10 Things We Learnt At BBK Festival, Bilbao

There is a festival, high up in the mountains of Bilbao in Spain, called BBK. Like most Spanish festivals, it’s pretty bloody excellent. Unlike most Spanish festivals – we’re talking Primavera, Sonar, Benicassim – it wasn’t so hot that the weekend turned into an endurance test. In fact, it was balmy. So that was nice. Here are a number of things we picked up when we were out there, to convince us that it’s one of those festivals well worth turning into a summer holiday…

1 Robert Smith should go solo


Photos: Music Snapper

The Cure, right, were late, because they were having “technical problems”. This happens to bands all the time. What doesn’t happen all the time is the lead singer coming on stage to entertain the crowd by doing a three-song acoustic set. But that’s exactly what The Cure frontman Robert Smith did. And you know what? It was amazing. He ripped through ‘Three Imaginary Boys’, ‘Fire In Cairo’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ like it was no biggie, and you could feel that everyone in the crowd loved him and his band a little bit more for doing it.


2 Spain doesn’t give a shit about James Murphy


Late on the Thursday night, ex-LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy played a set of obscure disco hits to a small number of people. It was totally great, and there was a lot of people doing the kind of dancing that only happens when you’ve drunk so much vodka you can actually feel it pumping round your fingers and toes. There was something slightly sad about it though, because we’d seen the LCD Soundsystem film ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’ the night before, where Murphy had explained that one of the reasons he quit the band was that he didn’t want to go on these big tours anymore. And here he was, doing just that, to nobody.

3Spain really does give a shit about Sum 41


Seriously. And yeah, they still exist. And yeah, they sound exactly the same. And yeah, they played ‘Fat Lip’ and all the other songs they did at the point in time when they were kind of a big deal and used to play high up on the bill at Reading & Leeds. And yeah, frontman Deryck Whibley looks and sounds exactly the same as he always did. And yeah, their crowd was enormous. And yeah, if you like that kind of thing, it was probably great. And no, we don’t like that kind of thing.

4Garbage play more hits than Radiohead


Radiohead – what’s the point? They’ve got this ridiculously amazing back catalogue, and they don’t even touch it. They ignore, almost in its entirety, all the music that turned them into a supermassive band in the first place, and just play all the bleepy stuff. Sure, if you’re a megafan, that’s probably enjoyable. But if you’re the kind of human who does, theoretically, like Radiohead and has, in the past, liked Radiohead a lot but hasn’t, really, bothered to keep up with the comings and goings and incarnations of their increasingly ‘prog’ career, then apart from ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Karma Police’ this was a just a blur of howls, moans and computer noises. The Cure did it better. And so AGAINST ALL THE ODDS did Garbage. Shirley Manson and her crew just came on, played ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘I’m Only Happy When It Rains’ and the rest of their hits, sodded off. No messing about. No dwelling on ‘new stuff’. Just festival bangers. And that, chums, is exactly what you want at 3am on a Sunday morning.


5In Bilbao, a double is actually a quadruple


Just go to the bar and be like “double gin and tonic please” and they guys working there won’t even use a device to measure exactly how much booze you’re getting like they do in England. Oh no, they just pour it in, wait until it looks like it might be roughly half and half then top it off with the mixer of your choice. If you’re into boozing hard, BBK is the place for you.

6There’s more space in Spanish crowds than in English crowds


We’ve all been there. Someone super groovy is headlining a festival, but you’ve been sidetracked by herbal highs and falafel and YOU ARE LATE. So you turn up and get your weave on. You weave left, you weave right, and all that happens is you knock over twelve drinks and accidentally stand on someone who’s been sitting in the same chair in the same place for 14 hours. This doesn’t happen in Spain. In Spain, crowds are waaaaay chilled out. You can just go wherever you want. There are pockets of space everywhere and everyone’s just like “hey man, how are you, come on in, let’s just enjoy the music together” rather than being all “HEY FUCK YOU DUDE I WAS HERE FIVE MINUTES AGO AND SERIOUSLY IF YOU COME ANY CLOSER I’LL HEADBUTT YOU AND STEAL YOUR CAGOUL”. Just doesn’t happen in Spain.

7Glasvegas fly economy class


We know, because they were on our plane. James Murphy was also on our plane. He, though, was at the front, dressed from head to toe in white linen, enjoying his ‘extra leg room’. Glasvegas had to sit in tiny little chairs reading the in-flight magazine just like the rest of us. Singer James Allan wore his shades the whole time.

8Bands onstage cannot hear what you hear


So there was a moment during the Garbage show when the sound cut out. But hilariously, at no point did the band realize. They just carried on playing like nothing had happened while everyone in the crowd turned to each other and said: “This has gone all quiet for you as well right?” So it must have been a bit weird for Shirley Manson and co when the song finished and no one noticed. And even weirder when the sound came back on halfway through her in-between song chat and everyone cheered as if she’d just cracked the best joke the world had ever heard. She definitely hadn’t.

9Shirley Manson is ageless


Check her out, she looks exactly the same as she did in the ‘90s.

10Four Tet is just a dude in a pair of shorts


Imagine our surprise to see Kieran Hebden – genuinely one of the most innovative human beings working in UK electronic music at this current moment in time – doing his stuff onstage looking like he’d just been to a boat show. Or in a Fat Face advert! Amazing. Plus, he was using an actual mouse up there onstage, and he had (probably) the second biggest crowd of the weekend because he was playing just under Radiohead. Those shorts he was wearing must’ve been his lucky shorts.

If you think you might like to go next year, get your tickets NOW: Bilbao BBK Live