Highlights: Benicassim 2008

Emily Wither | Monday, 28 July 2008

Highlights: Benicassim 2008

Last week it looked like the entire cast of Skins had descended on the sleepy Spanish town of Benicàssim for the annual four-day Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, otherwise known as FIB. Now in its fourteenth year, many fans of the festival were left feeling slightly disappointed by this year's line-up, complaining that previous years had been stronger and dance music seemed to dominate over indie. 

This festival is as much about the Spanish seaside experience as it is about the music; and with a beach, water-park and great restaurants and bars in town, there is more than enough to keep hip 'FIBers' amused when the music stops. The secret to the success of FIB is in its diversity of both culture and music, with local Spanish acts and DJs playing alongside the best UK and US acts. The musical genres cross the entire gauntlet - you could watch both Leonard Cohen and Justice in the one evening.

Along with the music, FIBers were treated to hundreds of other events, including theatre, dance, a fashion show and cinema, but dance acts seemed to dominate the line-up this year. With super-tight sets from the likes of Justice, Hot Chip, Calvin Harris and Erol Alkan, the tents were jam-packed with sweaty bodies grooving through the night. One of the dance highlights was former Moloko front woman Róisín Murphy who sexed up the main stage on Friday with her silky smooth disco. Complete with tightly choreographed routines and outrageous hats and shoulder pads, each of Róisín's tunes was just as danceable as the last and her stage presence was unstoppable.

Band-wise, it was truly a year for epic performances. Fifteen years since their last performance, My Bloody Valentine broke the sound barrier of rock and everybody's ear drums on the Friday night. If God has an iPod, Sigur Rós would surely be on it. They delivered a set on Thursday night with such spiritual intensity that someone in the heavens must have been listening, while there were flawless performances from the likes of The National, Death Cab for Cutie and The Kills.

According to a poll carried out by FIB organisers, the winner for best live performance went to Leonard Cohen. Anyone who was over at the main stage on Sunday evening will no doubt always remember his performance of 'Hallelujah', which had all festival-goers waving their hands in the air as the sun set over the stage, creating a truly spiritual moment. My personal highlight, meanwhile, was catching Battles in a packed out tent at three in the morning. Their live performance was bursting with energy and their intense, technical and crazy rhythms stuck long after the music had stopped.

One of the major downsides to this festival is getting there and back. Be warned, all transport needs to be organised before you come to Spain! With nearly 150,000 people making their way to Benicàssim, hundreds failed to arrive quickly and cheaply, as the trains from the airports and towns had booked up very quickly. Pretty much every other group had a story about spending the night in a train station, paying for their most ever expensive taxi ride or taking a detour round the half of Spain to make it on time.

Despite the transport issues, the heat and over priced beer, nobody could quite say no to four days of sun, sea, and sand - not to mention good music.