Sunday, August 12, 2012


After a couple of weeks touring around Europe, Pip and I were more than ready to stay in one spot for a little while. We'd been preparing for Benicassim for a while and we'd acquired a tent which we'd carried around in our bag across Europe plus all sorts of items that we were itching to try out.

Having said farewell to our Topdeck group we semi successfully managed to bus across Rome to our hotel near the airport. We were actually early so we went for a wander and found a lovely little Italian pizza place which although didn't make the great Pizzas the guys serving us went out of his way to make sure that we had a great experience at his little shop.

It was incredible to stay in a Hotel after camping for weeks on end. We ate in the hotel restaurant that night and were up before the crack of dawn to get a taxi to the airport. We managed to get onto our Ryanair flight with no troubles and off to Spain we flew with complete ignorance of the long day that was ahead of us.

Landing in Barcelona we caught the train to Barcelona Sants station which we were actually quite lucky to do as when we were getting ready to catch the train from the airport there was a problem with the train and the ticket lady was flipping out telling everyone that they could not catch the train which then departed with no one on it and we were left wandering what to do. Luckily at the last minute we decided against the bus or taxi and tried to purchase a ticket again. We were successful and managed to catch a train to Barcelona Sants. From here we caught our train along with hundreds of other English festival goers to Benicassim.

A few hours later we arrived and piled out of the train. It was quite a walk from the station to the campsite (Although nothing like the walking we'd be doing over the next few days). What followed was quite intense, four hours of lining up and waiting to get a camp spot. Pip was really starting to feel the heat by the end and so I had to duck off to fetch some water. When we did finally get setup we realized that our new surroundings would be quite a bit different from our previous camping experience. The campsite was described by the singer from 'Bombay Bicycle Club' as a "refugee camp" and I must say that he was certainly not far off. It was a messy, sweaty overcrowded campsite where you slept on a bed of rocks (Well I did when our airbed deflated). We were next to a massive ant hill and bunch of lads who would stay up drinking and yelling all night. The showers were communal which meant awkward nudity and half of the showers didn't work. There was a place selling orange juice which was made from only fresh squeezed oranges, it was a fantastic idea and it tasted so good and healthy.

The festival didn't begin for a few days after we arrived so we had to find a way to fill our days. This consisted mostly of heading into cafes and pubs for their air conditioning, phone charging and clean bathroom facilities. It took almost half an hour to walk from our tent to the centre of town and about 10 minutes more to reach the beach, so our trips into town had to be for many hours at a time. For the first couple of days this was fine as everything was new and we bought a few things to help us out but by the end of our time in Beni we were well over it. Even on the festival days there was till plenty of time to kill as the festival itself didn't start till close to 7pm.

The beach on the first day was great. We sat under our umbrella trying to avoid the sun and watched the thousands of people slowly litter the beach with all their rubbish (gosh the British are bad with leaving their rubbish in public places). We managed to avoid any major sunburn although Pip did a poor job of applying sunscreen on my back one day and I had some strange red marks show up. Also Pip can no longer say that she doesn't tan and she wore the same shoes the whole time and had a rather distinct tan line. After we got sick of the beach (Mostly because of the sandyness) we found a nice spot under some very densely leaved trees on some lovely grass which I must say is where we spent loads of time. It was cool, comfortable and great for a catchup on some sleep or some reading.

I think the whole time we were in Benicassim we only had one espresso shot of coffee. It was just too hot and the Spanish people make very average coffee in our experience. Instead of coffee we (myself especially) switched to coca-cola. I must have downed several liters over the time we were there, I just seemed to have huge cravings for it. Food wise Beni was a difficult place to find good food. I thought that being away from the main centers that we'd have heaps of local cuisine to choose from, but since most of the people in town were British tourists, every restaurant and eatery had changed their menus to be more "British". Now this "Britishness" was just a semi-educated interpretation and I think the worst we came across was when Pip ordered a burger and chips while I ordered fish and chips. She got a burger which was literally a really bad tasting burger patty and chips and I got chips with none other than fish fingers from the freezer.

On the first day of Festival International Benicassim we decided to go to Aquarama which is a huge water park just down from the festival area. It was amazing and I have not had that much adrenaline fueled fun in years. They had all sorts of water slides like the slow windy ones, Pip and my favourite which was a slide where you both sit on a two person biscuit and you slide down one in complete darkness not knowing which way you will turn. There were also three steep speed slides which I managed to pressure Pip into sliding down the medium one. I went on all of them including the steep pink one which was an amazing feeling, almost like you're in free fall. They also had a ride called the 'Space shot' which is sort of like the 'Giant Drop' at Dreamword in Australia or the one at Rainbows End in New Zealand, except this one starts on the ground and fired you up and as you reach the top it starts to slow and you loose your stomach and feel like your about to fall out before it goes back down again. Somehow there were almost no lines for this and so we rode it several times.

Ok now to the festival. I am aware that so far all I have done is complain about our trip so I hope this next bit makes the whole thing appear worth it. The main festival was over four nights and the festival area itself was quite neat. There were heaps of food stalls which sold better food than most other places around town, lots of random stalls set up by companies and of course the three main stages. The first night we watched a random Spanish band who we quite liked and then the Horrors who were on fine form and managed to sound a lot better than they did in London only a few months earlier. It was really nice to see some of the bands clearly enjoying playing to bigger crowds than they are used to, I guess that is what made the Horrors feel they needed to be more animated during their set than usual.

The second night was for us the big one. After spending the day at the Aquarama water park, we were more than ready to see a handful of great bands and musicians in one night, after all this is a festival. Miles Kane was up first and Pip and I were in attendance more for the fact that we find him amusing than being big fans. I must say that he is a great performer and a quality musician, I just wish he's stop trying to write average pop songs because when he's doing the old rascal style less polished tunes he is a man to be respected. Directly after Miles was Bob, yip Mr Bob Dylan himself. While I don't know too many songs past his classics, I was keen to catch him while he was still around. He played a huge set and sounded great with his band, he did seem a bit detached from the crowed throughout his set but we'll forgive him because he's getting on a wee bit. After Bob was the Maccabees. After falling in love with them in London and then getting their 'Given to the wild' album, Pip and I were keen to see them again. They were clearly nervous as the first couple of songs were shakey but once they got used to us they sounded even better than the last time we saw them. Wrapping up a great night of music was Bombay Bicycle Club. I am not too familiar with much of their material prior to their new album but Pip and I were both blown away, we could not make up our minds on who the best act of the night was but if I had to reccomend anyone to see one or two of them, it would be The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Night three was all about Manchester for us with both Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses performing. Noel was great, he was just Noel which is all you really want from him. He struts up, makes some comments to the crowd, plays some of his new tunes, a couple of lesser known Oasis tunes, ends with 'Don't look back in anger' and walks off stage having done a good days work. I think I should give him some more credit as he did have the whole audience singing along throughout most of the set and he even went onto his blog after the show to thank the crowd and say that it was the best solo show he's done so far, it was also his 100th.

Jessie J was next and she was a little strange for our tastes, we only caught the end of her show but it certainly cemented in our minds that pop music doesn't quite do it for us. What does do it for us is a reformed band with 'legendary status' called 'The Stone Roses', Pip and I were pretty fortunate to see them to be honest and we both know northerners who currently reside in New Zealand and won't get to see them unless they tour world wide and stay as a band until they are as old as The Rolling Stones, but I don't think that will happen. They came on blew everyone away, even though they did take a couple of songs to really click, when they did you could really understand why they became such a cult band. Ian's vocals were better than I expected after watching a few live performances on the net over the years but he still did go flat a few time. If we weren't really big fans before the gig, we definitely are now.

The light night of at the festival was odd. It seemed to climax on the third and there wasn't much for us to see. We started by catching 'Fujiya & Miyagi' who play a song called 'Black and blue' which we like. They were a trio of Dad's who looked like this was their first outing from their garage rehearsal space and the one song we wanted to hear appeared to suffer from technical issues. We then caught the start of the Vaccines but were clobbered by 14 year old's. The Vaccines and I have a difficult relationship. I liked a few of their tunes but then I couldn't get their traces of falseness out of my head. The band seemed to nurture these falseness' as time went on and now I just feel awkward about them. So we went and watched 'The Buzzcocks' for a bit and then settled in to watch 'Howler' who are a newish band from the US. Think of them like a swaggery Kooks who are actually good. The singer was clearly annoyed about their time slot as all of their potential fans were watching The Vaccines, he even tried to talk to them from one stage to the other, among his other antics were talking casually with the crowd and introducing his band as both "The Vaccines" and our favorite "Thank you, we're Bob Dylan".

The next morning we packed up our things, ditched the tent and made for the exits. We trained back to Barcelona and upon arriving at the airport with much confusion with getting from Barcelona Sants rail station to the airport, we decided to walk to our hotel. This lead to us walking along the grassy part of a highway which is highly illegal and all because of my blind faith in Google maps which thought there were footpath's. With Pip remarking "If we get arrested now..." we finally arrived at the hotel which was extremely flash and when we walked in looking like bedraggled hikers among people in suits, only then did we fell the true extent of our feralness. The next morning we caught the free shuttle to the airport and negotiated the very strange Barcelona airport to make out flight with not too much time to spare. Pip slept the whole way and when we arrived back into and English speaking country, I must say London had never before felt more like home.