Bilbao BBK Live: Rated!

Kobetamendi, Bilbao, Spain - 9-11 July

Bilbao BBK Live: Rated!

Tom Bentley on 31 July 2009

Overall – 8/10

Four years after its conception Bilbao BBK Live is still on the up, mimicking the ongoing and rather grand development of its host city. Where Bilbao has a world famous Guggenheim Museum and attracts a hefty number of top architects, BBK Live has made a habit of securing some of the biggest names in the musical game.

Depeche Mode, Jane's Addiction and Placebo followed in the footsteps of The Police and Guns n Roses to raise the roof in 2009, alongside the majority of a small but masterfully mixed, multi-genre billing. Being an evening event, seaside and touristic urges could also be satisfied before joining 20,000 Basque revellers for a drink and bop at what is unquestionably one of Europe's emerging festival forces.

Getting there and back – 8/10

Another European weekender that was easy as pie to reach. Shuttle buses ran to and from the festival site as frequently as you like from San Mames, Athletic Bilbao’s infamous stadium, which is also a major stop on the city’s decade old subway system. The brand new tramway was also at hand to take you right to the bus door whilst cross-country and international travel was just as painless. The city is a major stop for Spain’s RENFE (national rail) system whilst many pan-European flights runs through Bilbao Airport. During festival time you may even come across the odd band on the chartered planes. Just make sure your sick bags are at the ready if your hangover is particularly bad. Coming any where near to hurling over Primal Scream isn't a good look, whatever way you see it.

The site – 8.5/10

One of the most stunning European spots yet. Perched right on top of Kobeta, a hill overlooking the spralling Basque city of Bilbao, the quaint little site sports two stages erected at either side of a small lake. The second stage is enveloped by cliffs on either side that host the press and VIP areas respectively, giving a lucky few unrivalled views of the musical antics. It has to be said that the VIP area was almost too good as one could pull up a chair, an ice-cold pint of spirit and mixer and take it all in without lifting a finger. Genius.

Down below two huge bars catered for thirsty punters although only one drink/food ticket office was open to dish out the BBK Live currency necessary for any stocking up. Those who did have energy to spare could pop in for a Guitar Hero riff-off, whilst weary limbs could be rested on the numerous grassy banks or indeed the two camp-sites that surrounded the site.

Atmosphere – 8.5/10

Blinding. The number of people about may have varied from day to day but everyone was very much up for it. Depeche Mode and Placebo got the black t-shirt wearing old-timers out, about and mixing it up with the Basque masses whilst even the mayor of Bilbao could be spotted soaking up the festive vibes. As can be expected from an Iberian excursion, BBK Live was relaxed by day and wild by night.

Music – 7.5/10

Only 25 bands lined-up over the weekend as they alternated between stages, avoiding any conflicts or decisions. Despite the small number of acts there was a good, all-round mix with some racy numbers, dance jingles and rock anthems, although only a few of those made us raise our glasses and say “that was awesome!”

Uppers –

Basement Jaxx – 9/10
The duo and their numerous partners in stage crime delivered a typically carnivalistic set to the Basque masses, capping off a fantastic first day on top of the Kobeta hill. Those who were still up for more after Depeche Mode's comeback to the festival mould were treated to an acoustic rendition of 'Romeo' before the band launched itself into all the colourful classics. Jive inducing 'Do Your Thing' swung particularly vigorously before a memorable 'Good Luck' gave punters the right message as they embarked on the long descent off the hill-top.

Chris Cornell – 8/10
It was rumoured that Cornell would stick to his recent and rather unexciting escapades into the realms of R&B with Timbaland. Instead, the stringed version of Soundgarden's 'Black Hole Sun' that welcomed him on stage was the precursor to a set chock full of his heavier works. People were there for a blast from the past and that's exactly what they got. 'Cochise' and 'Show Me How To Live' brought us back to the Audioslave days and Soundgarden finale 'Rusty Cage' took us further still, reminding us of the hard rocking tricks that the guy has up his sleeve.

Kaiser Chiefs – 8/10
The surprise of the festival. The chiefs played the same old tunes but seemed to have recycled Ricky's lost pounds into energy bars as they stormed the main stage for a fiery hour-long set. 'I Predict A Riot' did what it says on the tin as a sea of exited punters indulged in one their festival anthems of the summer. 'Ruby', 'Never Miss A Beat' and 'Oh My God' especially, were memorable, turning the 'I love to hate 'em' syndrome that many have about the Kaisers into an 'I hate to love 'em' affliction.

Depeche Mode – 7/10
Simply put, it was great to see Dave Gahan back on his feet and up to his usual electro-pop showmanship. The band were tight, as you'd expect from such an experienced lot, and poignant renditions of classics like 'Personal Jesus' delighted an audience there for them and them only.

Downers –

Babyshambles – 4/10
Taking a wild stab at which band would (probably) show up minus something or other, you'd pick Babyshambles every time. Sure enough, the quartet were guitarist-less for their Friday appearance as Mick Whitnall apparently failed to catch one of four possible flights. Yup, that's FOUR possible flights. Instead Pete Doherty took up the guitar duties for a flat and inadequately rehearsed set that failed to do anything for anyone. Shouting “viva Espana” in a strongly independent region was also a bit faux-pas. Pete must have done German at school.

Echo and the Bunnymen – 4/10
Closing the Friday night should have been a feasible task for the Bunnymen, leading on from Jane's Addiction's run of the mill headline slot. The band showed their age though and rather than picking things up, led us, and many of our BBK comrades to head for the buses.

Random events

Brits on tour.
Hats off to the trollied British dude being escorted off site whilst claiming he could walk himself home, without forgetting his mate, who was still standing until deciding to hurl himself down the hill towards Bilbao, to the eventual and bloodied annoyance of his elbows. Embarrassing.

Local delights.
Indulging in the pre-lunch rituals of the Basque people was cracking. You cruise from bar to bar, grabbing yourself a small glass of local cider and a pintxo (small slice of bread and topping), setting yourself up for a meal and a night of festivalling too. You couldn't do that with beans on toast and a pint though.

Wedding crashing.
Stumbling into a basque ska venue at 3am, only to find that it was actually a wedding reception. The bride was sat on stage, seemingly distressed at losing her husband to some skanking, trumpet blasting tunes. It was awkward at first but as it turned out, we were more than welcome to join in with the ceremonies.

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