Benicàssim is on a beach on Spain’s east coast. Should you go there, you will find yourself basking in the boiling heat, leaving the camp only to venture to said beach and, on the return journey, buy very cheap vodka to consume when you get back. This procedure is repeated eight times, with the exception that for the last four days, it is followed up with some world-class music.
This year Bob Dylan, The Stone Roses, and New Order topped the bill, although acts such as Dizzee Rascal, The Vaccines, Ed Sheeran, Chase & Status and David Guetta gave the nominal headliners a run for their money. So Benicàssim is both eclectic and populist, with the common factor at each act being the thousands of smashed English festivalgoers who consistently provided incredible amounts of energy, even if they rarely knew the words to the songs.
This meat-and-potatoes, Reading & Leeds-style approach could be seen as a downside, as could the fact that the weather prevents you from ever sleeping for more than two hours without waking up in a small puddle of your own sweat. Nonetheless, for those who like their indie music with a side order of Spanish island-style beaching and boozing, Benicàssim is the festival to head for come mid-July.
Sziget is heaven on earth. As subjective as such a belief is, it’s one shared by lots and lots of people and the festival, now in its 20th year, has in recent times won a load of European festival awards. Situated on an island in the river that flows through Hungary’s capital Budapest, Sziget is a massive, varied, sprawling metropolis, most comparable to Glastonbury in terms of UK festivals. This year you could bungee jump, discuss the meaning of life in a marquee built for that purpose, get off your face in a rave tent, watch a demonstration by the Hungarian army, and see The Killers absolutely ignite the main stage, all within a square mile.
The music doesn’t really need mentioning, but acts like Placebo, The xx, Snoop Dogg, Sum 41 and The Pogues (as well as hundreds of others) kept things varied and ensured that, if the festival’s myriad other attractions weren’t enough, there was something for everyone in the evening. Plus, the prices are so cheap (£2.50 for a bottle of vodka anyone?) that the plane ticket pays for itself. If variety of music and experience is your thing then head to Budapest next year; I know I will.
As anyone who’s been to Reading or its northern equivalent Leeds will know, this is a festival which is much more about the music than anything else. Well, anything else except drinking. With nothing to do until the acts kick off on Friday afternoon, and often very little to do afterwards, Reading largely consists of sitting in a circle, downing cans of Foster’s and shouting at strangers. Depressing for many, but if you’re into your rock then there’s a lot more to look forward to than having a drunk seventeen year-old piss on your tent whilst screaming “Alan” at his mates.
This year The Cure gave a mesmerising performance to finish off a Friday that had seen indie acts interweaved with heavier stuff throughout. The main stage on Saturday was more mainstream, with Florence wedged between Kasabian and The Vaccines, although the dance stage proved a bit more edgy (there’s nothing like seeing a chair fly over your head during Azealia Banks’ “212”). Sunday was pure rock ‘n’ roll, The Foos following The Black Keys with a performance that is already becoming legendary. Reading is still Reading then, its lineup of huge acts matched only by its copious supplies of lager and aggressive teenagers.
A perfect combination of the musical pedigree of Glasto and Reading with the extra-curricular eccentricity of Secret Garden Party. New Order were great, especially the Joy Division encore, and Stevie Wonder was a great crowd-pleaser. But Bestival is a tale of two halves. Once the headliners are done half the crowd goes to bed. The other half embarks on a voyage through the early hours, as Oneman, Congo Natty and Orbital smash out the cobwebs. And if you fancy a chill why not have a rest in the Ambient Forest, or trip balls at the Wall of Bunny Rabbits in the Slumber Hotel?
Bestival’s only downside is that it’s on the Isle of Wight. No one ever goes there apart from for festivals, hence the six hour queue either way for the Southampton-East Cowes ferry. But once you’re there the queues are suddenly worth it as you stand at the top of the hill by the main entrance. A sea of hedonism lies below, stretching across this nondescript island. Certainly worth it, and the best festival I’ve been to.
The weather was shit, the police were suspicious to the extent of being offensive, and there was little to do in the day other than get wasted. That pretty much summed up Creamfields this year.
The music that was on offer, before adverse weather closed the festival half way through, was great. On the Saturday night, shunning Avicii and David Guetta, I indulged in a Deep House double of Scuba and Maya Jane Coles, and I was not left disappointed. These are truly two of the best live DJs in the world at the moment. Unfortunately though, there’s nothing non-musical to do at Creamfields, a problem as everyone needs a time-out from Bass Music every now and then. Coupled with a heightened police presence this year this was a real problem.
For many people Creamfields is just a place to get wrecked. With nothing to offer other than a few camp-sites and a couple of stages it relies on drugs for atmosphere, so even if you’re not taking them it’s a problem if they’re not there. It was a good job that all ticket-holders got a partial refund after the weather stopped play, because even if we’d had sunny skies I still would have wanted some money back.
Rock en Seine:
After leaving other European festivals somewhat disenchanted with their cultural and aesthetic qualities beyond the main line-up, (ahem, Benicàssim), I was expecting to find a few stages and a half-baked food area plonked on a concrete car park when I bought my Rock en Seine ticket.
With a plethora of multi-national cuisine options, exhibits of up–and-coming Parisian artists, a ‘Cirque de fantaisies’ and various light installations however, this wooded area in the Bois de Boulogne (on the outskirts of Paris) actually provided a fairy ring of urban delights. There were even pop-up bistros for any français too obstinate to go without a glass of red.
The headliners were inconsistent- Placebo (repetitive), The Black Keys (incredible), and Green Day (went out to the city instead) – but for a 3 day pass costing about £90 I was generally very pleased, especially after enjoyable sets from Bloc Party, Noel Gallagher and Caravan Palace. The whole set-up is also a lot more environmentally friendly than other mainstream festivals, too; portaloos and plastic cups are substituted for cardboard long-drops and reusable tumblers.
Not a place to commit successive all-nighters and head home half-dead with liver damage, for me Rock en Seine was best interpreted as a brilliant addition to a very civilised bank holiday weekend in Paris.