An example of "Brits abroad" to be proud of
The Stone Roses - Benicassim

Renowned for some of the most impressive festival line ups going, plus guaranteed sun and the beach just half an hour from the site, Benicassim sounds like the ideal musical event. Arriving in the little coastal town betwixt Barcelona and Valencia, we’re initially not so sure that all the right ingredients are necessarily going to translate into reality.

Hordes of young British revellers mince up and down the town’s main street in nothing but their swimwear, some of them so sunburned they look like they’ve been pulled inside out. The beach is a bit of a hot tromp away on foot and parts of the festival campsite look more like a refugee camp than somewhere to sit out and socialise. Having tarmac rather than a green field underfoot in the stage areas also takes a moment of adjustment, but all this is mere detail when it comes to how much fun you want to have when the music kicks off every evening at 6pm. The festival management itself is decent and there’s a buoyant atmosphere on each of the four days as revellers return from the sea and bar for the bands.

Thursday kicks off with first night levels of elation and clear intent to go large. There’s the odd scuffle but it’s largely a friendly mass of music fans. The Horrors do their best Simple Minds impression for a big crowd and At the Drive In, stepping up to a headline slot to replace Florence & the Machine (she lost her voice) flip the manic switch. Lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala prowls about pushing cameramen around, leaping off stage and kicking tables over in full rock posturing, tantrum-like antics. At one point he exclaims, “I’m a human hacky-sack for hippies.” We’d have loved to witness a longhair boot him in the nuts but the set goes down a storm with the harder rock fans assembled.

Friday sees a warm acoustic set from lesser-known Canadian troubadours Timber Timbre followed by a blistering performance by everyman scouser Miles Kane. Any young aspirant rock star need just watch Kane to see how much fun you’re supposed to have. That’s why it should be done, because you love it enough to burst, which Kane sometimes looks like he might he’s so up for it. His big hits ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Come Closer’ create a massive sing-a-long that last long after the set closes.

Just half an hour later and the audience has swelled that bit more for the granddaddy of them all to take the stage, Bob Dylan. As unpredictable and uncompromising as he’s ever been, Dylan doesn’t go for a list of obvious crowd pleasers, but instead pulls out some rare numbers such as ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and also opts for some barely recognisable interpretations of classics like ‘Desolation Row’. Even as ardent Dylan fans we have to concede that the voice is barely there now, reduced to a rasping bark, but he still blows a mean harp and all present give the elder statesmen the respect he deserves.

Saturday night is owned by the double hit of Manchester icons Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses. Hearing the biggest hits of Oasis and the Roses booming out in succession, sung from the bottom of 40,000 sets of lungs, is an example of “Brits abroad” to be proud of.

The Manchester flag flies once more on Sunday night as New Order’s Bernard Sumner dedicated their set to Ian Curtis on his birthday, with ‘Blue Monday’ and the final ‘Love Will tear Us Apart’ drawing a massive reception. You can take for granted that next year the line up will be as heavyweight as ever, but booking an apartment on the beach may be preferable to the endurance test of a week in a tent!

Words and photo by Nick Rice

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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