Last weekend, DiS visited the historic city of Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain for the 12th edition of Bilbao BBK Live. As well as witnessing some incredible live sets we also managed to experience aspects of the city's culture which make it one of the most unique and undeniably beautiful places in Europe.
So without further ado, here's 15 things we learned at this year's event.
Depeche Mode Still Rock
Say what you like about Depeche Mode but in their 37 years of existence they've never been ones to compromise, and their headline set on the Thursday night is no different. While it would have been so much easier to just roll out the hits and be done with it, they choose to play lesser feted album tracks 'Going Backwards' and 'A Pain That I'm Used To' instead. Sandwiched in between is 1997's massive hit 'Barrel Of A Gun' which still holds their joint highest singles chart position. For the next hour and three quarters, what they deliver is a masterclass in both industrial electronica and classic synthpop worthy of the legends status they've held for a number of years. Dave Gahan is still the elegant showman of yore, buzzing around the stage tirelessly while fellow vocalist Martin Gore's delicate take on 1984's 'Somebody' leaves barely a dry eye among Bilbao BBk Live's massively gathered throng. When the more instantly recognisable likes of 'Everything Counts', 'Enjoy The Silence', 'Never Let Me Down Again', and 'Personal Jesus' do arrive towards the latter half of the set Mount Cobetas is transformed into an all singing, all dancing carnival.
Visit The Guggenheim Museum
Whether a connoisseur of art or otherwise, the Guggenheim Museum is a must-see for anyone planning to visit the city of Bilbao. Initially built between 1993 and 1997 before its opening in October of that year, its actually taken a whole 11 years for some of the internal fittings and constructions to be put in place. Located in one of the more recently developed areas of the city and situated alongside the Nervion River, its shape and construct stands out like a beacon in the Bilbao skyline. Housing exhibits from the likes of David Hockney and Toulouse Lautrec alongside installations like Bill Viola's slightly terrifying audio-visual 'Slowly Turning Narrative' and Pierre Huyghe's equally disturbing 'Human Mask' celluloid. Outside the museum sit two of its most instantly noticeable Jeff Koons' 'Tulips', a collection of seven multicoloured balloons placed at the rear of the building and the same artist's equally mesmerising 'Puppy' at the top of the steps leading to the entrance. Without wishing to give too much away and spoil anyone's enjoyment, all I will say is go and see it for yourself! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
The Killers Could Easily Headline Glastonbury In 2019
When Michael Eavis said at a recent press conference that one of the headliners was already booked for Glastonbury 2019 and the band or members of that band had played here this year the smart money was surely on Oasis. Or was it? Having spectacularly pulled off their surprise slot in the John Peel tent on Sunday afternoon the next step up for The Killers would be to headline the Pyramid Stage itself. With over 22 million records sold worldwide and album number five Wonderful Wonderful about to drop in September there's never been a better time for The Killers to cement their status as one of the 21st century's biggest musical success stories. After all, they've been there before as far back as 2007 off the back of their first two still unsurpassed long players Hot Fuss and Sam's Town.
And what's more, they have an ever increasingly loyal fanbase as DiS found out on the flight over to Bilbao where we sat with avid fans Alan and Tracy from Wigan, who've already seen them in an incredible 6 different countries over the past year and spent another £800 to see them this weekend at BBK Live and then Hyde Park the following day. Unsurprisingly, their Friday night headline slot on the festival's main stage attracts by far the biggest crowd of the weekend. Playing a career spanning set that serves as a timely reminder of just how many massive bangers they possess in their locker, it's easy to see why the bookmakers' odds are shortening on Brandon Flowers and co. being one of the front runners as bill toppers on Worthy Farm in two years time.
Pintxos > Tapas
While no one would argue that traditional Spanish delicacies - and indeed the rest of Europe if we're being honest - knocks spots off anything its English counterparts can serve up, DiS finds itself intrigued with the delicious mini-sandwiches known as Pintxos we're presented with at nearly every bar and cafe we frequent. Placed on the bar and made up of various toppings ranging from cheese, ham and tomato to the more adventurous chilli, tuna and anchovy delight we devour later that afternoon, Pintxos are the Basque region's take on the more traditional Tapas you'll find in most other parts of Spain and dare we say thanks to the contrast in flavours and temptation to eat pretty much every one in sight just steal the crown as being the country's most delectable bar snack.
Idles' Attempt At World Domination Continues
If there's one band who've made the festival circuit their own this year both at home and abroad its politically charged Bristol five-piece Idles. Ever since their debut Brutalism dropped at the turn of 2017 they've spent the majority of their time on the road building up a whole new legion of fans everywhere they play. Their graveyard slot at 2am on Friday proves no different here, even though they're pitted against big guns Justice (to whose 'We Are Your Friends' singer Joe Talbot caustically adds an improvised chorus from during closing number 'Rottweiler'). Taking the stage to an audience that's made up of diehard fans and very little else, their visceral punk rock (think Sleaford Mods meets Future Of The Left) soon sees the crowd swell by several hundred people not to mention inciting BBK Live's most ferocious moshpit of the entire weekend. There's even a rare outing for 'Queens' off 2015's Meat EP in amongst the more familiar numbers from what is fast becoming 2017's most peerless debut. If you haven't seen them live yet, we urge you to remedy that as soon as possible. Simply unmissable at this moment in time.
Cashless Festivals Do Work!
One of the biggest moans from Brits when travelling to overseas festivals is the increased use of cashless, wristband operated systems. Yet, from personal experience (except the 2011 edition of Primavera Sound which brought the entire site's refreshment areas to a standstill for the best part of 24 hours) they've been an unmitigated success and undoubtedly pave the way forward for the future. Efficient, easy to use and minimal queuing makes them a must and what's more, its surely better than searching high and low (and sometimes being forced to trek off site) for a cash point. Long may they continue! UK festivals please take note.
Blonde Redhead Remain Dreampop's Best Kept Secret
Undoubtedly one of the most underrated bands of modern times. New York's Blonde Redhead have been around for a quarter of a century and despite attaining a mass of critical acclaim throughout their existence, very few people seem to know who they are. The trio - Kazu Makino (vocals, guitars, synths) plus twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace (vocals and guitars and drums respectively) - are something of an anomaly on Saturday night's bill, tucked away in between The Parrots and The Lemon Twigs on the admittedly impressive Starman stage, and there's an element of curiosity rather than Demigod fandom among those out front waiting for their set to begin. However, when it does commence with a glorious rendition of 'Falling Man' from 2004's exquisite Misery Is A Butterfly the tent fills up and rightly so. An hour and ten songs later, they've amassed several thousand new converts as revellers drift away still singing the refrain from closing number '23'. Timeless.
Entrepreneurs As Young As 6 Selling Beer At Festivals
While we wouldn't necessarily encourage this kind of behaviour, our daily trek up the 39 steps (as it came to beknown) from the taxi rank to the festival entrance was regularly punctuated by local children as young as 6 selling cans of beer and homemade trinkets for 1 Euro. While this kind of entrepreneurial behaviour might be welcomed on Dragon's Den, we're left wondering if they; a) make enough money to make their wares worthwhile; and b) wake up in time for school the next morning.
Royal Blood's Massive Popularity Remains A Mystery
Call me a cynic - and many people have - but one thing that remains something of a mystery is the mass popularity afforded to Brighton duo Royal Blood. Since their launch courtesy of Warner Brothers at the tail end of 2013 their trajectory has risen to levels where they're on the verge of becoming arguably the UK's biggest guitar-based exports since Coldplay. Yet cut through all the gloss, recycled riffs and stage managed performances and there's really very little substance to separate them from your average White Stripes or Nirvana covers band down your local pub. Their hour long exercise in recycled riffs here on Friday night was watched by one of the weekend's biggest audiences, yet despite such widespread endorsement from punters and critics far and wide, I fail to understand the appeal. You want to hear 'Heart Shaped Box'? Go buy In Utero. You're just becoming obsessed with Led Zeppelin? Purchase Led Zeppelin's first album through to the masterclass that's Physical Graffiti in chronological order. This is rock music as ordained by River Island. As disposable as a pair of carpet slippers after six months wear and tear. Gobbled up by the masses and spat out when the next style mag endorsed guitar "thing" comes along. Or basically rock music for people that don't like rock music. Next...
Primal Scream + Andrew Weatherall = Dancefloor Heaven
Forgive the nostalgia trip but 1991 was a truly wonderful year. Possibly the last really great one in terms of groundbreaking music. Loveless, Just For A Day, Blue Lines, The White Room and of course Screamadelica were among some of the records released that year. So the prospect of a Primal Scream show followed by 3 hours of long term partner in crime Andrew Weatherall on the decks was among the most mouth watering BBK Live had to offer. Not that Primal Scream have ever been about nostalgia. Moving forwards with every subsequent release and embracing pretty much any genre known to man, they're something of a revelation that culminates with the entire audience singing the refrain to 'Come Together' back at a clearly overwhelmed Bobby Gillespie long after it's finished.
Austra Remain Massively Underrated
When Toronto outfit Austra - essentially the brainchild of one Katie Stelmanis - burst onto the scene six years ago with flawless debut Feel It Break, everyone predicted big things. However, in the interim period, The xx and Alt-J came along and stole her crown as the new darlings of darkly tinged and occasionally experimental electropop. And while both of the aforementioned have their moments - the former in particular - Stelmanis and Austra have consistently gone about their business ever since, releasing two more critically acclaimed yet surprisingly undervalued LPs in the process. So it was with some trepidation - more from the perspective as to whether she'd be playing to a near empty tent as her set clashed with the rather popular 1975 - that we made our way to the Starman stage. Not that the reception she received both during and after her incredible set should ever have been in doubt. While only 'Lose It' remains in the live set from the aforementioned breakthrough record, the songs she does play - eespecially those taken from this year's Future Politics - are exemplary which begs the question why is she not the household name her output so richly deserves?
Pet Sounds Is Perfect For A Saturday Evening
OK, so you probably knew this already, but The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds is often lauded as the greatest record ever made. While that statement will always be debated, it isn't without good reason why Brian Wilson's masterpiece is so highly regarded. Playing with a band jam packed with experience that features fellow Beach Boys founder member Al Jardine and Al's son Matt among their number, their set comprising of Pet Sounds played i its entirety after opening with a handful of the Beach Boys other best known songs proves just the tonic for this balmy Saturday evening as the rain clouds gather ominously overhead.
A Pint Of Chips? Yes Please!
Never mind a pint of Heineken or San Miguel - the two main beers on offer at BBK Live - a pint of chips is where it's at baby! As demonstrated so effectively below by our good friend Marcus, this was the culinary delight that kept us going every evening in between bands. Served with dips and sauces of your choice. UK festival food vendors please make it happen!
Bacalao! Bacalao! Bacalao!
Cod fishing has long been associated with the Basque region of Spain since the Viking era of the ninth century. Applying simple techniques like salting the cod so it can be transported farther and stored longer, this became known as bacalao. Jose Iragorri was a football commentator who covered Atletico Bilbao's football matches for a quarter of a century until he sadly passed away in 2014. He was famous for his Bacalao! Bacalao! Bacalao! goal celebration every time an Atletico player put the ball in the back of the net, and his distinguishable chant lives on today both at matches and in bars around the city.
Cabbage Have Got Their Mojo Back
A lot has been written about Cabbage in recent months, some of it frankly libellous. In light of accusations made over an alleged sexual assault by singer Lee Broadbent earlier this year, the band have struggled to rebuild the reputation their incendiary live performances had earned them over the past eighteen months. Nevertheless, now those allegations have been proved to be false after an independent investigation, its fair to say they've regained that air of self-confidence - particularly Broadbent - that was lacking during some of their live shows earlier this summer. Eliciting a moshpit that grows excitedly with every passing number, their no nonsense Fall-inspired socially conscious punk sees both band and audience back on track, hopefully putting such dangerously career-threatening rumours to bed in the process.
Depeche Mode: Tom Hagan
The Killers: Rob Loud
Idles/Primal Scream/Blonde Redhead: Dena Flows
Cabbage: Rock In Focus