Before Verity arrived to meet me in Madrid, I’d found out about Bla Bla car from an American friend Sarah, who was also doing an internship. Despite reminding me of a particular Ke$ha song, the car sharing service turned out to be a really useful way for us to get from Madrid to Bilbao without hitchhiking…Our driver was called Ignacio, and he was driving to Bilbao with his wife, Verity and I, as well as a girl with a tattoo of Edgar Allan Poe. They all spoke in Spanish in the car, while V and I slept so that we’d be able to stay up for Hot Chip. We ended up bumping into Ignacio and his wife a couple of times at the festival, which was kind of unexpected, although I should have guessed that they were coming too from the amount of Arcade Fire they were playing in the car! Ignacio dropped us off at Bilbao bus station, and after a while of awkwardly trying to ask anyone with rucksacks where to go, we finally managed to find the shuttle bus that would take us to the Bilbao BBK campsite. While we were on the bus I spotted about 10 different people wearing Joy Division t-shirts, and one particularly committed individual even had a tattoo of the Unknown Pleasures album cover on his arm! We arrived at the campsite slightly tired with the sweltering Spanish sun beating down on us, and were luckily greeted at the campsite with free cans of flavoured red bull for a much needed energy boost! (this is not a product placement i swear!!) My friend Chris Belous (the new women’s liberation officer for EUSA!) was kind enough to lend Verity and I a tent, and with both of us being total camping rookies, we were glad that it was just a simple pop up! The campsite had a spectacular view of the whole of Bilbao since we were pitched on the top of a beautiful green hill.
The first band we saw at the festival was Rural Zombies, who Emily from Global publicity had organised for us to interview later that day. During their set we saw an old man playing a tambourine being followed by a camera crew, we still have no idea why that happened.
Halfway through the Years & Years set, Verity and I had to leave to find the press tent for our interview.
Emily met us there and took us to the AAA Access area (!!!) where we interviewed the bass player and keyboard player of Rural Zombies in their touring van.
After the interview, we looked around the festival stalls and found one that had records for sale with listening booths! Here is a picture of Verity and I pretending we are super cool BO$$Y DJs:
We also found a stall that sold badges and band t-shirts, and Verity ended up getting one with Grimes’ ‘Visions’ album cover on the front.
Walking around the Pringles tent, which had a karaoke booth and free crisps, V spotted two guys dressed head to toe in suits made of mirrors as a reference to Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’. We asked to take a picture with them and they gave us their CD so that we could listen to some of their music.
Later on it started to get a bit cooler, so I suggested that we take the bus from the festival site back to the campsite to jumpers and then head back just in time to see Hinds. Unfortunately, the bus back from the campsite wouldn’t move for about half an hour because of a road accident, so Verity and I were stuck on a bus with loads of rowdy Spanish kids who seemed pretty drunk and were chanting at the top of their lungs. There was an old man wearing an Unknown Pleasures sitting opposite us who seemed really annoyed and upset by all the commotion. When we finally made it back to the festival we heard M83 closing their set with the dreamy ‘Midnight City’. Although we were pretty sad about missing Hinds, I was lucky enough to have seen them perform an amazing set at the Plaza de Espana for Madrid’s ‘Orgullo’ (Gay Pride), where Carlotta performed the last song on the shoulders of a famous Spanish YouTuber!
Since Verity and I are both quite small, we had no trouble squeezing through the crowds to get right to the front of the stage for New Order. As part of their encore they performed a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Around 2am we saw Hot Chip perform. Lead singer Alexis Taylor arrived on stage in what can only be described as a scarecrow-esque get up. Despite being slightly tired from the excitement and travelling of the day Hot Chip’s energy and sick tunes kept us dancing till the early hours of the morning. They closed their set with their cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ which ended with a moving homage to Prince as he repeatedly sang the words ‘purple rain’ while the stage was bathed in a soft haze of purple light.
Waking up wasn’t too difficult the next day, and after braving a very short freezing shower in our underwear, Verity and I were ready to explore Bilbao. Freebie numero dos of the festival was an overwhelming amount of condoms (we literally had a lifetime supply by the end of the 3 days) that were handed out around the campsite. Amy and I didn’t have any practical, sexy use for them so we made them into balloons.
We then explored more of the campsite and decided to have a chat with some of the other festival goers
We tried interviewing more people but we were rebuffed and laughed at by all the cool Spaniards we approached.. Embarrassed and ashamed we retreated into the woods of the campsite where we found a wee park hidden away and shook off the rejection by climbing monkey bars and playing on the swings.
Amy and I then made our way into Bilbao city centre which was only a short bus journey away from the campsite. We once again tried to navigate ourselves around the city with a limited sense of direction and Spanish between us, in order to find the Guggenheim . After passing through Bilbao’s many beautiful parks filled with lovely fountains and swans we eventually came across a building that looked Guggenheimy and had a look around. At the entrance there was an enormous sculpture of a dog made entirely out of brightly coloured flowers! While we were waiting to get our tickets we saw supermodel and socialite Daisy Lowe stroll pass! According to her instagram she was also at the festival. Following our starstruck encounter with Daisy Lowe we looked around the museum for hours looking at the works of Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois and Jean- Michael Basquiat.
Despite missing Hinds’ set the day before, we actually ended up meeting Ade (the bass player) while walking around the festival!! If it wasn’t for V showing me their interview with Nardwar prior to leaving for Bilbao, I probably wouldn’t have recognised her! She was with a friend eating some chips on the grass, and even gave us a couple of them!
Verity and I realised that we looked really awkward in the photo with Ade and spent the next half hour trying to prove to ourselves that we could look normal in photos.
When we were finally done with our impromptu selfie shoot, we went to the Pepsi stage to watch the second band that we were scheduled to interview called Belako. After their set Emily took us backstage to interview their bass player:
Once the interview was done V and I started moving swiftly towards the Heineken stage to see Grimes, but halfway there I realised that I’d forgotten my phone in the dressing room and had to run back to get it. Fortunately, we managed to make it right to the front of the stage to the queen of synthpop, Claire Boucher, who we all know as Grimes! Halfway through Grimes’ exciting Art Angels set, she decided to perform one of her older more controversial songs ‘Go’, but unfortunately the lights and sound cut out completely by the second chorus. Grimes and her extremely talented backing dancers left the stage, promising to return in five minutes, once the technical difficulties were resolved. Soon enough Grimes returned to the stage in a rainbow cape looking like a badass superhero and continued with her set (YAY). Once again Amy and I’s fun size height worked to our advantage and some lovely dudes let us push to the front so we could dance and blow bubbles to our heart’s content with a perfect view of the stage. Grimes ended with her favourite song to play live; Kill V Maim, which left us both feeling euphoric and excited for the rest of the festival.
The Pixies were one of the many great bands headlining the festival. They took to the main stage to a huge crowd, mostly consisting of older fans, to perform some songs from their latest albums, including the hit ‘Um Chagga Lagga’. Although it was a bummer seeing the Pixies sans Kim Deal they still gave a great performance and hearing them close their set with their biggest hit ‘Where is my mind’ was outstanding.
When we awoke the next day, V and I were ready to get fully solar powered! We decided to head to Plentzia Beach, which was just an hour metro ride away from Bilbao bus station. When Amy and I arrived at the beach we encountered many ladies freeing the nipple, our feminist hearts bursting with pride we too decided to take on this new found Spanish freedom and frolicked in the sea taps aff. Unfortunately I got a little too solar powered and was left with one of the worst sunburns I’ve had in my entire life #pray4vez.
Day 3 of the festival was by far the best. The first act we saw cool as a cucumber Courtney Barnett. Listening to ‘Depreston’ on chilled, sunny afternoon in Spain is exactly how you should listen to Courtney Barnett . Finally seeing ‘Pedestrian at Best’ live was definitely one of the highlights of Bilbao BBK. While Amy and I were listening to the sweet sounds of our favourite Australian songstress we encountered a group of polyarmous, Swedish teenagers. One of the boys in the trio called Karl decided to befriend us and talk throughout the set which was slightly irritating. However, despite this we ended up taking pictures on each other’s disposable cameras and made our way to the Heineken stage to see Father John Misty .
Seeing Father John Misty live is a Kafkaesque experience. When seeing Josh TIllman expect the best dance moves you have ever seen in your life, a mini stand up routine, a lot of guitars being flung around and crowd surfing. FJM opened with ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetary’ after this song FJM told the audience he was a nightmare to date because “ I need a lot of attention … I mope around the house all day not saying a word then have the audacity to ask how you are”. Prior to the set Karl informed us that we better be ready of a singalong because he knew every song off by heart when in reality he messed up the words several times and when FJM was crowd surfing he had his eyes closed and missed him completely. Inevitably there was a lot of phones floating about the crowd taking pictures and videos. FJM took one of the many phones recording footage of his set and sang directly into the camera for almost a full song.
The final day of the festival was the busiest for Amy and I. Straight after Father John Misty we had our daily dose of churros and rushed over to see Tame Impala. Their latest album Currents was one of the best albums to be released in 2015 and hearing it live did not disappoint. Their set was the perfect blend of new Tame Impala tracks and crowd pleasers such as ‘Elephant’ and ‘Feels like we only go backwards’ At one point lead singer Kevin Parker commented on the large number of orange Jägermeister hats that were floating around the audience and asked one to be thrown on stage, within seconds there were various orange hats were flying around. Tame Impala are known for accompanying their live show with incredible visuals to create a psychedelic effect and their set at Bilbao was no exception.
Next up on the main stage was long time indie rock veterans Arcade Fire. After seeing the documentary Reflektor Tapes which detailed the making of their latest album ‘Reflektor’ Amy and I were keen to see the band’s visually stunning live show in real life. The band were all dressed in silver, black and white complimenting the visuals of the show . Win Butler was dressed in a white suit that was drenched with sweat by the end of the show which was slightly uncomfortable to look at. The band fittingly opened with ‘Ready to Start’ and played a set which spanned their extensive discography but mainly played from their Reflektor album.
Amy suggested we go see Jagwar Ma before seeing Wolf Alice. I had never heard of them before prior to the festival but i can fully confirm that I am a converted Jagwar Ma fan girl. Their live show is super boogie inducing which is slightly different from their record which is slightly more chilled, basically if you like Tame Impala then you’ll Jagwar Ma. Funnily enough at one point one of the guitarist from Tame Impala jumped on stage and played for one song. One of the many great things about music festivals is most definitely discovering a new favourite band, Gracias Bilbao BBK! (and Amy)
By 3am it was time to see Wolf Alice, Amy and I resembled tuckered out indie zombies at this point but we powered through and caught some of their set. Wolf Alice are notoriously strong live band having won the best live act at the NME awards earlier this year. They played to a packed audience and could have easily filled one of the bigger stages at the festival. ***
Overall Bilbao BBK festival is perfect if you love indie music, nice campsites that are filled with butterflies and surrounded green lush mountains. It is an easy and compact festival to get around with loads of delicious and affordable food to much on. The location of the festival means it is really easy to explore the city of Bilbao in the day and there is always free transportation to get you to the city and back to the festival. We couldn’t recommend Bilbao BBK enough, and can’t wait to see what the line-up is next year !