The last day of any festival is normally a relatively tranquil affair. Generally, most of the crowd are dealing with the ill effects of little sleep and heavy-boozing. Benicassim 09’s crowd; well they’ve had a slew of aforementioned troubles to put up with, as well as dealing with the fact that morning naps in their tent have become day-long sauna sessions in the searing heat. It has been a festival of cancellations, near tragedies and inclement weather. Just what next can go wrong today at the unluckiest Benicassim festival ever?
The fact that Pete Doherty is on the bill later this evening must have the promoters’ stress levels soaring given the luck they’ve had. State’s money is on a drug bust or a no-show, followed by some sort of a mini-riot. Either that, or tonight’s headliners The Killers are going to self-implode on stage. As it transpires, the only problem today – and there had to be a problem – is that a number of acts’ sets have been pushed forward half an hour or so without informing the audience. It means State misses half of White Lies set on the Main Stage, which is a real pity. Potentially one of the genuinely great new acts of 2009, the English band close with a fantastic run through -Death’, which sees frontman Harry McVeigh rising to the challenge’s of playing to a festival audience. Encouraging a mass sing-a-long of the group’s biggest hit, McVeigh has the audience in the palm of his hands by the time the final notes ring out.
While all this is going on, over on the Second Stage the crowd has swelled for TV On The Radio and State just doesn’t see the fuss. Having been less than impressed with last year’s hugely acclaimed Dear Science LP, we don’t stick around too long. Live and out-doors, the New Yorker’s just don’t seem to cut it. David Kitt flies the flag for the Irish over at the Vodafone FIB Club and, although playing solo and without the Oomph that a backing-band give him, Kittser impresses the small amount of revellers in a set that takes in much of -The Big Romance’ and his recently released -The Nightsaver’ long player.
Meanwhile, it’s St Albans trio Friendly Fires who deliver one of the most crowd-pleasing sets of the weekend and in turn draw the Second Stage’s largest throng of the festival. Really coming into their own over the current festival season, singer Ed MacFarlane’s mob deliver an impressive laser-show to match their dance-infused tunes on stage. -Jump In The Pool’ and -Paris’ are sublime, while -In The Hospital’ leads to near hysteria with the crowd exploding into mass dance amid whoops of -Do Do Do, Do Do Do Da Da’.
As midnight passes on the Main Stage, it’s time for Brandon Flowers and The Killers to light up the Costa Azahar. Having seen them live practically every summer (aren’t they the Oxegen house-band or something?) State has had it up to here with the Las Vegas four-piece. We just can’t get passed how lyrically atrocious set-opener -Human’ is, while Brandon Flowers epileptic dashes across the stage during -For Reasons Unknown’ are just too much to deal with right now. Yes, there’s no denying they place large smiles on the faces of the assembled throng and – in that regard – are more than worthy headliners, but frankly we’d rather see what trouble Peter Doherty will brew up on the Second Stage.
As it turns out Doherty, ironically, disappoints in being shockingly impressive. Though billed as a solo Peter Doherty performance, the former-Libertine arrives on-stage (on-time) with his Babyshambles cohorts and proceeds to play anything but the tracks on his recent debut solo album. So although there’s no -Salome’ or -Last of The English Roses’, we do get rousing renditions of -Delivery’, -Pipedown’ and -Killamangiro’, as well as Libertines’ hits -Time For Heroes’, -What Katy Did’ and -Music When The Lights Go Out’. There’s even a cover of The Stone Roses -I Wanna Be Adored’ thrown into the mix. What impresses most though about Babyshambles is how professional they’ve become. This is a tight four-piece not just running through the hits verbatim, but adding in little rolls and licks to augment each song. They sound little better than on set-closer -Fuck Forever’ prior to which Doherty quips to the over-whelmingly British audience at the festival, ‘You’re English is pretty good! If I didn’t know better…’
A Laurent Garnier DJ set follows Doherty’s fine performance, though by this stage in proceedings the festival is effectively over with tired punters returning to the campsite for some shut-eye. While Benicassim 09 has been eventful, as a music festival it failed to truly deliver. A fairly unimpressive line-up was made all the worse by the poor fortune of Friday’s cancellations. The weekend’s main musical highlights came from We Were Standard, 2ManyDJ’s dropping -Bonkers’, Friendly Fires and Pete Doherty, while Friday’s cancellations and the terrible terrible sound during Oasis left a sour taste.
Music aside, there were other areas where the festival was found wanting, particularly with regard organisation. A notable lack of crowd control on Thursday meant many punters faced queues of over an hour just to enter the festival, while the amount of people that scaled a speaker stand and a rooftop during Oasis’ headline set could have led to a human-tragedy at which the buck would have stopped with the promoters.
Further problems with public transport and departing from the local train-station may be outside the promoter’s remit, but were nonetheless surprising in their absence given that this is a festival in its 15th year.
Nonetheless, despite all going wrong that could go wrong, much fun was had. A festival that doubles as a beach holiday in the sun will doubtless continue to draw an audience. We’ll probably be back in 2010 and all.
Photos: Ã“scar L. Tejeda