Ready for the new Benicàssim

After several difficult years, festival organizers are hoping for a return to stability

A fiber gets soaked by a rain shower at last year’s festival.
A fiber gets soaked by a rain shower at last year’s festival.ÀNGEL SÁNCHEZ

If 2013 was the “crisis festival,” when the event nearly didn’t happen, and 2014 was the “continuity festival,” when it got back on its feet, 2015 will be marked by being the first edition of the Festival Internacional de Benicassím organized entirely by British promoter Melvin Benn.

Today sees the 21st edition of the music festival – celebrated by the Mediterranean coast in the Valencian town – open its doors. Last year, Benn took the reins from legendary Irish promoter Vince Power just a few months before the 2014 edition started. This year, he has been working to make his mark on the event, which is one of the most important on the European and Spanish festival calendar.

The presence of Los Planetas and Vestusta Morla on the bill has helped lure back the Spanish public

His main objective has been to bring some stability to FIB, after the financial turmoil of recent years. The organizers are expecting for the same numbers that they saw last year, with a total of 30,000 fibers coming through the gates each day. That will keep the attendance stable, but will not improve on its 20th edition last year, which saw the lowest attendance for many years.

Unmissable acts

  1. Blur. Las Palmas stage. Saturday at 1am
  2. Portishead. Las Palmas stage. Sunday at 11.15pm
  3. Public Enemy. stage. Sunday at 8.50pm
  4. Los Planetas. Las Palmas stage. Saturday at 11.15pm
  5. Florence + The Machine. Las Palmas stage. Thursday 1am
  6. Curtis Harding. Red Bull Tour Bus Fibclub stage. Saturday 11.50pm
  7. Crocodiles. Red Bull Tour Bus Fibclub stage. Sunday 10.35pm
  8. Mark Ronson. Radio 3 stage. Saturday at midnight.

Benn has, however, already managed to achieve one of his aims: that of attracting more Spaniards and Europeans, rather than the regular clientele of Britons. The presence of Los Planetas and Vestusta Morla on the bill has, no doubt, helped with that task.

Around 8,000 youngsters pitched their tents last night in the various campsites in Benicàssim, and today the mass arrival of the rest of the public is expected. But a lot has changed since the festival began back in 1994, when the Morán brothers decided to try and make their “crazy” dream come true. Back then, the mayor of the town was Francesc Colomer. These days, he is the head of Valencia’s Tourism Agency, and he recalls the excitement he felt when he first met the brothers and heard their ideas – despite them not exactly having the same taste in music. “I liked that triangle of youth, independence [in reference to the choice of non-commercial bands] and Benicàssim,” he explains.

Back then, the town was mostly known for family-based tourism. “The [political] opposition at the time told me that it was going to encourage a festival of freeloaders and hippies,” he recalls. “After the very first edition, however, the local businesses started to collect signatures in favor of keeping the festival in the town.”

More information
A new chapter for the Benicàssim festival
Benicàssim Festival to look to rest of Europe to attract attendees
Benicàssim Festival will go ahead this year, say organizers
FIB 2013: I predict disquiet

Because once it had matured, FIB was manna from heaven for the local economy. In the years when the crowd it attracted was a little older, and when, in 2009, 50,000 people a day came to the event, local businesses saw boom times. The next year, however, in 2010 – the first year that Vince Power was in charge – the attendance fell to 32,000, and the event closed with losses. The following year saw 50,000 fibers once more, but since then the numbers have dwindled – the crisis and competition from other festivals go partway to explaining what’s happened.

Local businesses are pleased to see the changes that Melvin Benn has made, in a bid to reintegrate FIB within the town. Last year, for example, saw the return of the “prefestival,” acts and concerts in the center of Benicàssim the day before the main event began, as well as the relocation of the campsite closer to the town, to encourage spending.

These days, fibers are mostly very young Brits, and mostly decide to spend their money in supermarkets

For the moment, though, the 8,000 youngsters who are already in Benicàssim have been flocking to the supermarkets than they have opted for local restaurants and bars. Only when the last bars of music are played on Sunday night will Benn be able to judge whether his change of strategy has had the desired effect.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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