Live Review

Benicassim 2012 (Day One)

An old hand blows all of today’s poor imitations straight out of the Mediterranean’s crystal clear water…

Regarded as both the glittering jewel in Europe’s festival crown, and the ultimate endurance test for music fans, Benicassim is not your average festival. Wet-wipes and grotty portaloos are only the beginning of your concerns; waking up cursing and yelling expletives because your tent is a make-shift sauna is commonplace, as is slathering on the factor 50 like it’s about to go out of fashion. During the day the wise lie on sun-loungers making the most of the divinely cool breeze on the beach – the foolish, or indeed those hungover on the criminally cheap cartons of sangria, spend the morning slowly cooking and marinating in sweat at the campsite. When the evening begins though, it all becomes clear exactly why we’ve made the pilgrimage to the Costa del Dorado. Benicassim, surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges contrasting starkly with never-ending crisp blue skies, provides a surreal setting for equally unreal music.

The first incredible moment comes in the shape of a certain post-hardcore band who are here to play their first European show for 12 years. Casual. It’s no big deal for the effortless At The Drive-In, who are very much business as usual; so at home on the stage in fact that Cedric Bixler-Zavala has set up a tea station, along with a rather quaint and kitschy decorated Jesus mug. With the help of some smoke machines, the sight of a boiling kettle, oddly, becomes the epitome of rock n’ roll antics – and with such a crystal clear voice and poise it seems just silly that more singers don’t sip tea on stage. It’s a truly triumphant return for At The Drive-In, with the frontman prowling and sauntering around the stage kicking tables, shoving camera men, and throwing himself into the adoring arms of the manic rock fans who have secured front barrier. “I’m a human hacky-sack for hippies!” he screams at one point, giving the crowd all the on-stage tomfoolery they could wish for. Leading the set like a rapidly uncoiling spring of unstoppable energy, Cedric Bixler-Zavala has Benicassim in the palm of his hand and At The Drive-In’s return to the stage looks set to last.

Florence and the Machine was billed to headline the gigantic Maravillas stage on Thursday, but due to some poorly vocal cords, the other stage headliners, De La Soul have to step up to take the main slot. You’d think pleasing some slightly confused Florence Welch fans who have turned up expecting ‘You’ve Got The Love’ only to get hip-hop anthem ‘Me Myself & I’ would at least pose a minor challenge, but De La Soul are completely unfazed. “I’m calling in reference to the music business. Thank you’ crackles a Miss Renee King from Philadelphia over the booming PA, and the crowd starts screaming in anticipation as ‘Ring Ring’ starts up. “Hey how ya doin’? Sorry ya can’t get through” yells Dave, and the crowd becomes a sea of bobbing heads with waves of perfectly coordinated arms making phone shapes as far as you can see. It’s a surprise De La Soul have ever had to deal with music execs. hanging up on them, as this set is a lesson in hip-hop for all the chancers and poor imitations out there. Pos, Maceo and Dave are having the time of their lives, leading an extending pantomime esque battle of the stage-sides, seeing fierce loyalties develop as the opposing audience members boo and heckle one another. Eventually uniting the entire crowd in a word-for-word sing-along, De La Soul show exactly why they have such a cult following. With witty quips, a warm presence and an entirely unpretentious attitude, Thursday’s headline set is the second example of the night where an old hand blows all of today’s poor imitations straight out of the Mediterranean’s crystal clear water.

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