Kobetamendi mountain, Bilbao
Bilbao BBK Live came back with a bang for its 15th edition, welcoming a record 115,000 people from over 75 different countries. With festival revellers of all ages attending, its audience is an indication of how international and intergenerational the event is.
Upon arriving at Bilbao, the festival’s influence feels interwoven into the city. Posters of the event line the streets in the city centre, and festival bands can be seen worn on the wrists of people in the bars and shops, waiting in anticipation for the official Thursday kick off. With the music onsite not starting until 5pm, this gives us plenty of time to explore the city before the main event. We wander from the Guggenheim to Bilbao’s beaches, sampling the wide variety of delicious pintxos and traditional Basque cuisine, basking in the cultural and holiday experience before we enter the festival.
Thursday’s main bands are LCD Soundsystem and Placebo, the latter making their first Bilbao show since 2009. Although Placebo don’t play their usual back catalogue of teenage angst classics, they’re nethertheless well received by a large crowd as the first major act of the weekend. LCD Soundsystem leaves festival-goers in awe as the sun sets over the Nagusia stage while lead singer James Murphy delivers powerful vocals; the band playing classics from their 20-year-long career and finishing with All My Friends.
The Basoa stage, nestled in the trees, is adorned with enchanting lights and installations. It’s here that the festival hosts its electronic programme, hosting two former Crack Magazine cover stars. Eris Drew smashes her set in the early hours of the Friday morning, and Helena Hauff, closes the stage to a full crowd come the end of the night’s programme.
Friday brings the highly-anticipated Killers headliner show, which does not disappoint the large crowd that’s gathered to watch. Lead singer Brandon Flowers reminds the audience exactly how the group have managed to stay successfully popular worldwide. Together, the band perform a set of crowd favourites and classics, along with newer tracks that are well received on the biggest stage of the festival. Flowers galvanises the audience into a singalong, who hang onto every chord and word with a sense of fervent devotion.
Later, Bicep close the San Miguel stage with an electrifying live show that seemingly surpasses the crowd’s expectations, drawing a mass of late-night ravers to the festival’s second biggest stage in the early hours of Sunday morning. The combination of their music, the natural setting and impressive stage production is awe-inspiring, creating an unforgettable standout moment at the festival.
The last night arguably draws the largest crowd of the whole weekend across the Kobetamendi mountain, with J Balvin – dubbed the Prince of Reggaeton – closing Nagusia to a congregation of fans who devotedly scream every word in their native tongue. The Pet Shop Boys are a surprising highlight with their stunning light and visual show, which is paired with a setlist of iconic anthems that seemingly resonate across several different age groups. The beautiful, green festival site feels at its most alive on this evening, with families sitting on the grassy banks, taking in the sights and sounds.
After two years of cancellations, Bilbao BBK Live has been welcomed back into the open arms of its home city and community. I left with the impression the event is a very special one indeed, one that holds a place in people’s hearts. Bilbao BBK Live is certainly one to return to.