Benicassim: The Voyage with a Soundtrack

With more and more Brits merging music festivals with a holiday abroad, <b>Gordon Bruce</b> debunks the critics and explores why <b>Benicassim</b> is becoming an essential for any musical zealot.

Feature by Gordon Bruce | 10 Jun 2009
  • TV on the Radio

More of a pilgrimage than a music festival, thousands of Brits descend on Benicassim each year, an ex-smugglers cove sat beside Valencia. Some fly to luxury apartments, while others stick out their thumbs and hope for the best. Once they finally reach their musical Mecca, they’re greeted by a city of sun-bleached canvas. With 45,000 attending, it’s a makeshift metropolis, with the ten-minute walk to the beautiful golden beach an essential rite of passage for all in attendance. But just like any pilgrimage, enlightenment must come through toil- 8am finishes that necessitate some hammock time in the pounding midday heat, the molten alcohol you drunkenly left in the sun and, of course, the gallons of factor forty.

If you can acclimatize to this environment, Benicassim has a line-up to satisfy every taste. Headliners Oasis, Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers will surely attract the masses to the floodlit main stage, but if you’re more interested in a nice pair of decks, you can raise pints and dance like a maniac to the electro streaked raving of Boys Noize, the chaotic mashups of 2manyDJs or the ethereal minimalism of Gui Boratto. Whilst sweating out the afternoon heat you can take in the dance-funk of Friendly Fires and soulful indie of The Walkmen, and if you’re looking for an epic climax, Benicassim seems the perfect place to hear TV On The Radio perform cutting-edge anthems like Staring At The Sun. If this all seems a little too contemporary, then don’t fear, because here Benicassim delivers in spades yet again. Several recently-revived seminal post-punk acts like Gang of Four, Magazine and The Psychedelic Furs will be providing the dirty, old-school kicks you crave.

Benicassim’s head honcho José Morán has come under criticism for failing to acknowledge Valencian culture and disregarding many local acts. In recent years, the festival has acquired the nickname “Glasto-on-Sea”, and you may just find yourself listening to bands you could have heard at home (albeit with sand between your toes instead of mud). However, it’s the festival’s international bill that helps it draw such a fantastically diverse crowd, with as much as 50% making the journey from abroad. At 4am on the Thursday, even the coldest cynic will be calling for Wonderwall with the rest of ‘em, and by the end you won’t just have had the festival of a lifetime- you’ll have found the musical holy land.