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Thursday, July 28, 2011

FIB Festival 2011 Benicàssim: a personal overview

Back and alive from Benicàssim Festival. I let some time pass to make this overview, in order to be accurate and not say a couple of things without a second thought. Here it is:

The Good
Confirmations: Among the bands I love and had the occasion of seeing them before I have to mention, of course, Arcade Fire and The Joy Formidable, both delivering excellent shows (the lovely Welsh will be mentioned again later). And among the groups I never seen before, Veronica Falls showed there's a real band and a promising album just awaiting us in early autumn; while Russian Red and Elbow were great (so happy to see Guy Garvey and Co. finally). Looking forward to see both bands in their respective tours and more intimate venues. I wish I could say the same about Arctic Monkeys, but unfortunately other factors were in play during their gig (read the next section).

New discoverings: Weren't many if you consider FIB lasts four days, but at least this three names have to be highlighted. O Emperor, quality and intense folk-rock from Ireland that gave a solid, in crescendo gig; Los Ginkas, Spanish punk-pop, vital, joyous and really funny, smiles are granted with them; and Jane Joyd, the music name of Elba Fernández, a wonderful singer/songwriter from Galicia that captivated us with her rich folk (despite not being able of bringing her full band) and mesmerizing voice. One to follow closely.

The working staff: From the staff taking care of first rows, giving water and being aware of the people asking to be taken out of there, to the ones located in the middle/separation wall, who had a incredibly hard task, and suffered the brutal behaviour of some during The Strokes concert. And on a personal level, to the ones in charge of security at the Maravillas stage and the bar, who kindly helped us after we were crushed during the Arctic Monkeys gig. Thanks.

The Bad
Massification: I remember blaming the Primavera Sound Festival because of the massification problems, in particular on Friday 27th of May, during the Pulp concert. I apologise. It was nothing compared with what we suffered at FIB 2011. Friday and Saturday at the Maravillas stage and surroundings was just horrible. And excuse me, but Vince Power, FIB director, saying he saw a normal function of that stage, just means either he has no shame, or that he wasn't there.

The Brits: Should say the "hooligans" instead. Of course, I'm not saying every British citizen behaved like that. The majority we met were sympathetic, friendly and happy people. But unfortunately, a huge amount of them are just wild beasts that are not interested in the music at all, and are just coming to have a permanent, out of control party. No problem with that, but you know. Seeing you naked is not nice. Throwing drinks (or whatever it is) to the people, the same applies for your rubbish, is not nice. Trying to advance by the use of force to get a closer view of the stage is not nice. Crushing people is not nice. Peeing in front of a bar is not nice. Putting a fire or lighting a flare in the middle of the main stage is not nice (is insane). You might think this is "your Festival" (after all you are the target of the organization) but you know the venue is not yours and there are more people trying to enjoy FIB. The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys were frustrating gigs because of them.

The FIB Organization: Paolo Nutini, Chase and Status, Plan B, The Streets, Pendulum, The Coronas (from Ireland), Tinie Tempah and a long etc. We could discuss (endlessly) if these and many more fill into the music style that supposedly FIB used to cover. But I don't think it makes sense to debate about the repercussion these groups have in Spain, which is zero. So, it is clear, the Festival's target are the Brits. Fine. that's their commercial strategy. Linked with that, and again just commercial strategy, was the decision of announcing big, incontestable, headliners well in advance, and since then (with exceptions) complete the line-up with fillers. Anyway, the line-up on Thursday was terribly weak, and without headliners (something the organization admitted). Then we have the timetable thing (pathetic). Or the parking facilities. Or the overlaps. I could go on, but you get my point. The general feeling is clear: this is about the money for the organization, not about the music.

The Queen
The sound: The only aspect where FIB has been superior to Primavera Sound. Without very few exceptions (and one has to do with the overlaps, other with the wind on Sunday's afternoon, not with the sound quality of the stages), during all four days of the Festival the sound has been surprisingly good.

The fan moment: We had the pleasure of chatting for a second and take a picture with Layabouts, probably the best concert of Thursday, and (a personal triumph) with the gentle people of The Joy Formidable. Ritzy promised me they will go back to Barcelona soon (probably October). So great!

The music, after all: I could have titled this bands I don't like but were outstanding. Because that's what happened five times on this FIB 2011. Jerry Fish and The Mudbug Club, with his funny and engaging gig; Lori Meyers, that gave a phenomenal concert to an enthusiastic crowd, gathering an unanimous praise from their national fans as well as foreigners; And I Watch You From Afar, who did a brutal, thunderous show; Layabouts, who did the same with their more classic rock; and Portishead, with the amazing Beth Gibbons making the Maravillas stage hold their breath. They exemplify what music, and playing live should be. They enjoyed and made the audience enjoy every second of their gigs. Even the ones that are not fan of their music or style (like me) got pleased or mind-blowed by their performances. A matter of attitude and passion.

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