Bilbao’s BIME Live festival: the eclectic indoor festival is a hidden Euro gem

Festival season may be almost over, but for those of us hanging onto the festi-feeling for dear life, there are a handful more chances to neck a couple of warm pints and shout along to your favourite bands with your mates, and one of those was Bilbao’s BIME Live festival. Since the inaugural event in 2013, the low-key festival in the Basque Country has boasted sets from heavyweights including The National, Imagine Dragons and The Chemical Brothers, across its diverse line-ups.

Taking place in the huge Bilbao Exhibition Centre, the festival organisers have, apparently, spent the past few years working out how they can make the best use of the huge space. In the main room there are stages at either end, and as soon as one band stops on the Thunder Bitch stage, another will start almost immediately on the Heineken stage. Elsewhere there are a series of smaller setups, like the techno-focused Gaua room, and Antzerkia, where bleacher seating is erected and you can sit and watch some of the festival’s more chilled offerings in the theatre styled environment. So cavernous is the venue, it does, at times, feel slightly on the empty side, which is odd because the festival has something for everyone – it has a massively diverse line-up.

Friday boasted a characteristically immersive set from shoegaze legends Slowdive, swiftly followed by indie chaps Editors. Opening with ‘Cold’, the quintet manoeuvred their way through a set of tunes from their sixth record ‘Violence’ (released in March), as well as old favourites. With the nostalgic one-two punch finale of ‘Munich’ and ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’, the crowds erupted in volcanic applause; yet there was no rest for the revellers, as almost as soon as the band had ambled of the stage, down the other end of the exhibition centre Aphex Twin took to the Thunder Bitch Stage.

Somewhat of a rapid gear change, but the crowd quickly adjusted to Richard James’ mind-warping electronics.

Saturday saw a similar setup. Highlights came in the form of a blistering early set from Aussie rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, who thundered through 30 minutes of indie rippers. “It’s our first time in Bilbao” they told the growing crowd, who roared appreciation for the quintet.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra followed, with a festival highlight performance. Opening with ‘From the Sun’, frontman Ruban Nielson kicked off their fearless 45 minutes by leaping off the stage, guitar in tow, and parading around the exhibition centre whilst continuing to shred. Barely pausing for breath, they launched straight into ‘Ffunny Ffrends’, cantering through a show that saw their psychedelic rock take on a life of its own.

Elsewhere Sun Kil Moon put on a bizarre performance in Antzerkia. “I wanted to see Kurt Vile too, I’m sorry you have to miss that” Mark Kozelek told the audience in between tunes; not that the sizeable crowd seemed to care, drinking in his typically extravagant rendition of ‘666 Post’. Meanwhile the aforementioned Kurt Vile was busy winning over the small army of punters parked infront of the Thunder Bitch stage, lackadaisically running through a string of his lo-fi indie folk tunes.

The evening’s headliners MGMT were another welcome rush of nostalgia, with the older offerings like ‘Electric Feel’ and the extended finale of ‘Kids’ being eaten up; however more recent releases like ‘She Works Out Too Much’ (which saw band members hop onto exercise bikes for the duration of the song) were a drier affair. And at other festivals the headliner missing the mark could have been a huge disappointment, but that was the beauty of BIME Live, that revellers were purely dedicated to having a good time. Not enjoying MGMT? Well there was the option of a thrilling set from Mumdance to enjoy; or you could forgo both of these options and enjoy a blissed out performance from José González.

Finishing the weekend on a high was Jon Hopkins, who offered the army of punters a biblical end to the festival. In the main hall decked out with impressive lighting rigs and heart-rattling-ly good sound, it was a fitting end to a festival that put the focus in the right place: ensuring the attendees had a good time.