With Orbital, Madness, Magic Numbers

Murcia is near the infamous resort of Alicante and has been unfairly tarred with that trash-touristy brush over the years. In fact this is one of Spain’s fastest-growing cities, expanding rapidly outwards via countless plush new apartments and cutting-edge office blocks. Changing the international image of a city can be tough though, which is where this festival comes in. It’s a joint project between some ambitious Spanish promoters looking to do something different, and the local council, who are hoping to attract a different type of visitor by accentuating the city’s cultural qualities.

“The market was saturated, so it didn’t make sense just to do another music festival,” explains Albert Salmeron, the event’s musical director, as the second day begins. “The idea was to create a real new thing, a cultural thing. Of course the music is attracting 99, maybe 99.9 per-cent of people, but at the same time I think it’s unique, and it’s very successful. There was a link with the cultural dept of the regional government of Murcia, and we could get big support from them, because they were interested in doing something special. They are trying to do special things in Murcia, to put it on the map.”

It looks like Day Two will be a disastrous washout early on though: a truly spectacular storm hits the site with about a week’s worth of rain falling in under an hour. Official-looking blokes dash out of buildings to tell plugged-in bands to stop playing, the food stalls batten down the hatches, and the stages and concourses get absolutely flooded. It isn’t looking good.
A few hours later though, with the aid of many brush-wielding volunteers and the local fire service, the varied activities are up and running again. Elsewhere on the site there’s a full burlesque show – the long queue for which is full of furtive-looking young fellahs – a splendidly feelgood club area beside a paddling pool (plus deck chairs), and an old man on a poster-clad van shouting revolutionary slogans through a megaphone at the youthful passers-by. One of them gets up and joins him at one point and they holler at each other for a good few minutes. Thankfully the Spanish-speaking spectators look as confused as we are.

Musically it’s another mixed bag. We kick off with New Yorkers Nada Surf, who seem to have a fervent following in Spain if this singalong crowd are any indication. It’s all a bit lumpen but they do the between-song links in Spanish, as did Alex Kapranos the previous night, and bring the house down by announcing that their keyboard player is moonlighting from Calexico. It must be a full-on religious experience when the latter band hit town then.

The Bizarro gallery has some new exhibits today: dozens of knackered punters who’ve presumably been up all night, couldn’t be bothered trekking back to the campsite and have passed out on some wooden pallets instead. We venture in there again to avoid the Justin Lee-Collins of rock – Romeo Stodart and his fellow Magic Numbers – followed by Madness. The main stage is very hit-and-miss today, while the intriguingly-named local outfit we’d been looking forward to catching - Love of Lesbian - are also disappointingly dull, over on stage two. Meanwhile the man-on-a-van carefully places items of fruit on a miniature hob. Strangely hypnotic.

Things pick up. Orbital do their regular schtick on the main stage, including a surprisingly crowd-pleasing Doctor Who (Medico Que?) remix, watched thoughtfully backstage by Fatboy Slim, who’s on next and probably wishes he’d brought the Space 1999 theme with him. For the punter still looking for something a little different it’s over to stage two though, and Chris Cunningham’s audio-visual extravaganza.

The renowned video director is perhaps the perfect man to round off this event, as his set marries a couple of its strands: a range of musical styles illustrated by some rather challenging images, to put it mildly. By the time he gets to the penultimate track – screaming big-headed alien babies snorting coke and vomiting, plus ear-bleeding techno – the place has pretty much emptied, apart from a couple necking in the corner. Perhaps they’ve just hooked up, which would certainly be an interesting ‘how I met your mother’ story.

Actually Cunningham ends on a more romantic note, with Gil Scott Heron warbling tremulously over some nice shots of subway cars, this about 30 hours after Alondra Bentley had christened this stage with a sweet rendition of Bacharach’s ‘Trains, Boats and Planes.’ Daylight looms so clearly this is a sign to start the trek back to Blighty, volcano permitting. ‘Trains, Boats and Grounded Planes’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Words by Si Hawkins

Read a review of day one 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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