Where: Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain
When: July 11-13
Who: The Strokes, Thom Yorke, Weezer, Suede, the Good the Bad & the Queen, Hot Chip, 2manydjs, Cut Copy, Princess Nokia, Vince Staples, and many more
How Much: cca $200 for three days with camping, $180 without camping; daily tickets available at $70
Named “Europe’s Best Mid-Sized Festival” by the European Festival Awards three consecutive times, Bilbao BBK Live has steadily been emerging as one of the continent’s greatest not-so-hidden hidden delights for the past 13 years. Conceived as a modest weekend event for the locals, it has unwaveringly grown into one of Spain’s, if not Europe’s, most beloved gateways which happen to feature music. Though the Basque Country, sitting cozily amid hilltops in northern Spain, is famous for its impossibly great food (Ferran Adrià once famously said theirs is the best in the world), hidden historical gems (Basque language is the oldest in Europe, dating back to the Neolithic times) and scenic nature, if we’re to be honest we would acknowledge it’s one of the places you hear about from other people, but never really intend to visit yourself, always prioritizing bigger cities.
However, Bilbao BBK Live may very well be the added value you were looking for to change your mind. In the past 13 years, this festival, which still takes pride in being “small”, has hosted names like Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Depeche Mode, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Cure, Kings of Leon, Muse, and countless more – and this year it has fleshed out a royal flush in the form of coveted headliners you will most likely not be seeing anywhere else this year.
BBK Live Official
The event now forges ahead with much confidence, featuring an eclectic lineup bound to appeal to the fans of indie rock and electronica, especially given that the majority of headliners will not be playing more than a smidgen of dates globally this year. Located at the foot of Mount Cobetas, just outside the picturesque town of Bilbao and easily accessible by two free bus routes running continuously from the city throughout the festival week, it’s a paramount component of the city’s cultural offering, attracting a total of about 200,000 visitors each year and contributing up to 20 million EUR to local businesses in the week of the festival.
This year the festival will feature a total of 12 stages, seven of them on the festival grounds at Kobetamendi. As a novelty this year and in homage to the land hosting the festival, the organization has decided to give each stage a Basque name. With over 95 live acts spread across five stages, an exquisite selection of close to 25 food trucks covering every taste and dietary need, over 10,000 sites at a campground on the mountainside with full services, free shuttles to the festival grounds, a curated market with exclusive merchandise, independent designers, and much more amid green surroundings with a lovely view over Bilbao, it promises to be a winning edition for all concerned.
We will see Thom Yorke take to the stage with Radiohead’s producer and his Atoms for Peace bandmate, Nigel Godrich, in a mere handful of European dates for the second leg of his “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” tour, with plenty of tunes from his acclaimed Suspiria OST. The Strokes will appear after several years of live performance sabbatical in an effort to kick off a global comeback tour – this will be one of their four European live shows, before a very brief stint in the US – the fans expect to hear their new single, “The Adults Are Talking”, which debuted this May while hoping for more new material and an announcement regarding a possible comeback album. American pop-rock legends Weezer will make a rare European festival appearance in which we will hope to hear more from their upcoming follow-up to last year’s The Black Album, while Damon Albarn’s “third band”, and the only ones to fully traverse Europe this summer, will play both their albums almost in entirety.
BBK Live Official
Of the many compelling supporting acts, after a triumphant international gig at Coachella, Rosalía, the pop flamenco sensation and one of the most relevant artists to emerge from Spain in many years, will continue her journey of evolving the current pop music scene planetwide by imbuing it with an inspirational and strong local sound; after Damon Albarn is done with his mellow elegy to what remains of Great Britain, his Gorillaz protégé, rapper Vince Staples, adored by critics and audiences alike, will light the atmosphere up with his energetic hip-hop mashes. Princess Nokia will represent the rebellious youth voices, while the punk rock duo Slaves are bound to get the fists pumping and ignite a mosh pit or three during their explosive set. For those keen for a more moderate approach to stage performance, John Grant will provide some much-needed indie rock existential pondering and emotional outpour in what will likely be another heartbreaking show.
Nevertheless, the fans of electronic music will just as likely be satisfied with a versatile offering that will keep them up all night – literally; as is the case with all Spanish festivals, headlining DJ acts do not start until the break of dawn. Modeselektor LIVE, Honej Dijon, Laurent Garnier, Bicep, John Talabot, 2manydjs, Lasai and more, will help clubbers indulge in everything from rave to downtempo.
With Bilbao being easily accessible by an affordable plane transfer via Barcelona, yet another year, Bilbao BBK Live promises to be the place to be for an unmissable celebration of music in a unique surrounding. Tickets are still available and can be purchased from the festival’s official website.