Five Moments That Defined Bilbao BBK Live 2023

Our pick of the best sets...

A gran fiesta of music, culture and diversity, the seventeenth version of Bilbao BBK Live is a definitive European festival experience. Welcoming more than 120,000 keen gig goers over three days, the event offers a select line-up with names such as Jamie XX, Róisín Murphy, Pavement, Arca, The Chemical Brothers and Young Fathers.

Not every city has a mountain, but Bilbao is one of the lucky ones. Kobetamendi, or Mount Cobetas, is where most of the action happens, with free gigs are sprinkled across the city to mark the special occasion. 

An old industrial location in the Basque country, a wealth of beauty is there to be seen and trialled. The opportunity to experience tourism, with some great landmarks, and an outdoor festival in an idyllic setting is no hard sell. Combining the two is easy, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, Plaza Nueva, Casco Viejo, or theOld Town, and the irresistible Pintxos are just a few of the must-see/try things on offer. 

A champion of environmental sustainability, it leads by example, by practicing what is preached. They know what they are doing, and to swear by re-usable plastic tumblers, when 3 Euros are deducted each time you buy a drink, is not such a bad idea. 

Unsurprisingly, magnificent music is at the heart of Bilbao BBK, however, and Clash has chosen to handpick five sets that define this year’s affair.  

Florence + the Machine 

After a heavy downpour of rain, where temperatures drop, Florence + the Machine appear. Thursday’s headliner arrives with better weather to elevate the crowd. As a large amount of rain water dries up, damp-ridden conditions also lift. It’s a notable transformation. With an euphoric, ginormous crowd that knows every word of every song, the position of every full stop, an exuberant feeling spreads like rings in the water.

Dropping a string of hits, the Bilbao Florence experience feels like a dream, but it’s the type of dream that belongs under reality. A bright performance, and a supreme snapshot of the weekend.


But Sherelle’s spine-tingling DJ set is something else, entirely. The Briton continues to inspire and build bridges, continuously breaking down barriers of what a musician and producer should touch. Delivering an uptempo, well-paced set to a hungry audience, it’s less than ten minutes to enliven the crowd, who are gathered under the trees, and fifteen to create a trance vibe.

The combined lighting design, projections and large disco ball is impressive. Sharing a distinct amalgamation of breakbeats and jungle, the mixing style amazes. An unmissable, drenaline-laced performance. 

La Paloma

It’s not just about the big names, the emphasis on emerging music is reflected across the three days. Based in the Madrid area of Tetuán, indie alternative act La Paloma are making waves, playing some of the biggest showcases, and gracing summer festival line-ups. With a solid turnout in support, hundreds of onlookers made up of fans and curious newbies have come together to catch a glimpse of the hotly tipped four-piece. Echoing a few iconic bands, they convey enough swagger to match several guitar groups. No doubt belters such as ‘Algo Ha Cambiado’, ‘Bravo Murillo’ and ‘Polvo’ make La Paloma one to watch in the year ahead. 

Arctic Monkeys

The amount of speculation that has surrounded Arctic Monkeys this summer is hard to quantify, but tonight they defy any doubters. Dropping a load of ‘muchas gracias’, Alex Turner’s use of the trick is appreciated.

As they close the event with a blistering prime time slot, the Sheffield rockers take the stage with the presence they are known for. While ‘Brianstorm’, ‘Arabella’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know’ compel, a new arrangement of ‘505’ causes a compelling stir. It’s as if they have come with a ‘who cares, let’s just go for it’ mentality, and their European fans could not love them more for it. Every song gets a big, well-defined cheer.

Freeing and entertaining, it’s time to forget what’s gone before, this is the place to see them. 


The site is darker than dark by the time Bristol punks IDLES appear for their stage takeover. Throwing themselves into a feast of explosive hymns, energy levels immediately skyrocket, with no drop in intensity during the raw affair, the band are here to deliver the goods.

With proof of new international experience, playing summer festivals, the level of confidence is felt, and frontman Joe Talbot never disappoints. The physicality, the pulsating drums and bass are still integral to the band’s sound, and tonight they are more steadfast than ever. The engagement with individuals in the crowd solidifies this moment in time. It’s a magnetic performance from the band.  

Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Sergio Albert, Sharon Lopez

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