If there’s one thing that Spain knows how to run well, it’s a festival.
Last weekend, I went to SOS 4.8 festival in Murcia. It was my first trip to Murcia, and my fourth – and largest – festival so far here in Spain. Headlining the event were The xx, Bloc Party, M83 and Justice – four class acts that by chance I’d seen play live the year before at Open’er Festival in Poland. Normally, a lineup identical to one at a festival I’d recently attended wouldn’t seduce me so easily, but as I said, these are class acts, and I really, really love festivals.
At €35 for ‘el abono’, SOS is/was an absolute bargain. As it transpired, I ended up paying €55 as I had foolishly waited for a press accreditation destined for rejection until the week before the event. I didn’t care though; I was going, my mates from the UK were going and a sh*t load of booze was going too.
I also made huge savings on transport and accommodation: My ride to Murcia came thanks to carshare website amovens.com – I paid just €15 to get there and was regaled with army stories from my militant driver the whole way (actually enjoyable, honest), and I stayed in an unofficial but nearby campsite where a tent had already been provided for me, at the cost of €50…
With a capacity of around 20,000 and still plenty of elbow space, SOS is/was also the perfect size. I rarely had to queue for more than five minutes either for the toilet or bar, though this may have had more to do with the fact that drink prices had been hiked to the unashamedly ludicrous for the weekend– €7.50 for a large beer anyone? Thought not. But at festivals it’s effectively inescapable, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who manage to smuggle a premixed 2-litre bottle of God knows what in owing to the slipshod security – I even saw one lad pull a mini keg of Heineken from his backpack once inside…
I suppose I better say something about the music then.
We arrived on Friday to the poprock sound of the peculiarly named Kakkmaddafakka. Until I actually saw the band’s name written down I’d genuinely thought that it had been a proper English word terribly mispronounced by Spanish speakers. Though all their songs were lost on me, they still provoked us into jumping around like morons.
The xx’s headlining set was up next. Lots of people go on about how the band’s melancholic sound doesn’t really work for festivals; that if you close your eyes you may as well be listening to your iPod on maximum volume etc.
Bollocks to that.
They are masters at what they do, and frankly if they attempted to jazz things up a bit with a quicker tempo I’m not sure anyone would like the outcome very much. Thankfully, they didn’t, and instead treated us to a wave of hits from both albums, all as moody and docile as we had readily anticipated. ‘Intro’ and ‘Crystalised’ stood out for me.
Shortly afterwards we were watching festival heavyweights Bloc Party waltz onto stage. With four albums to their name, there would certainly be no shortage of material, but disappointingly they did lean heavily on much of the newer stuff throughout the first half the set, which is always annoying at festivals. Eventually our patience was rewarded though, with a stream of classics headed with a rolling rendition of ‘Song For Clay’ and ‘Banquet’. Much better!
At various intervals lead singer Kele Okreke attempted to interact with his audience but his sentiments often fell on deaf ears:
“How’s everybody doing at the front!?”
A wee cheer is barely audible.
“And what about you lot in the VIP section?”
The crickets seemed to chirp in agreement at least.
After sidestepping our way through and partially joining in with the mother of all botellones outside the festival grounds on Saturday afternoon, we arrived in time for the latter half of Granada’s very own Lori Meyers. Spanish people were absolutely loving it; I wasn’t so convinced. Possibly because I didn’t know the words, or maybe it was due to my being dragged to the front where about 90% of the crowd looked about the same age as my teenage students. At 25 years old and 6ft 3”, I stood out like a sore thumb.
The first indulgence of the night came in the form of French ‘shoegazers’ M83, who, for all their years of grafting in the music-making business, have only become acquainted with large-scale festivals in recent times. Their breakthrough – and my favourite – album ‘Saturdays = youth’ won them deserved critical acclaim and the follow up ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ was one of the bestselling albums of 2012. Suddenly, the front wasn’t such a bad place to be after all, as massive tracks ‘Reunion’, ‘We Are The Sky’ and the defining ‘Midnight City’ were belted out for all to sing and spring along to. It was the performance of the weekend.
Later, the French takeover continued as Justice settled in to their pounding electro set packed with epic synths and explosive drops. The festival had officially turned hardcore. Following that, Vitalic, also from France, took to the stage to ensure that the mayhem continued and threw down yet another barrage of jarring electronica seemingly loud enough to break the sound barrier.
At 6am, we conceded that it was time to be getting back – my friends to their four star hotel rooms; I to my diminutive, freezing cold tent, which quite frankly may as well have been a bed of nails. Can’t complain really though. SOS was just about the cheapest, proper music festival I’ve ever been to, yet easily one of the best and undoubtedly my best ever in Spain. Now let’s see if Territorios Sevilla has what it takes to change that next week…