By Álvaro García Montoliu
There’s only three days to go until the 17th edition of the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim will kick off. We thought it would be a good idea to give you our recommendations for the event, in alphabetical order (we all know which bands are the headliners, but we don’t want to discriminate or differentiate between the epic sound of Arcade Fire and all those artists in small print - many of whom are debutants, some even almost unknown). While we still don’t know the time schedules - which will be announced on the first day of FIB 2011 via the festival website – here’s the info you need to know before you start drawing up your route map.
And So I Watch You From Afar (Sunday, 17th July, FIB Club Stage)
Post-rock was, in general, a neglected genre at the Benicàssim event. Well, this year we’ll see one of the bands from the new generation - running from post-rock to math-rock and back. And So I Watch You From Afar have just released their second album, “Gangs”, on which they display a very aggressive sound: like Battles and Iron Maiden fighting over life and death. Belfast can stand tall next to Glasgow.
Anika (Sunday, 17th July, FIB Club Stage)
Anika was a political journalist before she got into the music game. Half of her life was spent in Berlin and the other in Bristol (in the southwest of England). During a stay in the latter city, she got in touch with BEAK> - Geoff Barrow’s band - who were looking for a singer. Their shared love of punk, dub and girl groups ensured they clicked instantly. In twelve days, they recorded their eponymous debut album, in one take and without overdubs. It included covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono and The Kinks. As she is completely under the wing of Portishead (she will also play at ATP later this month in London, curated by the band), we anticipate a special collaboration on stage.
Anna Calvi (Thursday, 14th July, FIB Club Stage)
Often compared to other dark ladies - such as Siouxsie and PJ Harvey - Anna Calvi is one of the biggest talents to come out of the UK in 2011. Her eponymous debut album is one of the best records of the year so far, produced by Rob Ellis (Polly Jean Harvey’s right hand man). She was the support act for Grinderman, which was quite something for the girl who declares herself an avid fan of all things Nick Cave. Calvi has the charisma of the big divas and her songs - though few - have great seductive powers. She is the new femme fatale of indie.
Arcade Fire (Sunday, 17th July, Maravillas Stage)
The best shaped band in the alternative rock scene? You’d better believe it. With a Grammy for “Best Album” ( “The Suburbs”) fresh under their belt, they are now - after three superb albums - commercially viable. Their live shows are a sure fire hit for those who like their music epic and with lots of generational anthems. Yes, they will play “Wake Up”, “No Cars Go” and “Rebellion: Lies”. While their normal tour - before the big festivals - is still fresh in our minds, we can’t wait to hear the opening sounds of “Ready To Start” again.
Arctic Monkeys (Saturday, 16th July, Maravillas Stage)
They are no longer the band of adolescents for adolescents. Arctic Monkeys abandoned their status as “great new hope for indie” a long time ago. Their recent “Suck It And See” shows them in the best shape of their career so far, uniting many of their facets: from the straightforward indie-rock of their origins to the precious compositions of the Last Shadow Puppets and the cave rock of the Josh Homme-produced “Humbug”. The whole of the UK is at their feet, they’re the Britons’ national pride: and rightly so.
Beirut (Saturday, 16th July, Fiberfib.com Stage)
It hurt when they cancelled their gig at FIB 2008 - but three years later Zach Condon will be performing in Benicàssim. Providing everything goes to plan, he will be introducing songs from “The Rip Tide” - his new album, due out by the end of August. What we’ve heard so far will appeal to the lovers of folk-pop - with baroque and orchestral arrangements alongside nods to Balkan music. The maker of songs such as “Nantes” and “Cliquott” is not officially a headliner - but the quality of his tracks lead us to consider him so.
Congotronics vs Rockers (Thursday, 14th July, Fiberfib.com Stage)
An extremely ambitious project, where the Congolese musicians of Konono Nº 1 and Kasai All Stars come face to face with indie bands Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Juana Molina and Skeletons (their recent album, “Tradi-mods vs Rockers”, also featured collaborations with Animal Collective, Shackleton and Andrew Bird, amongst others). A veritable feast of tradition vs modernity on the opening day - we can hardly ask for more.
Elbow (Friday, 15th July, Maravillas Stage)
Another of the great British bands, Elbow maintain a consistent career – possessing the great skill of crafting records that do not disappoint. Their recent “Build A Rocket Boys!” is the Manchester quintet’s visiting card for this year’s FIB. Led by Guy Garvey, they make deep, peaceful and very beautiful songs with the right amount of epic: British sophistication of the highest level.
Los Ginkas (Saturday, 16th July, FIB Club Stage)
Los Ginkas are a sextet from Pamplona, Spain and one of the great hopes of Spanish indie. Earlier this year they released “Retumbarama”, a record that invokes the spirit of nineties bubblegum pop bands - like Los Fresones Rebeldes and TCR – infused with touches of Buzzcocks-style punk. They take no prisoners, delivering great pop tunes with catchy choruses and sweet melodies. A perfect way to brighten up the afternoon.
Henry Saiz (Thursday, 14th July, Fiberfib.com Stage)
Maybe we haven’t noticed yet, but in Spain we have a great group of producers and DJs. Henry Saiz is one of them. In fact, the people behind the prestigious Balance Mix CD series (who have in the past released sets by the likes of Agoria, James Holden and Joris Voorn) featured him as number 19 in their latest episode. Now that he has earned the respect of the international community, his home country is also ready to receive him with honours. He’ll thank us by getting us going with tech-house and progressive sounds.
O Emperor (Friday, 15th July, FIB Club Stage)
Ever since Irishman Vince Power took over FIB, the festival has seen an increase in bands from Eire. O Emperor have already made waves in Spain - when they played Tanned Tin 2011, last January. Intricate arrangements, dreamy melodies and devastating lyrics - their folk-pop sounds close to the music of Grizzly Bear (as can be heard on several tracks from their debut album “Hither Thither”). It’s one of those bands - practically unknown in Spain - that we’ll have to keep an eye out for.
Portishead (Sunday, 17th July, Maravillas Stage)
Arguably any festival would love to have this band on their bill – they garner respect from all generations of music lovers. Having recently jumped back into action - after three years of inactivity on stage – they’ve apparently picked up where they left off, with the inclusion of the luxurious “Chase The Tear”. The last time they were in Spain, Public Enemy’s Chuck D got on stage to rap on “Machine Gun”. We don’t know if we’ll get surprises like that this time, but “We Carry On” alone makes a trip to the Spanish east coast worthwhile.
Primal Scream performing Screamadelica (Saturday, 16th July, Maravillas Stage)
They were one of the first confirmed bands and our bet is many a music veteran got their festival ticket because of them. Prior to 2004, the band had a bi-annual date with FIB - after seven years of absence, it’s high time for them to pay us another visit. The fact that they’ll be playing “Screamadelica”- the album that proved that rock and dance weren’t necessarily enemies – further stokes our excitement.
Spectrals (Saturday, 16th July, FIB Club Stage)
Spectrals is the moniker of Louis Jones, an artist with the looks of a post-adolescent nerd from a Greg Mottola film. For that alone he deserves our eternal respect - but the guy also delivers some pop gems in the vein of Phil Spector: imagine our joy! If you like Girls and Smith Westerns, this is your man. If you can, check out his “Extended Play” EP on Moshi Moshi Records.
Star Slinger (Saturday, 16th July, FIB Club Stage)
Star Slinger is Darren Williams, a young man from Manchester who loves to get out his beats and add some soulful vocals to them. Close to hypnagogic artists like Com Truise and Teengirl Fantasy, he is probably the most exciting electronic producer of the whole festival. He’s made several brilliant remixes of tracks by bands like Nicki Minaj, Deerhunter and Cocteau Twins – familiarise yourself with his set list by listening to his debut album “Volume 1”: a sampling treasure chest.
The Stranglers (Friday, 15th July, Fiberfib.com Stage)
What would FIB be without the usual dose of nostalgia, the dinosaurs of rock that add some weight to the line-up? Granted, The Stranglers are no Brian Wilson, Ray Davies or Leonard Cohen, but they’re one of the key figures of the late seventies and early eighties - when bands were finding their way to the borders of post-punk and new-wave. An unbeatable band, with over four decades of career behind them. Rest assured: all the hits that made them legendary will be played.
The Streets (Thursday, 14th July, Maravillas Stage)
Will this be the last time we see Mike Skinner? According to the man himself, “ Computers And Blues” is the last splash in the discography of The Streets. If it’s true, this gig will be the first performance you can’t afford to miss at the festival. We’ll be chanting “Turn left up the street / Nothing but grey concrete and dead beats / Grab something to eat / Maccy D's or KFC / Only one choice in the city” with tears in our eyes. We’ll say goodbye to him, thanking him for a decade of prodigious rhymes: one last day in the life of the geezers .
The Strokes (Friday, 15th July, Maravillas Stage)
There are those who believe The Strokes are back for real with the release of “Angles”, others think they’re still going downhill. Regardless, their first single - “Under Cover Of Darkness” - is an infectious tune that bands like Phoenix would kill for. Yes, of course they’ll play it, alongside anthems from their debut album “Is This It”. If you were moaning last year about only seeing Julian Casablancas, now you’ll have them all - and we’ll finally be able to verify whether the new songs are as good as the classics.
Tame Impala (Saturday, 16th July, Maravillas Stage)
Aussies Tame Impala were one of the revelations of last year. Their release “Innerspeaker” featured in the “best of 2010” lists of the most prestigious magazines - making this gig a must-see. Expect high levels of psychedelic rock, feedback and catchy melodies - “ I Don’t Really Mind” being a key example. As if the acid-ingesting Beatles were still alive and kicking.
Veronica Falls ( Sunday, 17th July, FIB Club Stage )
Though this band sounds American, they operate from London. Accordingly their sound moves between the summery surf-pop of bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, alongside the C86 of their home country. They released their first single - the crushing “Found Love In A Graveyard” - on Captured Tracks, which should be enough to capture your curiosity. Considering that track is from 2009, we anticipate they’ll be playing some songs from their upcoming debut album too - due out this autumn via Slumberland. PlayGround is a media partner of FIB
A few days before FIB 2011 - the oldest and most popular festival in the whole Mediterranean - kicks off, here are our recommendations for your route map. Featuring popular bands and upcoming artists who, provided the time schedules don’t clash too much, you should check out at Benicàssim.
Review: " Anna Calvi"
Review: " The Suburbs"
Review: " Suck It And See"
Review: " Build A Rocket Boys!"
Review: " Balance 019"
Review: " Angles"
Review: " Innerspeaker"