Thursday eased us all in with a late start to proceedings in the sufferable humidity. Gypsies line the walk ways towards the main arena, selling everything from knocked-off merchandising, barbecued food stuffs and nocturnal aids to bolster the entertainment that was already on offer. Nada Surf, however, played Pied Piper to the oncoming crowd that entered around 9pm; arriving on the Escenario Verde (main) stage with the setting sun as a backdrop. With Martin Wenk of Calexico on keys, the American quartet entertain a crowd that perpetually grew in number throughout their enthusiastically received set of sovereign pop. With this being their fourth appearance at the festival, they pleased onlookers with the likes of ‘What Is Your Secret’, ‘Popular’, ‘I Like What You Say’, and ‘Inside Of Love’, along with their ability to address the minimal (in comparison to the British contingent) number of locals in their native tongue.
Night had set as the lights went up once again on the main stage, illuminating the dark, expansive sky as Icelander’s Sigur Rós filled the stage with their presence and poise. Jónsi Birgisson’s vocal falsetto set against the band’s ethereal orchestration fluttered beautifully into the eternal abyss that consume the sky to lachrymose effect. ‘Svefn-G-Englar’, ‘Gobbledigook’, ‘Takk’ and ‘Hoppípolla’ fluctuate with epic waves of glorious builds and solemn falls, every last note tangible to the souls that reverberated in time as flecks of confetti floated and flickered angelically upon and above a crowd embraced in a spiritual unity.
The mood is soon changed as Black Lips stumble on stage, spitting and brawling out a set of rambunctious tracks. Their fifth studio album, Good Bad Not Evil, is given a good airing to a crowd drunk on elation and generous metric measures at a dear cost. Many bounce – some shuffle elegantly – along to the garage-punk sounds of the carefree hits of ‘Oh, Katrina’, ‘Bad Kids’ and ‘Cold Hands’ that stutter through their decrepit equipment. Much of what they have produced is worn and labored, instruments clashing for broken air space. Most of what is played lacks variation and dynamics; but it is a performance that would arrest any party.
For those of us who managed to endure the heat, alcohol and party substitutes into the early hours – by 3am the venue appeared to be a war zone, casualties laying exposed through a comatose brought on by overindulgence – waited with an anticipation that could barely be contained by the small surroundings of Vodafone FIB Club tent. New York’s Battles were due to confuse and fascinate with their equation of experimental math rock and electo sorcery. They are intuitive throughout, seamlessly improvising an already very live sound with avant-garde audacity with loops are hooks that defy logic and consciousness. Amplifiers hum and pulsate as the ever altering rhythms and mantras as ‘Tras’, ‘Tonto’, ‘Mirrored’ and ‘Atlas’ whirl vociferously.
Sigur Ros performing at Benicassim: