For the past three years, the music lovers of Spain have turned their rhythm-loving hearts toward Benidorm in February for an event called Benidormfest. This, year, we were able to go with some friends, and had a great time!

What is Benidormfest? Well, to answer that question, you have to know a little something about the annual Eurovision Song competition. Eurovision is an enormous music event that brings together the best musical and performance acts selected by the members of the Eurovision community. While originally only in Europe, other countries have also joined the European Broadcasting Union, and have elected to compete.

Every participating country has its own methods for selecting their “champion” to go to the finals, and there are multiple rounds of competitors and eliminations. In Spain, the final selection was eight songs/performers/acts. At Benidormfest, the finalists performed live, and then the voting begins.

A panel of judges provides one round of voting, including other musicians and producers. The remaining votes come from a public vote, which is called in by the festival watchers throughout the country (and beyond, I suppose!). After all groups perform, there is a period of time where voting lines are opened and people select their favorite performer or group.

This year, the acts were quite interesting. There were various styles of artists, including flamenco, pop, dance songs, and ballads. Each song packaged lyrics and performance styles in a powerful combination of pop art. I was impressed by the variety of music, but really, I shouldn’t be too impressed. Spain’s musical history is legendary, and embedded deeply in the culture.

(Completely off-topic note related to music culture in Spain: We were with a group of friends for an afternoon, and the topic turned to the local songs for different towns and regions. They asked us to sing our local state or town songs, and we pointed out that we don’t have those in the US. Our friends thought we were just trying be coy and not sing, but finally realized that we have nothing like that in the US. They thought NOT having a local song was weird, while we thought that having a town song or anthem was definitely unusual. We felt very foreign.)

In December or January, a friend invited us to join a group going to Benidormfest. Without knowing any of the details or really any of the friends participating, we said yes. Little by little, the plans emerged. While we would not be attending in the performance venue because Benidormfest tickets are very hard to purchase, we would watch from a city plaza that had a projection stage set up to watch the competition in real time.

Thousands of people had the same idea. We were luckily able to get to the plaza early enough to see the screen and secure a spot to stand as a group. The crowd was rowdy, enthusiastic, and many were dressed to show support of their favorite artist in the contest. There were bridal party groups, families, people from other countries, and clusters of friends.

When the competition started, the crowd went wild. When the songs ended, the crowd went wild. When new artists were announced, the crowd went wild. When the voting was being reported, the crowd went wild. Definitely a theme for this event!

But then, the final judging was concluded and the winning artist took the stage again to perform, and the crowd around us sang along.

The winner of Benidormfest, and the representative of Spain in Eurovision, was a duo name Nebulossa.  Their song, Zorra, is somewhat controversial (you can watch a video with official English subtitles here). Technically, the term is a formal name for a vixen, or female fox. Over time, it has become more of a derogatory term, not unlike the word for a female dog, or bitch.

To me, the song represents a departure from the traditional expectations of the highly-socially-regulated Spanish culture. Nebulossa captured this perfectly when they have taken back a word with negative connotations and have publicly said, “I live my life my way, and it’s none of your business. I won’t be bothered to change myself to make you happy.” Personally, I am 100% a fan.

Aside from the music festival, the entire weekend was a delightful departure from a typical weekend. I really enjoyed meeting new people, seeing friends from Benidorm, walking around the older part of the city, and basically taking a break from the routine. So much fun!

Benidorm apartment buildings

Benidorm apartment buildings

Benidorm apartment buildings

Benidorm apartment buildings

Sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Benidorm apartment buildings

Benidorm apartment buildings

Sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Restaurant covering all the bases: Beer House, Steak House, Sports Bar

Restaurant covering all the bases: Beer House, Steak House, Sports Bar

Circular advertising screen in Plaza Triangular

Circular advertising screen in Plaza Triangular

Sunday morning breakfast

Sunday morning breakfast

Street detail with circular lights

Street detail with circular lights

Busy sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Busy sidewalk in Benidorm in February

Direct translation: The Skin Castle... really, it's a leather goods shop.

Direct translation: The Skin Castle... really, it's a leather goods shop.

People showing up to watch Benidormfest

People showing up to watch Benidormfest

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

"German House" that serves an English Breakfast

"German House" that serves an English Breakfast

Night boardwalk by the beach

Night boardwalk by the beach

Street lighting in Benidorm

Street lighting in Benidorm

In the crowd at Benidormfest

In the crowd at Benidormfest

In the crowd at Benidormfest

In the crowd at Benidormfest