Confessions of a music festival virgin

July 27th, 2010 in European travel by Terry Lee 2
Benicassim can be exhausting

Stepping off my flight to the eastern shores of Spain I knew I was in for a new experience. For the second time in a month I was about to lose my virginity. Just weeks earlier I’d attended my first Grand Prix in Valencia and now I was succumbing to the temptations of another racy lady. She was a lady of the night – dark, mysterious and very, very loud. Benicassim was the home of Europe’s music scene and for four nights she held me in a passionate embrace.

But I was a complete fish out of water. As someone who rarely listens to music I didn’t known my Leftfield from my right elbow and Kasabian sounded like something I might order in a Turkish restaurant.

Leaving our four star hotel – we were lucky enough not to have to camp out under the burning Spanish sun – we headed in the direction of the sound of music. But Julie Andrews it wasn’t. This was one of Europe’s premier rock and dance music festivals and you could hear banging Benicassim long before you could see it.

“Only night owls need apply for Benicassim – the festival kicked off around 6pm and went on for 12 hours. But there was a youthful energy to the place ensuring no matter how late it was the party kept going”

One of the joys of the trip was that as bloggers we had press passes which allowed us access to the VIP area, where white leather seating replaced the hard concrete of the public areas and there were bars, deckchairs and even a swimming pool.  This was my kind of slumming it!

Our press passes also got us access to the photographer’s pit, right in front of the bands, for the first three songs of each act. Most surprising to me was the effect of the bass pounding from the enormous speakers directly in front of me, so much so that my chest felt as though it was being physically assaulted. I’m not so sure it was good for my hearing but the fans just a couple of feet away didn’t seem to mind.

Leaving the VIP area and joining up with the 50,000 fans in the park it was fun to see so many good-natured people having a great time. They moved between the three stages as the different bands appeared, then sang, danced, jumped and waved their appreciation of the music, while others just sat on the grass or slept off the excesses of the day.

Occasionally a whiff of cannabis would waft by, but overwhelmingly the night air was filled with music and the smell of beer and an array of fast foods.

In my naivety I’d anticipated the festival to be home to hordes of marauding young drunks and perhaps to even witness some loutish behaviour. But with the exception of one over-enthusiastic guy who tried to hump Sarah’s leg and slapped her on the backside I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was relaxed, revelling in the music with a slightly hippy-like sense of love and peace. And strangely I found myself loving it as well.

Only night owls need apply for Benicassim – the festival kicked off each night around 6pm and went on for 12 hours. But there was a youthful energy to the place that ensured no matter how late it got the party kept going. Fans had a fantastic choice of acts including The Prodigy, Kasabian, Public Image Limited (PiL), The Specials, Ray Davies, Dizzee Rascal, The Gorillaz, Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding, Ian Brown, Vampire Weekend, Leftfield, Calvin Harris, Goldfrapp, Ash and The Klaxons.

PiL was my highlight with their lead singer John Lydon, Johnny Rotten as he was in his Sex Pistols days. I’ve long been a fan of the Sex Pistols but never saw them live so couldn’t believe my luck as I watched John Lydon up close from the photographers’ pit. He blew me away with his powerful voice and imposing stage presence.

Dizzee Rascal was also impressive – he had so much energy we could have wired him up to the national grid and closed down a power station. However I found myself waiting for Vampire Weekend with a sense of indifference. They sounded like a band to be intimidated by, yet produced a set of the most melodic music of the week.

Most nights as I left Benicassim around 3.30am to head back to my hotel the crowds continued to surge towards the festival stages. By the last night, after being entertained by John, Dizzee and more, I understood the attraction.

I attended Festival Internacional de Benicassim as part of a blog trip hosted by Land of Valencia.

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