Review of Musical Acts at Spain’s Benicassim Festival

The Benicassim festival, which ran from Thursday, July 20th through Sunday, July 23, 2006, featured some great acts and performances that captured the spirit of the summer festival season. Three acts in particular raised their profile by playing Benicassim, including British rockers Mojave 3, prolific soloist Tom Verlaine, British band The Futureheads, and the Spanish band Sr. Mostaza. This review is based on viewing live versions of the concerts through MTV International but on research into fans’ reactions to the concerts in the days afterward.

The Benicassim festival grounds are located on the Costa del Azahar in Spain, providing a scenic music experience for the tens of thousands who attend. The bands that performed included Franz Ferdinand, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Strokes. The Benicassim Festival lasted four days and most of the concerts started in the late afternoon and ended early morning in order to keep fans and the bands cool during hot Spanish days. Benicassim has become a prominent European tourist location and a burgeoning festival for world music. Aside from scenery, there is plenty of shopping within walking distance of the grounds and great bathroom and bathing facilities.

Mojave 3

The British band Mojave 3’s recent performance at the Benicassim Festival in Spain demonstrated not only their precision as musicians but their popularity throughout Europe. The British group played an eleven song, one hour set on the Benicassim main stage Saturday, July 22nd, 2006, scheduled around such high profile acts as Morrissey and Franz Ferdinand. Fans of the Mojave 3 may have felt the set was too short to really get into Mojave’s entire repertoire, but those who crowded the main stage were treated to a great performance by the group.

To appreciate their Benicassim Festival performance and the band in general, it is important to understand the history of the band. The Mojave 3 formed first as the band Slowdive with current members Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Ian McCutcheon producing the record “Pygmalion.” However, their label, Creation, dropped them and the band reformed under the 4AD label after label executives heard demos that would soon form their 1996 release “Ask Me Tomorrow.” Four of the eleven songs on the Benicassim play list came off of their acclaimed 1998 album, “Out of Tune,” in which all five current members (additions were Alan Forrester and Simon Rowe) cemented their place as part of the alt rock-country elite.

The Benicassim Festival performance for the Mojave 3 only serves to promote their music in new outlets. Already popular in Germany and England, they have niche markets throughout Europe and North America and are well respected in their musical genre. With great live performances and excellent song craft on albums, Neil Halstead and the rest of the Mojave 3 will become a staple at this and many other festivals.

Tom Verlaine

Fans of the popular 1970s New York punk band Television were thrilled to see that lead singer/guitarist Tom Verlaine was playing the recent Benicassim Festival. Verlaine was touring the summer festival circuit in support of his newest albums, the well-written “Songs and Other Things” and the instrumental “Around” on his new label, Thrill Jockey. Verlaine has always had a cult following among the punk crowd and others interested in independent music and his set at Benicassim cemented his role as an underground legend in the music industry.

Tom Verlaine has had three decades of prolific song writing and recording to refine his punk rock sensibility. Taking his name from the French poet Verlaine, this future frontman started out as a classically trained pianist who was influenced by the music of the Rolling Stones and The Who. Verlaine formed the band Television with bassist Richard Hell, drummer Billy Ficca, and guitarist Richard Lloyd. They got off the ground quickly with the 1975 hit “Little Johnny Jewel” and spurred on a significant underground rock and punk during the 1970s. Television had two albums, “Marquee Moon” and “Adventure,” of varying quality and Verlaine went on to a successful solo career after the band’s 1978 break up.

Verlaine’s outstanding Benicassim performance was forged by two decades as a soloist and collaborator with such greats as Patti Smith and Jeff Buckley. Verlaine has had several hits on the international and American charts, including 1981’s “Dreamtime,” “Words from the Heart,” and “Cover.” For long time fans or those just realizing the great music of former Television frontman Tom Verlaine, the Benicassim Festival was a great performance.

The Futureheads

The Futureheads, one of the hottest bands on the charts at present, was one of the bands that played the Benicassim Festival main stage. The British band played among the likes of Morrissey, the Scissor Sisters, and Franz Ferdinand for a captive crowd in the tens of thousands. Their hour long set at Benicassim included several songs off of their newest album, “News and Tributes,” released in May 2006 and produced by Ben Hillier, who has produced albums for Blur and Depeche Mode.

Though fans of the Futureheads may think that the band came up in a meteoric rise from obscurity, the core members of the British group have been together for six years. After twelve CD releases and several British and American tours, the Futureheads have found success on the charts and on the festival circuit at sites like Leeds, Reading, and Benicassim. In support of their festival appearances and recording sessions has been their rigorous touring schedule with popular acts like the Kaiser Chefs, the Foo Fighters, the Pixies, and Oasis. The Futureheads’ collection, originally put out by Fantastic Plastic and now on 679 Recordings, includes over 250,000 albums sold and three top 25 singles over the last three years.

Despite sweltering heat, fans of groups like the Futureheads crowded into the beautiful Benicassim festival grounds to hear their favorite music. The rise of Benicassim as a premier European music festival is not only because of the beautiful coastal setting or the impeccable festival setting but because of top-flight acts like the Futureheads. In the future, the success of both the Benicassim Festival and the Futureheads will be determined by their successful relationship with one another.

Sr. Mostaza

The Spanish band Sr. Mostaza hit the 2006 Benicassim Festival in their homeland with guitars blazing. Their fiery hour long set at last weekend’s music festival included songs from their new and critically acclaimed album, “Mundo Interior.” The increase in Spanish-language media outlets in North America and Europe has seen a rise in bands like Sr. Mostaza, who bring a new flavor to the pop music genre.

Sr. Mostaza consists of band members Luis Prado, Alejandro Climent, Paco Tamarit, and Eduardo Olmedo. The music of Sr. Mostaza is considered by fans and critics to be enthusiastic, full of energy, and well constructed. Songs like “Necesito Mejorar” and “Mundo Interior” show their ability to craft music and perform in such a way that is incredibly entertaining to their audiences. Their excellent performance at Benicassim was forged in part by their experience in collaborating with musicians like The Flauters and Caballero Reynaldo.

For those who haven’t heard of Sr. Mostaza, their performance at Benicassim should act as a wake up call and get more fans to the Spanish band. In the minds of those who were already fans of the venerable group, this performance only galvanized their support. As the internet music community grows, so will the popularity of Spanish-language bands like Sr. Mostaza, who have come up through the music ranks to become a solid act in many countries. Fans need only hope that they stay active on the festival circuit and stay close to home with Benicassim and other festivals nearby.

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