Alpha Phase: Summercase & Barcelona

This year I was joined by Dan & Rich on our annual jaunt to Benicassim, as well as the FIB festival we also planned to go to the Summercase festival in Barcelona which was happening on the weekend before FIB.

Dan & Rich were already in Barcelona when I met them outside a bar in the Placa Catalyuna. Richard was still in shock from a vicious attack on his legs by a giant cockroach which he had, luckily, eventually managed to fight off and destroy. Bits of it were still scattered around underneath the table.

We had planned to spend our time in Barcelona in a nice apartment to prepare ourselves for the weeks camping in Benicassim. Our original apartment had fallen through, or fallen down or something, so to begin with we found ourselves, via a few bars and an extremely busy underground club, in our replacement apartment which had several beds, two large fans and very little else.

Later on Dan discovered that the fans have hitherto unknown voice modulation properties but to start with they just provided something to fight over to combat the immense heat of the room.

The next day we spent exploring the Sagrada Familia, Dan & I walked there whilst Richard decided he was going to get the metro and meet us there. In the event he got the metro and spent the rest of the afternoon guzzling lobsters and drinking in a nearby cafe.

The cathedral was a little hard to find but we eventually arrived by a more or less direct route and queued to get the lift up to the top of the tower. The view from here was great and you could get a close up view of the interesting building methods being used to construct the cathedral. An example of this is the use of broken bottles in the mosaics, the fact they are broken bottles is not visible from the ground until you get right up close to them and see the advertising slogans still visible on some of them.

Having somehow managed to lose Dan on a single track spiral staircase I had a wander around the museum underneath the cathedral and eventually when he was showing no signs of appearing anywhere left to find Richard who I had guessed would not be too far away in some cafe. Eventually Dan found us too, although if we hadn’t shouted at him he’d probably be still wandering around aimlessly even today.

We spent a pleasant evening on the beach with some bottles of lager watching the sun set and the boats navigating their way into the harbour by Port Olympic. The talk once more turned to sandwiches and Richards endless litany of people whom he is in love with, we mercilessly bullied him on this subject and made up countless lies and slanders which we would later claim he had spoken entirely himself unprompted by anyone. This at least is how Richard subsequently remembered the evening.

The peace of the evening was rudely shattered by a couple of itinerant bongo players who chose a spot not 20 yards from us, on the totally empty 3 mile stretch of beach. Loud tuneless banging soon commenced. I suspected they had come so close in order to fill Richards sandwich for him but in the event were too nervous for the final insertion or perhaps they just couldn’t decide between them who should have the honors, or who fancied him most.

The bongo playing was obviously a harbinger of a horrible doom since we presently ran out of beer and set out for an area called Port Olympic. Both Dan and Richard assured me that it was great and that I would love it there but some haunting look of horror in their eyes belied their confident words and I grew afraid.

Before I could cry “Oh No ! God No ! The horror !” and slash my throat we found ourselves in a large mostly empty bar in which a couple of girls confined in hutches were dancing without many clothes on. Middle aged men were jerking around in an awkward parody of the girls gyrations in the centre of the dance floor attempting to use the dry ice as cover for their embarrassing displays. The music policy dictated only 1980’s smash hits could be played at deafening volume and only nasty lager could be sold at vastly inflated prices.

Every bar was the same, two bars both played “I’m Walking On Sunshine ! Whoa Oh ! Don’t it feel . . . . pause” where the pause was designed to enable the audience to yell “Good !”, in both bars the middle aged men were so intent on the young girls in hutches the only sound during the pause was our weeping and their slobbering.

We became drunk. A mechanically gyrating girl in a leopard skin bikini was dripping sweat into our watered down lager from the bar above us. Lurching into view, out of the dry ice, were middle aged men with expensive watches who had formed up in a badly co-ordinated, slobbering, conga line fixated on the fat hips of a drunk office administrator staggering through the vomit and sticky lager soaked furniture towards the waxy neon sign for the toilet.

The barman leered at us once again as the dancer adjusted her position at her pole, only her expression was immobile as she writhed on behind us.

The next day we moved apartments to a much nicer place with proper air conditioning and a small kitchen, it was the perfect base to experience Summercase from and we were looking forward to it with some excitement.

We ate and drank Cava and somehow it had become quite late so we left our little apartment for our first experience of Summercase. Or at least we were trying to leave but Richard was managing to find one thousand and one things to do to hold us up before we left. Finally we made it out of the apartment, only to wait for Richard to climb, slowly, all the way back up the stairs to retrieve some beard wax or something he’d left behind.

Summercase was held in the Bareclona Olympic Forum which is a gigantic concrete space near the beach. It is really vast, dotted with strangely half complete looking not quite buildings on a huge scale.

In between the building/sculptures are the 3 stages, main amphitheater and tens of thousands of people marooned in the concrete vastness surrounding them. Each stage forms a sort of island around which the people are congregating separated from the other islands by acres of windswept concrete. We notice not many people are congregating around the beer tents and head immediately to get a drink. We then notice why there are not many at the beer tents, it is because before you can buy anything to drink you need to buy the correct tickets.

There are three kinds of tickets available, food, water and beer tickets and these are purchased from little booths. Each little booth has a gigantic queue of people waiting by it, we have no choice but to queue up and wait our turn. It takes a while. Choosing the type of ticket we want is simple, beer tickets – 90 Euros worth please. The cashier is stunned and cannot believe 3 of us will drink 90 Euros worth of beer in one night. We set out to prove her wrong.

Belle & Sebastian were playing in the amphitheater so we went to check them out. The amphitheater is amazing, it’s very large with plenty of seating around the edges to chill out on and get a perfect view of the band. Belle & Sebastian were just finishing there set so we didn’t really get to see much of them. Next was the Super Furry Animals, we just missed them doing the thing with the weird masks but they were OK and perhaps more importantly provided a good opportunity to drink lots without having to dance about or anything energetic.

Sigur Ros were even more relaxing and provided an excellent opportunity to drink some spirits along with some more lager, Richard wasn’t too keen on Sigur Ros and dragged us off to find something else to watch, there was nothing else so we went back to see the end whilst Richard wandered off elsewhere. The last bit was amazing, they had a big translucent screen which came down between the audience and the band upon which the bands shadows were cast, the effect was of huge black shadows looming ominously over the audience. This all suited the music perfectly and it was brilliant.

After Sigur Ros the order of events becomes a little confused, at some point Richard turned back up with some kind of white powder which he assured me was sugar.

I watched Daft Punk with Dan, they had a giant glowing pyramid which they were perched on top off dressed in space suits. The pyramid produced a stunning light show and the music was pretty good. I wasn’t as impressed by Daft Punk as everyone else seemed to be.

I watched Massive Attack on my own from the steps around the amphitheater, they weren’t very impressive at all. Dan, Rich & I all danced along to Fat Boy Slim who seemed himself content to just sit next to his decks swinging his legs and yelling things.

Towards the dawn we were all dancing to Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones in one of the smaller tents, this was much more my style. Richard was offered a T-Shirt swap by a 2ft tall Spanish Primal Scream fan but, probably luckily for her, he refused. Soon it was light, the music had stopped and it was time to go home.

Since it was already light we walked back home down the beach, Richard was feeling a bit hot so we didn’t seem to be able to walk much more than twenty yards before we had to have a twenty minute break. This was fine and left plenty of time to appreciate the full beauty of the dawn, the beach and the sun.

The only fly in the ointment was a lack of cigarettes and nowhere open to sell me any. Eventually Dan & I got bored of waiting for Richard and left him dwindling in our wake as we headed back into town toward the apartment.

Shops were beginning to open but sadly not ones which sold cigarettes.

Back at the apartment I was feeling restless and no amount of ice cold orange juice was making up for a lack of cigarettes, Richard arrived back and cautioned against venturing outside since, he said, there seemed to be a huge undercover police surveillance operation directed against him. Several police cars had been noticed lurking suspiciously or driving slowly in his vicinity. I had nothing to hide and no fear of the law so headed out with a clear conscience and a clear head in search of cigarettes.

In the end I had a very pleasant morning stroll through cafes and coffee shops watching the city waking up, I found my cigarettes and eventually found myself back at the apartment where I fell instantly into the deep, wholesome sleep of the righteous.

Upon awaking Richard & I had a brief wander out to sit in a nearby cafe and drink coffee, this was nice. A wedding was taking place in the church behind us and the little square was full of beautiful people enjoying the sunshine.

Dan wanted to get to Summercase reasonably early so he could watch The Dandy Warhols. Everytime I have seen them they have been worse than the time before so I arranged to meet them later and had a little rest until around 9ish.

Surprisingly I found them in the amphitheater almost immediately, not bad considering there must have been thousands of other people there too, Dan’s silly hair helped out a lot though. We watched some of The Happy Mondays who sounded pretty good but then left to see what New Order were like.

Richard & Dan spent some time moaning about how old the band looked and headed back to watch the rest of the Mondays but I held out hope that New Order would improve and headed off to the bar to ensure I would be properly drunk by the time they did.

It took three more visits to the bar for more whisky before they announced that that was enough of the guitary bit of their set and now they were going to get energetic. From this point on they were amazing, Temptation was awesome and the part of the audience I was in were loving it. They did a fantastic version of Love Will Tear Us Apart ( Come On ! ) to end the set which the audience then carried on singing for a good 5 minutes before they came back to do an encore of Blue Monday and other stuff. I was really impressed but it later turned out that Dan & Richard had come back for Love Will Tear Us Apart ( Come On ! ) and hadn’t been quite as impressed as me. Nonetheless New Order were probably the best band I saw during this holiday.

After the high of New Order I went over to the amphitheater to see what Primal Scream were doing. Every time I see Primal Scream they are utterly shit so I was curious to see whether they could avoid this here. Although they weren’t quite as atrocious as they can be they weren’t that interesting either. I just sat in the amphitheater and drank some more. Dan, who was nearer the front, says that Bobby Gillespie spent some time getting his cock out and waving it around at the audience and left the stage with his trousers down. Now that is rock and roll.

I then met up with Dan and we in turn met up with Rich on his way to see the Chemical Brothers. Only one chemical brother appeared to be playing and the audience seemed to be comprised of large sweating men with their tops off jumping up and down all around me.

Dan & Rich whipped their tops off and joined in enthusiastically but I decided that dance music is in the main a bag of shit and waited to see if it would get any better. It didn’t. I left to have a look around at the other stages, not a lot else seemed to be going on so I decided to head back home.

Not having any money left for a taxi and being too tired to walk back down the beach I was wondering what to do. I saw a bus which seemed to be free to get on so I got on it in the hope it might drop me back in the centre of town or somewhere near the apartment.

Eventually it dropped me in the Placa Catalunya, although it took a good hour to get there and was stopped at every red light on the way.

It still took me a good while to walk back from the Placa Catalunya and by now I had developed a horrible hangover and a headache so I just crashed out on the settee. Shortly after this Dan arrived back and said a nasty man unsuccessfully mugged him by accosting him on the beach and asking to take his bag from him. Dan said “NO!” and the man went off.

Later on still Richard arrived back and was going on and on about something or other but I ignored this rude disruption to my sleep and eventually he went away.

The next day we all headed for the beach to basically laze around and rest up for the next phase of the holiday in Benicassim. After the beach we ate in the all you can eat cafe and had an early night retiring before midnight. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep and had to read my book until 2 or 3AM before I felt sufficiently tired to sleep.

We made the train in good time the next day, it was delayed anyway so we sat around and watched the platform fill up with thousands upon thousands of English festival goers.

Benicassim – Final Morning

Rich woke me at some point in the morning to hand over various items for which I was ( sleepily ) very grateful and said his farewells before heading off to begin his journey back to Kidderminister.

A while later I summoned up the energy to poke my head out of the tent and was greeted by a site which really announced the end of the festival festivities – where Rich and Tim & Gemmas tents had been there was now a big gap opening up a view of desolation of half dismantled tents, tired people and the detritus of 8 days camping. Coupled with a bit of a hangover and my general morning grumpiness it struck me as all being quite depressing.

Packing up and taking down the tents seemed to take a lifetime but during the process I began to cheer up with the thought of the next stage of the holiday in Barcelona, after a lovely cold shower and a lifesaving iced coffee courtesy of Dan I was feeling much happier and ready to go and find the car and head off on the next adventure.