Festivals: Benicàssim, Spain
British festivals, no matter how great the line-up is or how many years it’s existed, are essentially missing one key thing. The sun.
A festival, in England, in summer, is by definition guaranteed to be flooded, muddy and pretty cold. The perfect solution to this issue arose 18 years ago when someone came up with the genius idea of holding a festival in a small seaside town on the east coast of Spain, in the region of Valencia: Benicàssim. Always held in July, when the average temperature hovers around 28ºC, and with a long, wide beach stretching along the coast, it transforms the festival-going experience into less of an endurance test, more of a holiday to be pleasantly enjoyed. Less endurance, more enjoyment.
This year the 4-day festival hosted acts such as David Guetta, Dizzee Rascal, Example, Jessie J, Maverick Sabre, The Vaccines, Bombay Bicycle Club, Bob Dylan, The Stone Roses, Chase & Status, Ed Sheeran and Katy B, and in all honesty there was very little Spanish music nor many Spaniards in the audience either. It did seem to be a British invasion of sorts.
Unlike British festivals, nothing really happens until the evening as the Spanish do like to get everything started a bit later. So the daytime is reserved for a much-needed long lie-in and sunbathing by the beach. However the camping site included in the £155 ticket isn’t right next to the beach, rather it’s a bit further inland. It’s also incredibly crowded and filthy, as any UK festival is. An alternative to this is to go glamping and pay to stay in a separate campsite with a little bit more luxury. At only €12 per night per person, I have to admit that we opted for the Bonterra Park, which offers actual shower blocks, a decent swimming pool and even a restaurant and internet access. And for €27 per night you can even stay in an air-conditioned bungalow with a fully-equipped kitchen inside to keep your drinks chilled and a barbecue to dine decently on your private terrace.
Who cares about it not being the “true festival experience”, I know which I prefer!
With around 45,000 festival-goers descending upon the small town of Benicàssim for a week every summer, I feel seriously sorry for the locals, as the British aren’t exactly known for their best behaviour abroad. I know it’s an ironic point of view, but I often feel embarrassed when I see other English people abroad. That may be because I feel I want immerse myself in the foreign culture, or perhaps it’s related to the escapist feeling I get when I travel, that desire to escape the norm back home, thus escaping British people too. Or maybe it’s because I always try to seek out the lesser-explored places, being a traveller rather than a tourist. However this trip was different and I knew beforehand what it would be like. This being my first proper festival, I have nothing to compare it to but I am certain of a few key things:
- The atmosphere listening to live music in an enormous crowd is absolutely electric and totally exceeded my expectations.
- Glamping is the way to go.
- Festivals definitely have an age-limit. Aged 23 I felt old in comparison to the average.
I and seven other friends went out for a week in total, to have a few days of relax before the festival itself. But what we really needed was a few days afterwards to recover as it was physically draining! Partying until 6am every night takes its toll (unless you’re in a coveted bungalow) as the temperature inside a tent quickly rises once it gets to 10am and the sun is in full swing. We took to dozing on sunbeds in the shade around the pool to try to get some rest, but by the end of the week we still felt 100% exhausted. Zero energy. Red bull becomes a necessity to keep y going through until the very end and, having seen the squalor of the free camping site, I’ve no idea how people staying there survived so long!
A couple of tips for next year’s Benicàssim:
- Buy an Early Bird ticket before they announce the line-up as it’s only £120.
- Valencia is the nearest airport, but you can also fly to any of Barcelona’s three airports as eufest run coaches from all of these right to Benicàssim itself.
- Invest in a separate campsite, or even a bungalow, you’ll be thankful you did!
- Take a big group of friends, the more the merrier.
- Go to see the bands you’ve never heard of, as they can still turn out to be incredible.
Other festivals on the European circuit include:
- Rock Werchter (Belgium)
- Rock in Rio Lisboa (Portugal)
- Exit Festival (Serbia)
- Tomorrowland (Belgium)
- Main Square (France).
More can be found here.