MUSIC

FIB 2013: I predict disquiet

The Benicàssim festival was a success despite rumors of cancelation

The crowds go wild at this year's edition of the Benicàssim music festival in Valencia.
The crowds go wild at this year's edition of the Benicàssim music festival in Valencia.ÁNGEL SÁNCHEZ

The omens were not good for this year's Benicàssim Festival (also known by its initials, FIB). Prior to the annual Spanglish music festival - which took place this past weekend on on Valencia's Azahar coast - rumors of cancellation spread after legendary promoter Vince Power sold his majority stake in the event due to financial troubles. Then, just before Beady Eye were to make their much-anticipated appearance, revelations concerning Liam Gallagher's alleged lovechild threatened to rock the boat; and in a final stroke of bad luck, Azealia Banks abruptly pulled out of the festival due to problems with her throat.

But in the end the scaremongers were silenced as the sun shone on cue, fans turned up in their droves, and nearly all the acts did as well, making it yet another epic year for the indie and dance music spectacular, lauded for its curation of diverse performances.

The star-spangled line-up included rock'n'roll headliners: Queens of the Stone Age, Beady Eye, Arctic Monkeys and The Killers. Other top names included Kaiser Chiefs, Johnny Marr, Primal Scream, Bastille, The Courteeners, Hurts, Dizzee Rascal, DJ Benny Benassi, dance duo Knife Party and a smattering of well-known Spanish acts including Dorian and Bigott.

On Thursday night, the first headliners, Californian rockers Queens of the Stone Age, took to the stage. When the lights came on, you got the feeling the Maravillas stage (literally meaning "marvelous" in Spanish) was going to live up to its moniker. Like a gargantuan art installation, arresting images flickered and crackled as frontman Josh Homme entered to rapturous cheers and broke the ice with the unapologetically thrashy and raucous Feel Good Hit of the Summer . The electrifying set included the outfit's seminal track No One Knows and was topped off with a thrilling finale as the band belted out their death metal classic A Song for the Dead .

If Arctic Monkeys never really thawed, the Kaiser Chiefs were on fire

Joe, one of the many British punters in attendance, and his girlfriend Amber, both from Southampton, name-checked Miles Kane on Saturday night as their favorite act. Kane's set included the post-punk and mod revival hits Taking Over and Come Closer .

Joe, however, was less than impressed with Beady Eye and Liam Gallagher's headline performance on the Friday, saying Gallagher "just looked bored." Given the context of Gallagher's private life, a lackluster performance was no surprise, though the audience rallied when he rolled out Oasis back catalogue hits such as Rock and Roll Star and Morning Glory .

Saturday's headliners, Arctic Monkeys, played their eclectic repertoire against a backdrop of huge neon letters and in a cocoon of moody lighting, kicking off with their recent UK chart hit Do I wanna know? The Sheffield outfit closed out with RU Mine? Both tracks are from their upcoming album, remarkably enough called AM . An acoustic version of Mardy Bum ignited a sea of waving lighters, although it was their punchy classics Dancing Shoes , I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor and Sun Goes Down that really pushed the crowd's buttons. The band's performance was good, mature, sophisticated even, but as front man Alex Turner combed up his psychobilly quiff throughout, it seemed he was more focused on looking cool than grabbing the audience. Disappointingly, it all seemed a far cry from the band that made its name with angry up-tempo post-punk rock and tongue-in-cheek northern humor, but then perhaps that was the point.

If Arctic Monkeys never really thawed, the Kaiser Chiefs were on fire, putting in an explosive performance as Ricky Wilson literally bounced off the walls. The set kicked off with a pinch of Pink Floyd's The Wall , which set a deliciously irreverent tone. The Leeds band got the audience springing en masse with Ruby and I Predict a Riot , and encored with the chant-a-long favorite Oh My God .

Nevadan four-piece outfit The Killers plied the graveyard slot on Sunday night, after the crowds had thinned out, when the remaining fans were likely feeling pretty jaded. Given the 35,000-strong audience was a much-reduced number from the 50,000 that turned out to see their final set of the festival in 2009, it was always going to be a tall order to work up some enthusiasm but they certainly pulled it off.

Killers frontman Brandon Flowers stoked up the crowd in an admirable mix of Spanish and English as the band spliced classic rock and electro soundscapes beneath back-screen projections of a rotating Planet Earth. Flowers kept up the momentum throughout, detonating crowd-stirring classics such as Human , Spaceman and All These Things That I've Done.

Flowers returned for the encore sporting a "Vince" t-shirt in solidarity with the boss of the festival. As the audience danced with upheld hands under a trickle of cooling rain to the desert exotica of When You Were Young , it seemed a poetic end to a turbulent festival that had faced down scandals, financial turmoil and cancelations. The show had gone on and ended on a high note in a salvo of ecstatic cheers and pyrotechnics.

Next year Benicàssim celebrates its 20th anniversary. It remains to be seen how FIB will endure, though Power has said that it will continue for at least three more editions. Let's hope it does. It's a great advert for Spain with its brilliant blend of music, sun and sea. It is also a perennial crowd pleaser as Spain's very own Princess Letizia, who was spotted in the crowd to watch the Killers at the festival, would probably testify.

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