In the shadow of last year's The Streets, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire headlined event, FIB Benicassim 2012 had a hard job ahead of it to really impress, and It doesn't take a genius to realise that the line-up this had already flopped in comparison. Once Friday's headliner Florence and the Machine had pulled out, The Stone Roses became the only saving grace when pitted against the agonizingly awful Bob Dylan (these days) and the probably-shouldn't-be-headlining Peter Hook-less New Order. Luckily, there were just enough quality performances over the weekend to save it. It also seemed like many of those present actually enjoy shite-pop behemoths Example and David Guetta. Each to their own…
With Florence out, De La Soul stepping up to headline and the ever erratic At The Drive-In playing before them, the first day was shaping up, one might say, interestingly. The first highlight of the night was Kurt Vile and The Violators on the Trident Senses Stage (the second one). Those who have no idea who Kurt Vile is would be slightly baffled by his somewhat off-kilter live shows, however those who do were treated to yet another fantastic performance from one of the most underrated artists around. His unique, gravely take on Americana comes across just right live, for those who get it.
Back to the main stage, The Horrors put in a now to be expected excellent performance before At The Drive-In, it's fair to say, smash it. Although Omar still seems strangely subdued as he has for much of the tour, they sound bang on, for them; constantly veering just towards the good side of chaotic. Refreshingly, 'One Armed Scissor' receives a good reception from a crowd who were, for the most part, somewhat unresponsive beyond the first 10 rows.
Following this, in wonderful contrast, Del La Soul most definitely step up to the mark. Admittedly it takes them a good twenty-five minutes or so, but by the end of the set, the crowd are well and truly in the palms of their hands. After tireless calls of 'Scream if you like hip-hop music' and some classic left vs. right call and response, everyone present is in universal approval of one of hip-hop's great acts.
From hip-hop legends to 'hip-pop' criminal, Example receives the biggest reaction of the night, leaving you pondering the question- 'why?' Playing a set of songs that all sound the same, and using the phrase '* insert generic word * crew' far too much for a man who is most definitely not a garage MC, it's all rather terrible. It's also especially terrifying when you consider that you definitely know the words to most of the songs. p>
With Bob Dylan having been, utterly bafflingly, booked for the third time by Vince Power in as many years (he's twice headlined the Hop Farm), it's up to The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club to save Friday. Just to clarify, Dylan's set was once again very crap. Although this time you could just about recognize 'Like A Rolling Stone', progress maybe… Anyway, coming on after Bob, so he could get a nice early night, The Maccabees, the only remaining band that bring anything truly worthwhile to 'indie', are on peerless form. Tracks from most recent album Given To The Wild, particularly 'Pelican', sound glorious and are elevated above and beyond the album. First album classics like 'X-Ray' are given a welcome spot in the set, and would still be the best guitar music around were that album released today.
The tough task of following this was left to Bombay Bicycle Club. Although in theory they're nothing more than the poor man's Maccabees with an incredibly talented if not rather awkward frontman, Bombay do a more than impressive job. Luckily steering clear of Flaws in the most part, the tracks from their recent album, A Different Kind Of Fix, sound infinitely better performed live, whereas tracks like 'Evening/Morning' from their debut sound bigger and better with every tour. These two sets alone make the day worthwhile, but also make you wonder whether any contemporary indie bands can match them.
Saturday is the day of the festival, purely and simply because The Stone Roses are headliners. Regardless of how Ian Brown's vocals are, or whether they still like each other, this was always going to be the highlight of the weekend. And to make it even better, their set was quite simply, perfect. A set where you don't notice Ian Brown go out of tune is a rare wonder. The band on the other hand warrant no such doubts, they always have and always will be faultlessly good, with John Squire and Reni in particular, on imperious form. Set highlight 'Made Of Stone' and the timeless outro of 'I Am The Resurrection' provide complete proof that the Roses have indeed been resurrected and long may it continue.
Warming up for The Stone Roses was Noel Gallagher. Who better warm you up for an evening of Manchester's finest? The crowd sing the tracks from his debut High Flying Birds record back at him as if they were Oasis classics, an incredible testament to a man who only seems capable of writing classics. And with a set-closing rendition of Don't 'Look Back In Anger', you'd be dead inside not to have joined in.
Kicking off this run of brilliant British music, over on the Trident Senses stage were Buzzcocks. Now punk, it's fair to say, was a thing of its time, music that defined a generation. So it would be equally fair to assume that a reformed punk band these days really wouldn't be the same. Buzzcocks on the other hand, do the best job possible of making it seems like the mid 70s again. Playing with all the ferocity and angst that they would've had at the time. They still hate the government and we still love it.
Ahhh, Sunday, arguably one of the most pointless days of a festival this year. One that once again asks the question- 'what did you expect from the Vaccines?' To which the answer is, as always- 'anything but this'. The day that also brings us Ed Sheeran, playing a set of what can only be described as cultural and musical poison.
Then it's New Order, here as the saving grace of the day… Alas no. They play a set of songs performed in an ok manner, to a crowd who don't know 80% of them and who are given no reason to get to know them. They manage, with flying colours, to butcher Joy Division classics 'Transmission' as well as an encore rendition of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Depressing. Even the brilliant 'True Faith' and some long overdue crowd interest during 'Blue Monday' can't rescue the set. Were they not headlining or playing for an hour and a half, or maybe played 'World In Motion', it would've probably been a far more enjoyable experience.
Closing the festival was David Guetta… He's responsible for almost everything that's wrong with modern music. He doesn't warrant more words than that.
Although musically not that great, if you fancy a holiday and festival all rolled into one, where you can get very sweaty, nicely tanned, suitably bevvied, and have a beach (slightly further away than expected) to recover on; then Benicassim is well worth the trip.
Alexandra Palace is one of those peculiar London pleasure spots that doesn't feel like it's in London at all. They feel above and beyond the city, where the air is breathable, the immediate skyline uncluttered, and the sounds of the city muted out. It's a point of omniscience, outside and inside the city simultaneously; a lavish venue that oddly befits I'll Be Your Mirror (and is generally worth a visit if you enjoy views and gardens and generally nice surroundings.) [read more]
Perhaps the best things in life really are free. Or so you may think after Tramlines weekend in Sheffield. Now well established as the jewel in the city's musical calendar by its fourth year, the festival attracts established acts from far and wide and has every band in the city honing their set and looking to secure the best possible slots to showcase themselves to huge crowds of non-paying punters. [read more]
This weekend past I, complete with more than a few friends, popped to Supernormal festival (not to be confused with Supersonic, which I previewed for this very site a few weeks back). The event is billed as the 'alternative's alternative', which both roused my suspicions and stroked my ego a little. [read more]