With Franz Ferdinand, The Horrors, Crystal Castles
SOS 4.8 Festival: Day One with Franz Ferdinand

In an odd art gallery in south-eastern Spain, where colourful, playful, interactive exhibits rub shoulders with installations of women breastfeeding lambs, a legendary Spanish author is about to be upstaged. 77 year-old Fernando Arrabel has a Rioja in hand, a few snappers in attendance and a youthful audience hanging on his every word, until the arrival of a few notable latecomers.

It’s Franz Ferdinand, interrupting preparations for the final show of their lengthy tour to stop off and soak up a bit of culture. Franz have always done the tour thing a little differently than your average ‘fly in, play the show, fly out’ types – remember Alex’s on-the-road food column in The Guardian? – and they’ve found something of a spiritual home here in the city of Murcia, as SOS 4.8 is a very different type of festival.

Most music fests include a bit of comedy or spoken word, but this is a proper three-way event, divvied up into Music, Art and Voices. The art part is a proper gallery show called Bizarro, which is pretty bloody disturbing in places, while the highbrow voices can be heard at a full-on conference about music, art and the environment, with headphone-based translators and everything. Both are particularly handy when the legs grow weary or the weather changes - and when it changes here, it’s pretty spectacular. More of that in day two.

The music, meanwhile, is a well thought-out mix of big-but-brainy headliners, edgier crossover types and a varied selection of popular-in-Spain acts. The first of these we catch was actually born in Lancaster: folk singer Alondra Bentley is now based in Murcia and has made quite a splash, despite singing in English and naming her album after the street she was brought up in, ‘Ashfield Avenue.’ So how’s the scene here?

“Spain doesn’t have a singer songwriter tradition like UK or USA, but just recently this kind of music has started to get a very good reception,” she says, post-gig, “it’s really popular at the moment. This last year has been crazy, I’ve been playing non-stop...”

Bentley’s jaunty, banjo and double bass-backed ditties echo pleasantly across the site for about 15 minutes, until she’s drowned out by a much louder outfit called The Sunday Drivers on the main arena. They don’t bother staggering the two big outdoor stages so while it’s fine if you get close enough to each, a bit further back and you’re in the midst of an almighty soundclash. Or perhaps that’s the idea.

There are a good few British bands on the bill and generally speaking they’ve booked cerebral, bookish types: the ones who’d have their school lunch money stolen every day, basically. Not that there are many similarities. The Horrors’ big, dark ominous noise thing (plus occasional Marc Almond-isms from Faris) is on a bit early for maximum effect, in truth, while the Chip retain an endearing whiff of school band as they rattle through ramshackle versions of their enormous hook-laden hits. This being a 48-hour non-stop festival in siesta-land, the Chip set doesn’t kick off until around 2.30am. Way past their bedtimes, surely.

Crystal Castles and Franz Ferdinand have another enjoyable soundclash at around midnight, Franz attracting the sort of crowd you’d imagine for the final leg of their 18-month tour (they look blissfully shattered at the end), while Alice Glass’s crazy strobe antics have a rammed-in second-stage audience staring on open-mouthed, as is often the case. This stage will be the site of more mayhem the following day, some planned, some literally out of the blue.

The most bewildering moment of day one occurs in the festival’s most sedate venue, however. Every year the programmers put on one (free) ticketed concert at a large indoor, sit-down arena, which is a nice touch, and this time it’s Tindersticks. A fine band they are too, although always very much a cult concern, so you wonder how enthused the Murcians will be about them.

Very enthused, it turns out. Honestly, you’ve never seen anything like it – manic clapping as soon as the first few bars of any vaguely recognisable tune begins, even berserker applause afterwards, while a bald bloke in the front row appears to actually achieve orgasm on the hour mark. By the encore most of the audience are up and dancing wildly. To Tindersticks. Extraordinary.

Words by Si Hawkins

Read a review of day two at the SOS 4.8 Festival HERE.

View a photo Gallery from the SOS 4.8 Festival on ClashMusic.com HERE.

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