This year I was lucky enough to visit northern Spain (well, technically not Spain; it’s actually located in the Basque Country) for three days of fine music, enormous measures of spirits and the chance to watch The Prodigy with a cold G&T in my hand.

I will confess to not roughing it (yes, we stayed in a hotel – don’t judge us), so I can’t speak for the camping area, but the main arena was a dream to behold. Large enough to accommodate the thousands that arrived from all over the world and small enough to be able to leg it from one stage to another without missing most of another band’s songs. Bilbao BBK also impressed me by not selling a huge amount of shit; yes, you can get food, and there was that car display that everyone displayed lewd poses in, but it’s such a joy to not see stand after stand of luminous legwarmers, flowered headbands and spiky wristbands for sale.

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Expectations were high for night one – and were duly smashed. We headed off to Stage 3 (otherwise known as the Sony stage) to catch Allen Stone at 7pm, then ran to the VIP area to load up on cheap booze and watch the sun go down. We caught the tail end of White Lies’ set; hearing To Lose My Life live was a highlight, and I’d like to apologise to everyone that I threw my drink over. John Newman followed suit (“He was on the flight? Really?” I kept rasping), and then we bided our time until Franz Ferdinand. They were worth waiting for. Taking to Stage 2 a little after midnight, they wowed the crowd with their well-known hits. I would like to say I remembered every second of their set, but all I can recall is getting nostalgic when The Dark of the Matinee was played, and seeing someone act out a bullfight in the crowd, playing the part of both bull and matador. They must have been confused.

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Day two began for us with huge, monstrous hangovers. After deciding it was the sugar in the drinks that had crucified us, we headed back to the arena at 5pm to drink more and recover to the sounds of The 1975 and Bastille. Watching Bastille live is something I hope to recreate at Latitude later on this week. I’d always skipped them on Spotify, but live, they’re fantastic. 

Jack Johnson failed to win us over (as I recall, at that point we were very close to throwing our drinks and kept shouting fairly unkind things at him, which he probably didn’t hear), and then left the cosy, cheap booze-addled VIP area for Foster the People. They kicked off with Helena Beat, and played Pumped Up Kicks near the end of their set. A clever trick designed to make us stay to listen to their other songs? Maybe. Either way, it worked.

Next up were The Prodigy, who stormed onto the stage at 12.30am. Keith Flint appeared to be filled with rage at one point, but we soon saw that he was just a very excited man. After instructing us to let him know we were pleased he was there (‘Let me fucking hear you!’ he roared at one point), they launched into Breathe. Everyone seemed to love their set – the men standing next to me were so energetic they were in danger of imploding – but, predictably, it was Firestarter and Smack My Bitch Up that really brought the crowd to its knees.

The final day started with us all waking in various stages of agony (that’ll be all the sugar in the drinks again), but the thought of The Black Keys spurred everyone on. Everyone except me; I was yet to be won round. Starting late, I headed off to see Band of Horses with my friend at 9pm. We didn’t know much about them except that maybe they were the relatives of Foals. We laughed ourselves hoarse with that one, let me tell you. Either way, they were great; enough for me to download Infinite Arms, El Camino and Cease to Begin for the plane journey home.

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The Black Keys came onstage to a near-hysterical audience, but they were let down by their sound. I met someone later on who said that she’d been able to hold a full conversation during their set, but that’s hardly their fault. Their 90-minute set flew by; it’s fair to say that I’m a fan now. 

Annoyingly, I had drunk too much to drink to fully appreciate MGMT, but on the flipside, this did lead to much merriment about a fictional family of trees (Mr and Mrs Rowan and The Oaks were their names, I believe). The rest of the group assured me later on that I had had a whale of a time, singing along to Time to Pretend, and shaking my fist at the sky when they sang ‘The models will have children/we’ll get a divorce.’ I do remember thinking that their set was too short, and like The Black Keys, not loud enough.

My final memory of the end of the night is propping up the bar, talking big about seeing John Talabot’s DJ set (no, I didn’t make it to 4.20am), and wishing I could live the whole thing over again. I’ll be back next year – and I’ll be bringing my Pro-Plus with me. Forget Leeds, Reading et al – this is the real deal.

Images: Musicsnapper, Rhythmandphotos & Tom Hagen