Without questioning Glastonbury’s status as THE festival, people do get a little carried away talking about the bad weather as if they actually enjoyed waking up with their tent submerged in a mixture of lager, mud, and the contents of half a dozen portaloos. Add to this the fact that you have to dedicate several days of your life, and 15 forms of ID to actually stand any chance of getting a ticket, and many are understandably looking at alternatives. Over the past three years Spain’s Benicassim festival has been invaded by the British charmed by the no brainer combination of cheap flights, brilliant sunshine, no hassle ticket buying, and round the clock partying. Ok so the line-up may not quite be as good – with B-52’s, Dinosaur Jnr and The Human League as prominent headliners you could occasionally question what century this was – but on the other hand Glastonbury rolled out Shirley Bassey this year. Either way 150,000 people descended on Benicassim, and about a third of those were Brits!

Aside from my shoulders and hands going orange due to an unfortunate self tanning lotion accident, and the kind security who upon finding an Evian bottle of whiskey strapped to my gut didn’t throw me or it out, my abiding memory of the festival is the difference a great front-man or woman can make to a live show. The veteran showman Iggy Pop kicks off the event on Thursday night with one of his customary mass stage invasions, but there were plenty of others who have that little extra to elevate a decent show to something special.

Hives

I’ve wanted to see The Hives ever since they burst onto the UK scene courtesy of Alan McGee’s genius best of compilation “Your New Favourite Band“, and even though they’ve so far failed to build on that success lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist isn’t one to suffer from a lack of confidence. They’re first up on the main stage but its impossible to take your eyes off Almqvist as he struts around the stage, declares how impossible it will be for other bands to follow such an amazing show as The Hives, and tries out all the Spanish he can muster on the bemused but amused Spanish contingent.

You better be nice to me and obey me or ill be forced to send my rock and roll out to destroy you… now scream!!!… shhhhhh!!!

Of the new songs only “Tick Tick Boom” immediately grabbed, but as a one off performer its fantastic to have Pelle back in the spotlight. He repeatedly clambered up the stage rigging, and at one point swung precariously from the side of the stage on a rope ladder. They have enough tricks to join the magic circle, but best of all is the freeze frame. Midway through “Diabolic Scheme” all 4 Hives stop in mid flow for what seems like minutes as the crowd roar approval (see YouTube clip above). The drummer is motionless with his arm raised about to hit the next beat, before Pelle signals the return with darting eyes and a grin and they kick straight back where they left off. Its a phenomenally effective little stunt 🙂 As Nick “The deadly pick” Arson declared with typical Hives modesty on their websitethe night was nothing short of magic“.

MP3: The Hives – Diabolic Scheme” (MP3)

Elsewhere CCS’s Lovefoxxx displayed a similarly transfixing sense of stage craft as she changed outfits three times, rolled around on the floor, and after a power cut caused a 15 minute interruption to their set, led the crowd in chants of “Fuck this shit“.

MP3: CSS – Let’s Make Love (Streetlife DJ’s Rappinhood Remix)” (MP3)

Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip continued their rise with another storming performance, despite Scroobius jokingly thanking everyone for coming with “Devo are on at the same time as us, you should be watching them!“. Unfortunately a muddy (not in the glasto sense) soundsystem made the lyrics hard to hear, but this was compensated for by the fact that half the crowd already knew them, and since Le Sac has come on board the beats are now so bloody good you can live with a lost rhyme or two. Someone on their Myspace summed it up well spluttering that they were “fuffin bliddy blimey amazing“.

MP3: Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill (FBS Dean La Roc mix)” (MP3)

Visit Dean La Roc’s Myspace to download two more excellent and totally free Le Sac v Pip remixes

The two main headliners more than lived up to their billings. The Arctic Monkeys brought half of Yorkshire with them producing frenzied bouts of singalong and moshing that left the area strewn with lost flip flops by the time they triumphantly departed. Muse may not a band who feature much in my record collection but you’d need to be made of stone not to succumb to the sheer spectacle of their performance, confetti and giant plastic balls and all. Matt Bellamy switched between beautiful classical piano, sliding across the stage on his knees mid solo, and 15 second techno guitar wanks on his flash built in chaos pad. It was pretty much a sensory overload, that totally won me over. I may even re-try a CD or two.

In contrast the Kings of Leon were hugely disappointing, not because the music wasn’t good, it was. In fact the music was an almost perfect recreation of their records, but unlike some of the previously mentioned acts The Leons have the stage presence of a lump of wood. If you closed your eyes you could be on your couch at home listening to the CD, if you opened your eyes… well it didn’t make much of a difference to the experience. That said the crowd loved it and the NME claimed it was one of their longest and best sets ever.

MP3: Kings Of Leon – Fans” (MP3)

The Arctic Monkeys – Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend (feat. Dizzee Rascal)” (MP3)

Hives

Benicassim cant be recommended highly enough. The atmosphere is chilled out with not a hint of lager lout or trouble. Its open round the clock so you can be enjoying The Arctic Monkeys at 2.30 in the morning or dancing till sunrise in the constantly heaving DJ tent. Relax on the beach by day, great music all night, and large clean communal showers to wake you up in the morning. These Spaniards have no idea what a festivals supposed to be like!.. and that fact alone will keep the Brits coming in even greater numbers next year.

Benacassim Website

Look:

Over 20 pages of photo’s on the official site

NME.com’s festival gallery

BBC Benicassim pics

Watch:

TVBenicassim have clips from many of the performances.

As always tons of footage on YouTube.

NME.com interviewed many of the acts.

Read:

A rock holiday to remember says The Independent

The tale of a 40+ year old lady from Essex and her 4 day Fib trip (best review Ive seen)

NME’s Benicassim Blog

Liberated Lisa washes her bits in unisex showers.