Bilbao BBK Live Festival: A hidden gem of the European summer
Every European summer, music lovers find themselves with the same inevitable question, which festival should I go to? Well, apart from Glasto – you can’t really top the Bilbao BBK Live Festival in Spain.
EVERY European summer, music lovers find themselves with the same inevitable question, which festival should I go to? And while Glastonbury might seem to be the pinnacle of the festival heap, getting tickets to this mythical event (it won’t be held again until 2013 so that the fields can recover… very rock and roll) is about as easy as swinging a cat on the district line at peak hour.
Nevertheless, there are events to suit all musical preferences scattered throughout the continent each with its own unique appeal. This year with bands like Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and The Kings of Leon on the festival circuit, would-be revellers are spoilt for choice. Having cast an eye over the respective line ups and checked my bank balance to see how far my summer budget would stretch, I made my festival selection.
After a couple of relaxing days in Porto, followed by a few less relaxing days at the Running of the Bulls, I headed for the northern Basque city of Bilbao for the seventh annual edition of the Bilbao BBK Live Festival.
A note to anybody planning travels to the Basque region of Spain, just as Canadians don’t like to be called Americans and New Zealanders are offended if you think they’re Australians, the proud people of the Basque region do not like to be called Spanish!
It was a pleasant surprise at Bilbao to hear very little English outside of the acts themselves with most of those attending being from Bilbao and other nearby towns. With the campsite right next to the venue offering amazing views of the sprawling city below and free shuttle buses operating all day between town and the venue, day trips to visit Bilbao’s famous Guggenheim museum or just to stock on supplies for the evening were a straight forward affair. As with most multiple stage festivals, watching all the acts is impossible and just getting a decent spot to view the acts you want to see is a struggle. But Bilbao’s staggered timing between the two main stages at least ensured that no unintentional mash-ups were occurring.
To review all the acts that played at Bilbao would be beyond both my physical and journalistic ability. As a result, I have decided to hand out a few coveted, and some not so coveted, awards to some of the acts that played in Bilbao:
“Bridging the Generation Gap” Award:
Debbie Harry’s appeal has not faded with time and neither has the band’s ability to generate excitement with hits such as “Maria” and “Heart of Glass”.
“Best Performance” Award:
Runner up: Kasabian
At any other event the Kasabian lads would have walked away with this award for a performance that was truly awesome. But on the very first night, Coldplay showed exactly why they are one of the biggest bands on the planet with Chris Martin instantly winning the crowd over by apologising that only knowing three words in Basque wasn’t good enough for a two hour concert.
“Surprise Packet” Award:
The London band can expect to start playing on bigger stages and in more coveted time slots at future festivals based on this performance. Lead singer Shingai Shoniwa was a ball of energy as she wailed on hits “Don’t upset the rhythm”, “I heard you say” and “Always remember me”.
“Jared Leto Award for the biggest ego at the festival” Award:
Winner: Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars)
Something tells me that the lead singer and guitarist of 30 Seconds To Mars would still be happy to accept this award; it has his name on it after all. I can forgive Leto telling the crowd to “get crazy” and “jump” during and in between every song, seemingly unable to get them to do so with the music alone. I can accept his need to treat the central walkway in between the crowd as his own personal catwalk. But the Leto lead “crowd invasion” farce at the end of the show typified a man, and a band, not suited to a festival atmosphere.
“Sing-along King” Award:
Winner: Jack Johnson
Anybody hoping for anything more than a sing-along to the surf inspired hits that have made Jack the popular artist he is would have been disappointed. Jack played songs from all of his albums to date and judging by the rapturous applause that met every opening chord, there weren’t too many in the crowd hoping for more.
“Most Anticipated Performance” Award:
Winner: The Black Crowes
With 2010 marking the 20th anniversary of the band and with their scheduled performances across Europe this summer to be their last before they go on hiatus, this award could go to no one else. Every song was a demonstration of the respective musical abilities of the band members and with Kris Robinson possession one of the most impressive set of vocal chords at the festival, even artists Jack Johnson and Seasick Steve were front and centre for this performance.