In partnership with Bilbao BBK Live
Beyond its role as the primary annual music event in the calendar of the Basque Country, Bilbao BBK Live takes its responsibility as an essential preserve of the proud artistic traditions of the Basque community seriously. Nestled in Kobetamendi, or Mount Cobetas, just a short ride from Bilbao city centre, the festival welcomes 35,000 people each July to experience a broad range of Basque hospitality, from nature and cuisine to art and, of course, music.
The festival’s bookers habitually ensure that in among the international stars on the bill are sprinkled some of the most prized emerging young Basque artists, and 2023’s lineup is no different. Whether it is the slick metropolitan pop of Bengo, who sings in both Spanish and Euskera, or the provocative pop of San Sebastian’s Merina Gris, the true sound of the region will be on show at this year’s event.
From nearby Pamplona, breakout trap star Ben Yart will bring huge club energy to the Beefeater Stage, while Rüdiger are sure to channel classic, golden era rock songwriting with their performance of tracks from their 2020 album ‘Before It’s Vanished’ on the San Miguel Stage, evoking the likes of Mercury Rev and Todd Rundgren.
Away from the festival itself, which kicks off in the early evening on each of its three days, campers can make use of their time by taking advantage of the site’s walkable distance to the city of Bilbao. Whether they choose to take in some pintxos, or ‘spiked tapas’, in Bilbao’s Old Town, or indulge in the fine arts at the city’s famed Guggenheim Museum, the connection between Basque’s largest city and largest festival is rock solid.
The festival’s commitment to the local community is underscored by Bereziak, the program of events that takes place in the city during the festival weekend. The free of charge open air shows, which this year will see performances from artists including the infectious Buenos Aires popsters Bandalos Chinos and Barcelona trap artists 31 Fam, or their Argentine counterparts SARAMALACARA, once again give a chance for residents of Bilbao and the surrounding area to enjoy the spirit of Bilbao BBK in their own back yard.
The unshakeable bond between the festival and its native region was recently demonstrated when the festival’s promoter group Last Tour recently became the first such promoter to be granted the B Corp accreditation. After a two-year application process that assessed social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability, they were successful on the back of the positive environmental impact of their events, their efforts to reduce sexual assault at shows, their diversity and inclusion initiates, their extensive charitable contributions and their positive local economic impact.
Beyond its commitment to local representation, that dedication to diversity permeates throughout the Bilbao BBK booking policy, with particular regard in 2023 to championing artists from the LGBTQ+ community: Arca, Fever Ray, HAAi, Perfume Genius and Röyksopp all take prominent spots on the line-up this year.
But it is Basque pride that separates this festival from all others, having supported a fierce local musical identity that dates back to the 1980s Basque Radical Rock movement, and is personified today by the likes of Belako. And now, thanks to the commitment of this festival to support the full diversity of the community that it represents, that route from bedroom activism, invention and expression to international recognition has never been clearer. The future of Basque music, and of Basque culture at large, would seem to be safe in the hands of Bilbao BBK Live.