registration, and as soon as I had my wristband, a feeling of pure ecstasy came over me. I was in Spain, it was sunny, warm and all I had to worry about when lying on the beach over the next couple of days, was how close I could get to the Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. Not bad.

Not yet convinced? You might be a bit sceptical about the flight, and yes, it might be a little gruelling to get there in comparison with hopping on the coach to Leeds. However, with prices starting at only £125 for four music-fuelled days and with seven beachy days of camping, it’s considerably cheaper than its UK equivalents, with Glastonbury and Reading both priced around £200.

SiteSite

While you’re there, you’ll also spend less money. Spanish booze prices have seemingly not risen since the ’70s, with no-headache-vodka and whiskey set at a cool £6. The local Lidl is especially drinker-friendly, but watch out for the small supermarkets in the centre – they are renowned for overcharging tourists. Water is definitely a necessity in those soaring heats, but doesn’t have to cost a penny. It’s handed out free of charge at the concerts, and the whole town is dotted with taps. So bring your own bottle and voilà.

You’ll lay around the beach under the palm trees all day (priceless), or maybe get some ice-cream for just a pound or two. And once it’s dinnertime, you’ll be nicely surprised to purchase a full-sized meal and a drink under a fiver. You can expect to spend no more than £30 a day, including eating out and getting smashed out of your face.

Arcade FireArcade Fire

Getting back to that palm tree-lined beach. British festivals are usually tormented with rain and turn into complete mud fests. Not Benni. The Spanish sun raved on for the full eight days, while a swift sea breeze made the heat more than bearable at 35⁰C.

With temperatures like that, most people drag their hungover bums to the beach, and around 4pm, on to the town centre for some lunch before heading back to the campsite to have a little siesta. I must confess I was one of those people. To be honest, with less than four hours of sleep every night and a lovely beach within walking distance, who can blame me? But if you can find the energy, there is more to Benicàssim than jamming around.

AsiwyfaAsiwyfa

Between the campsite and the beach, you’ll find Aquarama, a huge water park, which boasts numerous adrenaline-boosting slides. It looked like a lot of fun, but it also sports massive queues, which were visible from the bus that drove a block away. Like any Spanish seaside town, there is a castle on a high, distant hill that is only accessible by foot and there’s even a museum about the local treasures found in the sea. Like I said, just hanging around the beach and saving that energy is not such a bad idea.

When everyone has hobbled back to the campsite around 6pm, it’s time to start drinking (again). Every tent turns into a congregation of a sunburned but cheerful crowd, knocking back various liquors. Queues are forming at the showers, which are ice cold, open and unisex, but surprisingly not that disgusting after a few drinks. Then, there’s the music. From Thursday till Sunday, from 6pm to 7am, the air is filled with sounds of the world’s best indie bands and electro/dubstep DJs. There are three stages, each hosting a mixture of calm, relaxed music, main acts and DJs.

Anna CalviAnna Calvi

This year, the headline consisted of none other than the Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Plan B and Pendulum. The Arctic Monkeys – how could it be different – got every single one of the 20,000 attendees up on their feet, but failed to deliver anything more than what was expected. Same goes for The Strokes, but their lack of caring is far better suited to their rock ’n’ roll attitude. 

Plan B, on the other hand, drove the crowd wild by giving an electro spin to most of their songs, before ending in a massive dubstep breakdown. Another big surprise were north Ireland rockers, And So I Watch You From Afar, who, although scheduled to play only as an opening act, managed to fill up the space fast by giving one hell of an energetic show.

Bombay Bicycle ClubBombay Bicycle Club

However, the bombshells of the festival were Chase & Status, who drew in more fans than main act The Streets (even though it was their last concert!), and made the public overflow the grass areas and food stands. Golden oldies like The Stranglers got the crowds swaying around to classics like ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Always The Sun’.

Other main acts Noah & The Whale, Brandon Flowers, Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons drew in a fair amount of people, but while playing late at night, failed to deliver a banging show. To be fair – saying this as a big fan – their music is not something to lose your brain at or crunch your balls over; after a day of drinking, you’re not looking forward to wait around in the heat till 2am to hear Bombay Bicycle Club. 

But any inconsistency is hereby forgiven. The answer is simple: Benicàssim offers an unparalleled holiday experience for the average Brit. We are known to live and breathe for festivals, beaches, gorgeous weather and good parties, and Benni simply provides an overload of that. And there is, of course, the music.

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FurFoxAcheAugust 9th 2011.

Heath? Liddle? Spelle chequer reckwired!

Not a big fan of Beni. We went a few years ago and it seemed to be full of 17/18 year old kids who had no money and were on the scrounge the whole time.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2011.

left your ticket on your "...nightstand..." Next to the chamberpot??? WTF?!

Anyway, good review.

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