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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Cool nights at Spain's hot festival
By Ian Youngs
BBC News, Benicassim, eastern Spain

Benicassim beach
Benicassim's beach was a major draw until the music began
Spain's Benicassim festival, which played host to the Pixies, Scissor Sisters and Depeche Mode at the weekend, is one of Europe's hottest festivals - in more ways than one.

At the train station, two figures are curled up in a doorway.

Further into town, three more lie spent in the entrance of a closed clothes shop.

In front of the sports centre and the church, and anywhere else offering shade, small groups shelter from the sun, desperate for somewhere to recover from the exertions of the night before and prepare for those ahead.

The sun is one of the main reasons for coming to Benicassim - but in mid-afternoon, to hide from it is the only option.

At this weekend's Festival Internacional de Benicassim, that meant the music did not begin until 1630, with the first act on the main stage at 2100.

The entertainment continued well into the next morning, with music going until 0800.

Shady siesta

So by the time the most spirited souls made it to bed, the sun was already starting to bake their tents again - making a shady siesta a top priority.

Most fans abandoned the canvas during the day, leaving the sweltering campsites empty and quiet except for the few with shelters - and the constantly chattering insects.

Cold outdoor showers in the campsites helped keep the heat at bay - and highlighted some cultural differences between nationalities.

Benicassim fans

Spanish men had no qualms about baring all in the unisex al fresco washrooms - but most British blokes preferred to retain their trunks.

On the beach, meanwhile, Spanish women could be identified by their apparent disdain for upper body clothing.

With the music not starting until the evening, the beach was the daytime destination for most festival-goers.

The long stretch of scorching sand may have been a bit of a trek from the campsites - but few festivals can offer a diversion as inviting as the Mediterranean.

Cold showers

With so much spare time to spend under a parasol or in the sea, the weekend felt as much like a beach holiday as a music festival.

And those cold showers came in handy when trying to get rid of the Benicassim body lotion - equal parts sweat, sea water, sun cream and sand.

The campsites were equipped with rows of outdoor unisex showers
The town itself would be unremarkable if it were not for its beach and its new-found fame as host to some of the world's biggest bands.

The festival takes over Benicassim for five days. But because the town effectively becomes part of the festival, it can become engulfed by its temporary inhabitants.

Every cashpoint had a constant queue, the pavement cafes were often packed and restaurants struggled to keep up with demand. Many only offered a slimmed-down festival menu to make the job easier.

But when the sun faded, the fans started to make their way to the festival arena.

Compact festival

The compact site is no bigger than strictly necessary to fit in the fans and four stages.

That made it very easy to get around, but there was not much else to do if the music did not turn you on.

One popular pastime was standing in front of four large electric fans that had tubes blowing water into the air, while the tent housing the second stage - which turned into the dance tent after 2100 - cooled the crowd with a fine water spray from the roof.

Water-spraying electric fans kept people cool

The smaller stages attracted acts like Babyshambles, Rufus Wainwright, the Editors and The Ordinary Boys - as well as bands from Spain and elsewhere.

On the main Green Stage, all the stars were from the UK or US, with the Pixies, Scissor Sisters, Depeche Mode and Franz Ferdinand all getting particularly frenzied receptions.

The Pixies' set on Friday even had to be stopped for half an hour when one of the barriers in front of the stage started to buckle.

Maybe the local crowd was so enthusiastic because such global stars only come to town once a year. And perhaps the international contingent appreciated it more because they had made the extra effort to be there.

Or maybe they were just raring to go after a day on the beach and a siesta in the shade.

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