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Published: August 8th 2013
On my flight to Reus (Barcelona) with my least favourite airline Ryannair, I was thinking to myself that the weekend ahead could go one of two ways. It was to be my first music festival in Europe, and well, anywhere at all, ever. The first way was that it would be the best weekend of my life, one that I would never forget and use constantly as a comparison for my future festivals. The second way was that it would be utter shit, and I would be grumpy and tired and hate the world. It was unlikely to hang in the middle. It was going to swing to one of the extremes. Luckily it swung the right way, with only one slight hiccup at the beginning.
I arrived at Reus, ready to pick up the hire car, and my 3 new car mates that I had plucked off Blablacar.com. This website is magical, you load your car journey on to it and people jump on board with you and share in the gas costs. So I had 2 Chilean sisters along for the ride and a Liverpudlian named Dave. Dave thankfully spoke both English and Spanish, which made the ride a lot simpler as the 2 girls spoke limited English and I had exhausted my Spanish when I met them which consisted of “Hola, me llamo Katy, soy de Neuva Zelanda pero vivo a Londres, beunos dias, merda, y hermana” – which means, “Hello, my name is Katy, I’m from NZ but I live in London, good day, shit and sister.” Very useful I thought.
In any case our mismatched group drove the 6-7 hours to Bilbao together, avoiding the tolls which took us on windy mountain roads that lead into dirt and gravel lanes. We had very little company in the way of other traffic, but the storm directly above kept us plenty entertained. The thunder was so loud it shook the car and the forks of lightening followed us the whole way there, invoking loud gasps and squeals from the lot of us because it was so bright that it became day for a few seconds.
We finally arrived in Bilbao and wasted about 2 hours trying to figure out where to park. We had a giant battle with the GPS which almost reduced me to tears as we went around in the same circle about 5 times. We eventually arrived at the BEC (Bilbao Exhibition Centre) where we had allocated festival parking. We arrived in the nick of time, because I swear to God anymore time in that car and I would have had a proper child tantrum. I’m sure the two girls thought I was an absolute mental basketcase and wanted to get away from me as soon as possible but alas, they were stuck with the car monster from hell for a little bit longer. We all caught the festival bus up the gigantic hill that lead to the festival area and then the two girls had their freedom. Dave had actually not even known about the festival, and he was just tagging along now, hoping to get a cheap ticket and a free nights’ accommodation in the tents.
I was meant to meet my friends at 8am by the entrance but by the time I got there it was about 9.30am. I was having a mild panic attack because a) I had got to the entrance and realised that I had left my ticket in the car and b) I had seen the size of the campsite and knew it was going to be nigh on impossible to find my friends. Luck began going my way as I found my friends as soon as I walked into the campsite. I could have cried with joy. Unfortunately instead of crashing in my tent and sleeping all day like I wanted to, after driving all night, I had to mission back to the car. Everyone ended up coming with me anyway into the town to grab some lunch and supplies.
We caught one of the buses back up the hill and I finally got my rest. I napped under some tarpaulin because the tent was baking hot. I felt I deserved this rest after what was now about 32 hours without sleep.
The festival (BBK Live Bilbao) was due to start that evening. We were in Bilbao, Spain and I was there with some friends from work, and we had acquired some friends from Manchester along the way. The English like to stick together. The festival itself was up in the mountains above the city and the campsite was even further up. They had buses running up and down the mountain that you had to wait at least an hour for. We got very familiar walking the hill between the stages and the campsite throughout the trip, which was absolutely horrendous in the heat.
I was woken from my nap on the first day to head down and start watching the bands perform. We started the evening in true festival style with booze and pills. One of our guys drank an awful lot and ended up arguing with almost everyone, tried to get in without a wristband and had a bit of a hissy fit, calming down only when we managed to get him inside. As soon as we got in though and started listening to the music and filled him up with Paella, he was as happy as a lamb. Another guy took it a bit too far and took some green pills that we were specifically warned about beforehand, as they were fake ecstasy. He ended up squirming on the ground with his shirt up to his chin and his pants down to his knees. The next moment he was asking us very intently if we had hung up our coats and picked up our packages. It was at that point I decided to have a sober festival. I stocked up on Redbull – deciding caffeine would be my drug of choice over the weekend.
I managed to catch the tail end of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros playing Home which was a good opening song for the festival as it set the mood. We then watched some bands that I didn’t know very well and chilled out on the hill above the stages with some Paella and beer that was being sold in little tents dotted around the arena. Depeche Mode was headlining, and we got to watch a good deal of that until my friend started feeling ill so we headed back to the tents. As much as I like Depeche Mode, I wasn’t too fussed about leaving, as the crowd for their concert was fairly mundane and they didn’t really engage with the audience that much.
Luckily that night it was quite cool compared to the blistering heat of the day, and it woke me up the next morning. We headed to the beach that day which was about a 20 minute train ride from the centre plus a 10 minute walk after that. We had to walk down a steep cliff to the beach which was just what we needed on a stinking hot day. The sand was scorching, and lucky old me, my feet got sand burnt and sun burnt. My eyes got a little burnt as well by the slew of naked old men at the beach. They would go into the water all crown and glory, and come out as shrivelled as a raisin. One of the guys made a joke about not needing a thermometer to tell how cold the water is. We spent the day in and out of the water and sleeping on the beach, ending up with ice creams at the top of the cliff. A perfect summer’s day before we headed back to the festival chaos.
Back up at the festival, a gigantic storm was closing in. The heavy rain caused an absolute standstill and the lightening put all the stages out of commission for about an hour. We managed to watch the Klaxons as soon as they were back up and running, and it was so much fun. I had never heard of them before, but it was such a good vibe in the audience and they really got the crowd going. We never really managed to dry off though and we danced our way through The Klaxons and Kings of Leon, absolutely soaked to the bone. The Kings were amazing but they didn’t have us crazed and pumping like the Klaxons did, and we just ended up cold, wet and shivering. I called it a night and headed back to the tent, only to find three other people sleeping in it, including one of my friends curled up at the bottom of the tent where all the water was pooling. Only because I could see the other guys’ tent collapsed next to mine did I let them be. I climbed in and proceeded to have one of the worst sleeps of my life.
We woke up the next day and called time on the camping. We decided to pack up all our sodden stuff and take it to the car that day and just leave after the final concert that night. No one wanted to endure another soaking night under a canvas. So we packed everything up and went down to the car and then figured that while we were there we may as well make the most of having a vehicle. We thought we might make it to San Sebastian but it was too far, so instead we ended up in some random little village where we spent most of the day eating and drinking and having nonsensical, maniacal conversation because we were so exhausted. One of the guys began a sentence with; ‘you know how you go to the toilet and you get a bleeding nose?’ That just sent us all in hysterics because it had no relevance to what we were talking about. He continued on later by telling us a story about how he once scared a pug so badly that its eyeball popped out and they needed to gently push it back in, and that all pugs do that apparently if scared enough. We were in stitches and could barely talk for laughing so much.
We headed back up to the festival and I was mentally and Redbullingly preparing myself for the night as I was aware that it was going to be a sleepless one as after the festival I was driving us back to Barcelona.
Greenday started and I knew that I was going to be just fine. The energy that was generated by the crowd was incredible. The audience for Greenday was bigger than any I had ever seen. Thousands upon thousands of people filled out the field to watch them play and they were just electric. I’m not even that big a fan of Greenday but they were hands down the best band I have ever seen live. Their audience interaction is second to none – they even pulled a fan onstage to sing and even gave him a guitar. Honestly I don’t know how Billie Joe Armstrong does it; he rocked so hard, had so much energy.
Straight after they had finished we headed over to the Heineken stage to watch FatBoy Slim who turned the field into a massive party and he had us dancing and singing until about 4am. We left just before he finished and I had us leaving at about 5.30 am from Bilbao which concluded our Spanish festival.
It wouldn’t be a road trip without the GPS sending us in circles once again before we finally got on our way. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains and along lakes. We pulled over whenever I got a sudden flash of fatigue, swerving into gas stations and lakes edges 2 or 3 times along the way to have impromptu naps. We finally made it to Barcelona on the skin of the teeth of our gas tank and we putted slowly into a gas station, me looking slightly sheepish.
I dropped the others at their very inviting looking hotel and then continued my journey back to Reus airport. I napped at the airport, napped on the plane, again on the bus ride home and collapsed on my bed, fast asleep.
Little bit of sunburn, amazing live music, so little sleep but amazing friends and amazing memories. I challenge you to top that summer festivals 2014!
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