Tuesday last week
Before we left Australia, a friend of a friend squealed when I told her we were moving to the south of Catalonia. ‘Oh, near Tarragona? You really should to go to Benicàssim!’ FIB, Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, is a music festival in the coastal town of, you guessed it, Benicàssim, about an hour south of Tortosa.
FIB has played host to a fantastic array of bands since its inception in the late 90s, including Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen, and millions of others. When I looked into the festival, I completely agreed with my friend’s friend. We SHOULD go to Benicàssim. And so in January we bought two early-bird tickets, 130€ for four days of camping, fun, sun and sound. FIB? Bring it on…
It is now only two sleeps before we set off to Benicàssim, and my excitement has turned to mild terror. The heatwave continues, and the thought of sleeping in our cheap tent for four nights has me imagining what it is like to live inside a plastic bag in an abandoned bin. The program has been released, and all of the headliners are starting at 1am or later. One AM! Surely I’m too old for that. My lack of festival fashion has me concerned that the youngsters will boo us out of the crowd. How are we going to get through this, let alone enjoy it??
We survived! We are filthy, and exhausted, and will probably never drink tequila-flavoured beer again, but Benicàssim was a great weekend. Here are some highlights and lowlights, along with some of those obligatory stage photos that you take at festivals, even though they always turn out dreadful…
- The people! The crowd was 45% Spanish, 50% UK and 5% miscellaneous, and most of the people we met were lovely. Big shout out to the two 19 year-old Irish boys who had come straight from San Fermín in Pamplona, and still had the energy to be so polite that their mothers would have been proud.
- The age distribution. Although the majority of the FIBers seemed to be between 18 and 24 (who can really tell these days) we saw some fabulous old rockers, and a number of families with little kids. You know it’s a good festival when people feel comfortable enough to bring the whole family, or keep coming back.
- Cold showers. I’ve always hated a cold shower, but these open air, communal wash troughs were actually a delight to visit in the afternoon, to refresh yourself before an evening of music.
- Routine. Swim, Nap, Dance, Repeat. It was surprisingly easy to get into this gentle rhythm, once we were out of the tent. We would catch the bus down to the beach, have a swim, sleep a bit, maybe move into the shade of the glorious Nap Castle (actually a 16th century tower in the centre of Benicàssim) for a kip, then back to the campsite for some more relaxing, a shower, a tinto de verano, and then off to the festival (5 minutes walk from camp). This routine made it possible to make it to the 1am shows without too much trouble. The 4am DJs on the other hand…
- The number of bands with awesome female singers and musicians: Jamie T, Crystal Fighters, Clean Bandit, Hamsandwich, Portishead, Florence, MØ, Darwin Deez and plenty of others.
- Watching Noel Gallagher from a hill at the back of the festival with all the locals because you can get to the hill for free.
- Damon Albans making a fan’s night by asking her onstage to sing Blur’s hit Parklife. She knew every word and was amazing.
- Frank Turner’s adorable attempt at speaking Catalan to his audience, made up of 98% English people.
- La M.O.D.A., A Spanish Twin Beasts/Cat Empire.
- Everything Florence Welch sang, said, wore and did.
- The people. The majority were wonderful, but there’s always a few. Obnoxious (and sunburnt) English lads being gross, really loud drunken Spaniards yelling ‘DORMIR’ at 5am, and those guys, you know those Stone Men, in crowds, who never dance, even though that seems like more effort than actually dancing? Yeah, those guys.
- The tattoo distribution. This isn’t really a lowlight, but it did make me feel very boring to not have any tattoos, when everyone else seemed to have at least five. Evil clowns, dream catchers, old churches, ornate ethnic designs, inspirational slogans in every language, you name it, they inked it.
- Sleeping in a tent. Because I’m old.
- The food. It wasn’t terrible, but there was no green chicken curry roti wrap, chai van or dagwood dog!
- Sound troubles on the last night, meaning one stage ran 15-20 minutes late. That is an indication of how well run the festival was, that people were getting annoyed about bands running to Spanish time.
- No free drinking water. Well, there was “free” “water” but it tasted like a warm, dirty swimming pool.
But that’s it. Highlights definitely outweighed the lowlights, and we had a rocking time. Thanks for the tip Sarah! Would love to see you again next year FIB, although we might spring for a hotel with AC in 2016.