A line of people walking uphill anticipating the reward that awaits them at the summit: I’m tempted to say it’s like a pilgrimage but the last pilgrimage I was on was in 1994 and it was a solemn affair comprising of elderly folk muttering the rosary. There weren’t any dreadlocks, or people necking cans, or whoops of excitement or stag parties. That’s the scene we have here hiking up Kobatamendi. It’s a Music Festival up a mountain. Namely, BBK Live.
The pace slows and the crowd is corralled into lanes.
We monitor the queue’s progress.
I try to stamp the impatience out through my feet. It’s always the way. The small steps towards a football stadium, the slow crawl of traffic towards the beach, the wait at the bar; It’s a kind of wonderful agony.
A roar rises from the other side, a guitar stutters and a voice greets the crowd through the PA.
Once finally inside all negativity, all tiredness, all worries are cast off me as if it were just a cloak I chose to wear. We are walking very fast.
‘Lets have a beer, then to the main stage. Fleet Foxes,’ Liam says.
We find a spot stage right. The band are plodding through a song.Guitars, hair, beards.
‘Crusties,’ Liam says. ‘I bet they eat nettle soup and do yoga.’
I know they’re back catalogue. I’ve got a beer in my hand. I’m primed to be stirred by their soulful folk harmonies but their songs don’t grab me. They work through the set-list. We stand, stare and applaud when appropriate. I need to piss. I let the music pass over me as I peel away from the crowd and make my way to the Portaloos.
I take the piss.
Stepping out of the portaloo is like stepping into a parallel universe where things are the same but tweaked, slightly. It’s darker, the band have finished and Liam’s eyes are as big as plates.
‘What happened to you?’
‘Nothing. I’m fine. Drink this,’ he says handing me a fresh beer.
‘Phoenix are on now.’
We find our spot. The heads and shoulders in front of us are all bopping before an elevated oasis of light upon which stand the celebrated people. The songs get into my chest. I’m compelled to dance but the wet grass robs my moves of grace. It’s not doing Liam any favours either. He’s like an old fella with bad knees trying to keep his balance as the ground tremors. My endorphins spike. I feel gentle waves of joy pass through my body.
Phoenix finish to rapturous applause. The lights go up and the crowd turns away. We follow the stream of chattering people towards the main stage, the main event; The Killers.
‘That was fan-tas-tic !’ Liam says, putting his arm around me.
‘Why are you speaking like that?’
‘Your words seem clipped and really clear…like REALLY CLEAR.’
‘Lets have a cigarette.’
We light cigarettes and take a long slow drag.
‘Yeah?’ Liam asks.
‘Yeaaah,’ I say nodding, but I’m not sure what the question is. Oh, maybe it’s about the way he is speaking.
‘It’s like your words are really resonating with me,’ I clarify.
‘When I said Phoenix were fantastic ?’
‘Yeah, that. And everything you said.’
‘I know what you mean. Words are carrying a bit more weight. It’s like they are connecting us.’
I feel an immense fondness towards Liam. I trust him implicitly. Enough to say…
‘I feel like I’m lifting but I’m not… of course.’
‘Hey,’ Liam starts. ‘I should probably tell you that I took the liberty of putting a little –‘
‘Hey there you are!!’ says Dee, suddenly appearing before us.
We are surrounded by Dee, Leire and Rachel. There’s a lot of hugs. It’s good to see them. We tell them so several times. Together we push our way through the crowd.
‘Oh I hate being small,’ Dee complains. ‘You can’t see anything and you keep smelling people’s armpits.’
The Killers emerge through a mist of dry ice and lights. They take their positions. There’s an anticipatory hush. My night hasn’t taken off just yet. I want to be wowed. And then a familiar riff rings out. Our eyes lock together in recognition.
It’s punch the air feel good. Euphoria abounds and before it has a chance of escaping they launch into Spaceman, Somebody told Me and Human. Just when you think they have no arrows left in their quiver they release a volley of hits; Read My Mind, Runaways, All These Things that I’ve Done.
The waves, powerful now, pulse through me. I clench my teeth. I hug my friends. The five of us are united by the music. Leire paints all our lips. We sing, we dance, we bunch together for photos.
The show climaxes with When You Were Young. The Killers leave the stage. The fancy lights cease and we’re just standing in a field at night; there’s a smell of damp grass, lights are bouncing off skin and shadows are long.
The waves don’t recede, they persist but with a dark undercurrent. Suddenly, they overwhelm me. My throat dries, my tongue swells, nausea rushes through me and there is one thing on my mind; Water!
‘Water? Yes I have water,’ Rachel says removing a bag off her back.
I snatch the bottle with both hands and stagger through the crowd. Blurry, hostile faces get in my way. I barge through. Bile rises from my stomach . I try to hold it in my mouth but it’s no use. My body jerks forward and a sickly juice is expelled. It splashes onto the shoes of those not quick enough to get out of my path.
I straighten up and keep moving. Once clear of the crowd I find a patch of grass to park my ass. I suck the two litres outta the bottle. Liam sits beside me. I’m not sure what he is saying but his words are soothing. The others catch up with us. They are observing us, muttering conclusions. I feel guilty and I want them to leave me here with Liam. He understands.
‘What happened to you guys?’ Leire asks.
It’s a fair question but everything’s a little tilted and I can’t even begin to explain.
‘Dodgy pints,’ says Liam.
Something Similar? It gets off to a bad start…
Something Different?5 Things I Hate about Bilbao
Okay, there was no decent recordings from BBK Live so here’s two from Glastonbury: