BBK Live Festival – Bilbao, Spain

July 27, 2017

BBK Live Festival – Bilbao, Spain

We quickly regretted choosing to bring rucksacks to the trip before we even got to the campsite and realised that there were free shuttle buses up and down the mountain. Squished in a large public bus, which increasingly felt far too small the higher we got up the narrow winding paths besides the cliffs and distant city, we could almost feel the contents of what each person carried as our rucksacks uncomfortably rubbed against each other. But I was looking at Laurence and the incredible view in front of us, feeling a certain kind of achievement even though we had ended up from one public bus in the UK to another in Spain. 


It was a long journey that started before that day – an uber to the airport at 3am, a flight and then suddenly dropped in a slow cooked tropical Spain. How mere distance can make the climate so different still astounds me, that it was like entering another world. The thick heat as we waited for when the car rental guy would finally decide to come around to doing his job, and give us the keys to our small white fiat panda. Not what we ordered. The immediate shock and novelty of driving on the right hand side in our sleepless delirium, but excited for our KFC. And how quickly we got used to it, even though they gave us a god damn faulty one, with a dodgy wheel that constantly pulled to the right hand side and had me screaming every 5 seconds to watch out. But then the roads widened, like the calm vast sea, and on each side there were barely any cars. Only desert, mountains, and sometimes rows of dark trees with sprinklers to liven them, wake them up. Laurence yawned, eyes drooping, while I blasted The Killers and sang along. Soon we woke up with the trees and as we entered the city after 8 hours of driving, the crazy blues of the mountains and hues of the sunset left us electrified and speechless. Which was a much needed revitalisation after the unexpected tolls. I guess that’s why the roads were so good. We arrived at our hotel late at night, after so many trips from the car and back, which at our level of exhaustion, counted. But finally we were here, shrouded in a blanket of night and not knowing that the city waiting for us in the morning would be worth it all.

So we didn’t need our rucksacks after all. Despite wanting our ‘real camping experience’ we unpacked at the premium glamping area, with a fresh already pitched tent waiting for us.  But it was real. Perhaps it was the magic of the city that made you feel connected to it at all times, it seeming like a strange mix of urban and provincial, or it could have been being on the mountain which had an incredible view everywhere you turned, like when the pink settled over the night sky like someone had leaked bubble gum toothpaste into it, or after ejecting ourselves from the festival site back into the trudging road to the campsite and suddenly turning to see a million starry lights coming from underneath you rather than above. Or even simply seeing evidence of simple life, scattered all up and down it with small cottages and farming plots that made you feel like you had penetrated something quite intimate. It made the festival’s ability to connect people together suddenly pale in comparison. 

The set up of the festival provided gaps between activities allowing us to explore the land. We had incredible mini adventures looking for paella at 6pm only to find out that was the equivalent of Spanish lunch time, and going to the Sopelana beach and petting dogs and seeing vividly decorated houses with pink flowers and drinking with our hands only from street fountains and cliffs. However, this backdrop only electrified our experience of seeing some of our favourite bands and when we would come back we would be yearning for the buzz of the festival, making the experience so much more fulfilling. 

Seeing Phoenix so up close, feeling Explosions in the Sky reverberate and touch everyone in the crowd, in such a powerful yet humble way, where people could be moved without moving aggressively into each other, which gave me room to turn and hold Laurence during one of the songs, feeling so emotional yet content. And experiencing the extreme opposite of that with The Killers as we almost killed each other in a riot, excitement as fierce as a war cry, shouting ‘coming out of my cage’ along with the opening. It might be stupid but I learned the power of the masses then, because if I had died then I would have died happily because it was something I loved.

The Killers Concert – BBK Live
Phoenix, Explosions in the Sky, and the hill by BBK Live

It was incredible to say the least, and being able to be there with Laurence and share that together brought the experience to another level for me. Festivals usually bring people together but for me it only intensified my relationship with Laurence to the point that even in a crowd, he stood out to me only more clearly. He became like a beacon. I felt so perfectly disconnected from everything else in a way that didn’t make me feel alien but made me feel free, disconnected from time and the constant progress and change that comes with it. It was just me and Laurence and thousands of people having a good time, in various ways and all accepting of each other, with only one sour moment which was when I squeezed far too much ketchup on my chips and had to eat soggy sauce with my burger. But after that Laurence and I cuddled on the hill and watched the changing colour lanterns while really weird Depeche mode songs played in the background, so that made it okay. 

The best part of the festival was that we saw everything we wanted on one of those days and could leave early. I liked that because it never really felt like it ended that way: we swooped from one adventure to the next, which reminds me a little bit of mine and Laurence’s relationship in the way that nothing we do ever really feels like it ends, but always continues, folding into something else. Leaving that way made it feel like we could hold it a little longer, because it definitely gave us something to take home.

Mortadella, Baguette, and KAS Naranja after a long night

Laurence – This was my second trip to Spain in two years for a foreign music festival. Last year I attended Primavera Sound in Barcelona – which had an unbelievable line up (Radiohead, LCD Sound System, Sigur Ros!). So heading to Bilbao BBK Live 2017, it’s safe to say I had quite high expectations considering the great experience at Primavera. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. The mountainous setting of BBK was a stark contrast from the city environment of Primavera. When we first arrived, you couldn’t help but wonder how a music festival can even be hosted in the mountains of Bilbao! We gave in at the last minute to buying a ‘glamping’ tent, which was definitely worth it for not having to carry a tent all the way from Edinburgh. So after settling in to our ready-made tent (with hanging lamp, padlocks and floor mats!) we had a quick look around the campsite.

I have been to several music festivals across Europe (Glastonbury, Lowlands, RJam), but I have never seen such a surreal backdrop against the campsite. When you wake up in the morning, you can literally walk a few steps and take in the overlapping mountain tops, the clouds circling above, and the contrast of nature vs. city life, looking down at the beautiful and bustling city of Bilbao. I think the venue is really what separates BBK Live from your average music festival – music is always going to be subjective, so the line-up each year won’t be to everyone’s tastes. But I can guarantee you will experience something brilliant in a place that is out of the ordinary.

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