Spain might well be Europe’s new festival Mecca. Since the onset of el crisis and troubles with employment, scores of them have been springing up with some degree of purpose. It makes sense then that people need cheering up, and providing a summer crammed with as many music festivals as possible is probably a sensible way of going about it.
SOS 4.8, though palpably smaller than the likes of FIB and Primavera Sound, is no less significant. The two-dayer, held in Murcia, marks the beginning of Spain’s festival season, and is thus anticipated with uncontainable gusto. Evidence of that when Clash finally rolls in on a crisp Friday afternoon is compelling enough…
The curiously named Kakkmaddafakka have just thrashed out the first of their pop-rock refrains to the delight of a keyed up crowd on the main stage. The band’s display of energy is the perfect way to kick things off, and does well to allay the harrowing discovery that a large beer costs €7.50.
Legs in need of a rest, it’s time to settle down for The xx’s headlining set. The band stand motionless behind thick clouds of smoke, delivering tight harmonies and expertly measured rhythms throughout. ‘Intro’ receives the biggest roar of the night by a long stretch.
At 00.45 there are still three acts to go – this is normally going out time in Spain mind – and it’s the turn of Bloc Party, a band who by now should be experts on festival fundamentals. So it comes as a surprise when the first half of their set leans heavily on new material that thousands of Spanish people who just turned up to watch ‘Helicopter’ are familiar with. Eventually the better known tracks are played, beginning with an emphatic, rolling rendition of ‘Song For Clay’ into ‘Banquet’.
“How’re we doing at the front?” Kele yells in the latter stages. A slightly tamer than expected cheer goes up.
“Great! And how about in the VIP section?”
“Nobody understands…” his voice trails off as he steps away from the mic. He’s right, but nobody really cares much either. Moments later, the opening riff to ‘Helicopter’ rings out. They understand that.
Next up Jamie xx of – you’ve guessed it – The xx, is stirring up a gumbo of electronically broiled xx hits among other electro house smashers. The crowd abounds with swaying bodies - some in time to the beat, some due to extreme insobriety, and others because their legs are simply no longer able to take the weight. It is 6am after all.
As we make our way in on Saturday, the streets teem with punters who, between them, appear to have bought and consumed the entire alcohol supply of a giant, nearby supermarket. The police don’t bat an eyelid, this is allowed in Spain. Security checks at the main entrance are similarly lax, with people managing to smuggle in self-made concoctions by the two-litre bottle. At least we’ll know for next time.
Inside, the main stage is lit up by M83, whose resonant and spine-tingling keyboards stir the crowd into a union of adulation. Anthony Gonzalez tries his best to pronounce "Murcia" correctly several times but doesn’t quite get it right. It doesn’t matter though. Before long, ‘Reunion’ and ‘Midnight City’ are belted out, prompting rapturous sing-alongs and gleeful smiles all round.
Justice are back on festival duty this year, and by now they’ve a pretty clear idea of what is expected of them. As soon as the first beat drops, the crowd unite, bouncing as one right to the very end. ‘Phantom Pt. II’ and ‘We Are Your Friends’ provide a typically fierce climax, which leads rather nicely into an equally rollicking set from French electroclasher Vitalic. Standout track of his latest opus, ‘Stamina’, goes down particularly well, but as the show draws to a close it is just that that we seem to have completely run out of.
Spain’s economy might be in crisis, but if SOS is anything to go by its aptitude for putting on a festival isn’t. Every cloud.
Words and photo: Josh Taylor
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