The xx Celebrate Bilbao’s Creative Community at Night + Day Festival

Settling into Northern Spain for a week, The xx shined a light on the citys music, film, and arts scenes with a series of shows and parties.

The xx brought their Night + Day Festival to Europe’s greatest city this week, celebrating one of the world’s premier creative capitals: Bilbao. Nestled in Spanish Basque Country, graffiti occasionally reminds you this is neither Spain nor France, but an autonomous community straddling both sides of the border. Known for its lush beauty and independent nature, it was the ideal choice to host their curated festival of music, film, radio, and parties.

Previously held in cities such as Lisbon and Brixton, the festivals curated by the London trio aim to “celebrate their favorite places around the world through unique collaborations with local artists.” (A planned Icelandic edition had to be cancelled recently over environmental concerns.) Excitement for the festivities engulfed the city for the entire week, with Bilbao BBK, one of the country’s largest music festivals, occurring the same weekend as well—and featuring The xx as headliners.

As Night + Day began, the band announced an intimate show at Kafe Antzokia, a venue that holds a mere four hundred people. Tickets for the show were only available at a local record store, Power Records, ensuring the set was filled with grateful locals, some of whom camped out at the venue for over twelve hours for a front-row spot. Though The xx’s music is generally minimalistic, it’s mostly been translated to play to large crowds in a live setting. It’s rare to see them in a venue this size—let alone not at a festival with tens of thousands singing along—but the impassioned Basque crowd matched the energy of a festival audience, screaming along to every word.

The excitement of the moment was not lost on the band either, who appeared emboldened. After beginning the show with “Dangerous,” “Islands,” and “Say Something Loving,” bassist Oliver Sim declared “eskerrik asko Bilbao!” (the sing-song way of saying “thank you” in Basque) to thunderous applause. Despite the thrill, the intimacy was not lost, as a couple at the show even took the opportunity to get engaged, hoisting a sign that proclaimed “Your music is the soundtrack of our love, thank you,” while Jamie, Romy, and Oliver journeyed through a crowd-pleasing set of favorites from their three releases: 2009’s xx, 2012’s Coexist, and last year’s I See You, leaving the stunned lucky few in awe.

Jamie xx

The following evening saw the close of the festival at a party hosted by Jamie xx at Museo Guggenheim—the dazzling Frank Gehry–designed building being the jewel of Bilbao’s radical transformation over the last several decades from industrial shipping town to artistic center. The evening event outside the museum’s silver metal peaks featured DJs Jayda G, Honey Dijon, and John Talabot, as Romy and Oliver joined fans dancing in the crowd for hours. To close the evening, Jamie xx presented a magical two-hour set that illuminated the stunning facade and left nothing wanting. The Queen of Peace herself, Florence Welch, in town to play Bilbao BBK the next night, even appeared backstage twirling and dancing with Romy and the rest of the artists. By the end of the set, a crowd had amassed on the bridge overlooking the event, capping off a series of Night + Days to celebrate the city and people of Bilbao. FL

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