Tick, tock … while I would never want to wish my life away, I can only but wait for July to roll around before I pack my bags and jump on a flight to the picturesque Basque city of Bilbao for a few days of sunshine, pintxos and some of the best live music acts in the world today courtesy of the city’s BBK Live festival atop the Kobetamendi hills, overlooked by the surrounding mountains.
Why is BBK Live not sold out yet like many of the big British and American festivals which most of the BBK Live acts are also dropping in on I really have no idea, but the secret of this gem of a festival won’t stay under wraps for too much longer … especially if I’m there blabbing to you all about it!
I was slightly sceptical the first year I went along to BBK Live. I mean, a music “festival” that doesn’t start until around 5pm each day can’t be that great, surely? Green Day, Kings Of Leon and Biffy Clyro had all played the previous year and I’d been green with envy. But as I arose in Bilbao, wandered the streets, stopped in for coffee and pastries, and later pintxos and vinos tintos, at establishments around the city, I realised that this was the perfect way to get ready for an extended evening of music. Getting relatively up close and personal with the likes of Bastille, The 1975, The Black Keys and Phoenix without marking out your spot all day was an added bonus.
And if you don’t want to get up in bands’ faces, that’s fine too. There’s a handy hill a good way from the main stage upon which you can hang out and take in the proceedings from a comfortable vantage point.
Bands kick off after 5pm, the major headliners start their sets on the main stage anytime from 10:30pm and the music carries on in the Carpa and Bosque tents until 7am if you’re game. 2015 saw acts such as Of Montreal and We Were Promised Jetpacks on stage at around 6:30pm with Thursday headliners Mumford and Sons on at 10:30pm and the mighty Muse kicking off their epic Saturday night set at around 10 after midnight.
Camping or no? Well, the choice is yours of course. The camping field is higher up the hill than the festival site, having moved to a larger space a couple of years back as the festival has grown. So you can hike or grab a bus up the hill to pitch your tent. There’s a shop, bar and loads of amenities up the hill so you don’t worry if you’ve forgotten something.
Not a camper? No worries. The city is just a 10-15 minute bus ride away and there are plenty of places to stay for all budgets. In some ways, it’s nice to take advantage of the fact that the festival is so close to the city and make the most of a comfy bed after a night of revelling. I’d definitely recommend walking home however, or at least as far as the taxi rank at the bottom of the hill. It’s about a 15 minute walk down winding roads and stairs from the festival site to a handy taxi rank. Or, as the city isn’t huge, you could wander all the way back to your hotel on foot.
Where to go in Bilbao? Well that’s up to you but if you’ve not been before, you must check out one of the biggest tourist attraction the city boasts: The Guggenheim Museum. Even if you’re not interested in whichever exhibitions are on-going when you visit, the building itself is a Frank Gehry-designed marvel of titanium and glass that’s worth a gander. As is the rather cool giant spider sculpture in the museum’s grounds.
And for a great selection of bars, restaurants, shops and heladerias head to the old town. There are some great places at Plaza Nueva, the town’s neoclassical style square with lots of outdoors seating.
The line-up. How about that line-up? Kicking off this year, Thursday seems to be electronica and dance influence heavy with the likes of Years & Years, Hot Chip and M83 joining Glaswegians Chvrches, 1980s staples New Order and the Win Butler-fronted Arcade Fire. I recently caught Chvrches play a heavy-hitting show at London’s Royal Albert Hall and can confirm that they are about to set this summer’s festival stages ablaze with their brand of synthpop. Newly announced additions are Brighton-based duo Blood Red Shoes and Canadians Little Scream.
Friday sees Stockport’s Blossoms, London’s Inheaven and Tunbridge Wells’ duo Slaves join Swedish folkster José González, synthpop artist Grimes, the mighty Underworld and American rockers Pixies. As much as I’m looking forward to seeing Monkey Gone To Heaven and Where Is My Mind? played live, this will be a fantastic opportunity to catch up-and-comers Blossoms and Inheaven, both making huge waves in the UK.
Saturday ups the tempo significantly with Australians Jagwar Ma and ARIA-award winning Courtney Barnett joining London’s Wolf Alice, Stafford’s Editors and former Fleet Foxes man Josh Tillman AKA Father John Misty to whet the appetites of those heading up the hill for Perth’s own Tame Impala and Oxford’s heavy-hitting Foals. Newly announced additions sees Belgian brothers David and Stephen Dewaele play a live set as Soulwax as well as a DJ set as the famed party-starters 2ManyDjs.
Phew! I’m not quite sure how exactly I’m going to manage all of those acts over just three days but, fuelled up with pintxos aplenty and armed with Kalimotxos, I’m sure I’ll give it a good go.
ARCADE FIRE/ NEW ORDER/ M83/ CHVRCHES/ HOT CHIP/ YEARS & YEARS/ BLOOD RED SHOES/ HOLA A TODO EL MUNDO/ HIDROGENESSE/ LITTLE SCREAM/ RURAL ZOMBIES/ BEGIZ BEGI
PIXIES/ UNDERWORLD/ GRIMES/ LOVE OF LESBIAN/ JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ/ JUNIOR BOYS/ SLAVES/ BLOSSOMS/ BELAKO/ NUDOZURDO/ WAS/ C. TANGANA/ INHEAVEN/ GREEN CLASS
FOALS/ TAME IMPALA/ EDITORS/ FATHER JOHN MISTY/ SOULWAX/ 2MANYDJS DJ SET/ COURTNEY BARNETT/ WOLF ALICE/ JAGWAR MA/ TRIÁNGULO DE AMOR BIZARRO/ LEÓN BENAVENTE / YELLOW BIG MACHINE
7-9 July 2016
General Admission 3-Day Ticket from £93.00 GBP +Booking Fee
General Admission 3-Day Ticket + Camping from £100.50 GBP +Booking Fee
Book now at bilbaobbklive.com/en-us/tickets