July 16th 2009… We got off the plane at around 8am and there was not a word between the two of us, other than a sleepy grumble as we crossed the runway to the terminal. The air was muggy and hot and the sky hidden by grey clouds, as if we had somehow meandered into a steam room. For the second part of the journey it was our task to drive our rental car from Barcelona airport to Castellón, the next town down from Benicassim.
It took us 3 hours to drive the 271 kilometers without a map or any use of a sat nav. However, the lack of any sense of direction only proved to be a problem at the start and end of the journey.
The first day of the festival was filled with excitement for everyone. Huge queues of people waiting for tickets, waiving their confirmation emails and passports in their hands, helped me remember why it is such a good idea to review these festivals – no queues for press pass holders. One person I spoke to didn’t get into the festival until 2am. After waiting in the line for 4 hours, he missed the acts he wanted to see… but he did have his ticket for the next 3 days!
On entry, we decided that we would walk around the whole festival to see what’s on offer. Only to find an array of treats that pretty much consisted of different types of food from all over the world, a chill out area with a little pool to dip your feet, 2 huge stages, a tent that looked like it was from out of space, a fashion tent and a silent disco (which I never quite made it to). We actually spent most of our time next to the main stage. Mainly because our bar and toilets were right next to that stage and saved us so much hassle.
On the first day / night of the festival, we managed to meet up with a group of friends and see the following acts: The View, The Mystery Jets and Oasis. There were probably some other things that we saw but because it was the first night we got a little excited and over indulged on the combinados. The View were on quite early so the day was just beginning for us but they shone much brighter than the sun that evening. I have never seen the Mystery Jets before. I was quite impressed and thought to myself that I should try and get my self a copy of their album. I haven’t done so yet but I’m on the case. Oasis were great to watch and the crowd response was electric. Although, I did hear that Oasis had a nightmare with the sound and didn’t enjoy playing the gig. Well, screw that! We all had a reet good laugh! Getting home was a nightmare.
As you may have heard, the second night was a bit of a disaster. On our approach to the festival we saw a thick cloud of smoke rising from the ground. As we crept closer as part of a long snake of taxis we saw an entire field on fire. The firemen had to beat the knee length dry grass with sticks to put it out. Most probably caused by a carelessly disregarded cigarette from a festivalgoer. Although, my level of experience of assessing the causes of fire is minimal so don’t take my word for it.
On entry, the wind was swirling around the hills, tents and stages throughout Benicassim. It was as though someone was picking up sand and throwing it into your eyes. It was impossible to avoid black eye bogies the size of garden peas. The whole event was soon closed down and all acts cancelled. This included the cancellation of Kings of Leon and Maximo Park. Everyone from the festival was asked to leave in an orderly fashion and the evening was pretty much over. Getting home was a nightmare.
The third night had much more to offer and the weather had taken a turn for the better. Yes, much more like weather that you would expect from a visit to Spain. We managed to see: Elbow, Maximo Park (who had been brought forward from the disaster the night before), Franz Ferdinand, and 2 Many DJ’s. All brilliant acts. Particularly 2 Many DJ’s, its always good to see a DJ act on a main stage and so many people turning up to dance their way through the night. I didn’t actually want to like Franz Ferdinand because there is something about the whole set up that I’m not keen on, but I really enjoyed their set and everyone around me definitely had an amazing time. There was a good build up for Maximo Park because they had been expected to play 24 hours earlier so people attended in the thousands to see what all the fuss was about. I’m quite sure that everyone left very happy at the end of the show. This was the best night of the festival in my opinion. Getting home was a nightmare.
The fourth and final night was filled with people that were unquestionably “up for it” but absolutely knackered. Huge cups of lager were being sipped much more slowly, all of the sugar free Red Bull had sold out and drinking vodka was like pouring a glass of nails down your neck. Still, people have to march on for the final night.
We managed to see The Friendly Fires, The first 4 songs of the Killers and the full set of Peter Doherty. I have to say… Pete Doherty is the set worth mentioning on this night. In fact this was my favourite act of the festival. All of the people that weren’t quite sure what to watch, went to watch the Killers and the people that knew how good Pete Doherty usually is, went to watch him. That’s what made the atmosphere so good, people were there because they specifically wanted to go and see this set. He played all of the best Libertines and Babyshambles tunes throughout the set. I was surprised to see that he didn’t play any of the songs of his new solo album. I’m not sure why he did this… maybe to keep the crowd going with songs that everyone knows really well. Great show! Getting home was a nightmare.
Driving back to Barcelona the next day was rather enjoyable. We casually stopped off in Tarragona and Sitges for a glimpse of what the East cost of Spain can offer. I might even organise a stop in these places next year.
All in all, this was an event to remember and we would certainly go again. We managed to see a collection of amazing acts, some of which I didn’t think I would like but thoroughly enjoyed. I would advise anyone that goes to stay in Benicassim. It is so hard to get back to Castellón and that can sometimes spoil the mood. But that doesn’t mean that it changed how good the whole event was.
See you next year!
By: Kris Drew