All Photos by Malak Kdiry
What started as a humble celebration of underground music has become one of the borough’s most successful electronic events. The Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival, better known as BEMF, reigns supreme when it comes to bringing rare, international talent to the hood. This year was no different, with hot names like Pete Tong, Gorgon City, Green Velvet and BICEP (live) topping the impressive 10th anniversary roster. Over the weekend of October 12th – 14th 40+ artists appeared across a dozen venues.
Longtime fans of the festival knew what to expect – a packed weekend of top-notch performances taking place at Brooklyn’s most beloved venues (and a few alternative ones), plus an exclusive opportunity to attend one-of-a-kind industry panels. This year’s event took a few new turns as organizers ditched the traditional badges for digital guest lists, artist-curated stages fell into the mix and a stacked, two-room warehouse party served as a triumphant finale.
This year’s panel discussions covered a number of pressing topics including How to Live An Artist’s Life in NYC, Why Make Zines?, The NYC Cabaret Laws, and The Future of Streaming. Working artists, industry experts and representatives from local venues and media outlets showcased their knowledge for a diverse audience. These raw, up-close-and-personal sessions continue to add credibility to the event and promote the involvement of MVP scenesters. While attendance was modest compared to mega panels found at similar showcase events like the highly established SXSW, their inclusion in the annual schedule is important.
The launch of the “BEMF Record Fair” at Kent Avenue’s up and coming Villain venue gave panel spectators a chance to take the music home with them. This new addition invited guests to peruse an extensive vinyl selection and explore releases from local and international artists, including festival acts as well as other influential artists who continue to reshape the genre. The unique shopping experience was free and open to the public, providing valuable avenues for exposure for both the festival and its participating artists.
So why is BEMF still around when so many other local festivals have fallen to the wayside? For one, its organizers (and the founders at MeanRed) have uncovered creative ways to seamlessly weave the event into Brooklyn’s existing nightlife scene. Locals already know the landscape, making it easy for them to pick and choose the artists they want to see, with the added “all-access” incentive available to die-hards who don’t want to miss a set. It’s likely that many showgoers snagged tickets to hot-ticket events without even realizing they were a part of something much more. That said, once these music fans were inside the club’s doors, there was no missing the fact these shows were cogs of the powerful BEMF machine. For out-of-towners, the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival acts as a thorough introduction to all that Williamsburg (and its surrounding neighborhoods) has to offer. Since most of the venues exist within close proximity of each other, it’s easy for visitors to access numerous parties, and get the full experience. It’s pretty damn cool that warehouses (121 Morgan Ave.), world-renowned clubs (Output, Good Room, Analog BK), iconic music halls (Music Hall of Williamsburg) and even hip taqueria/discotheque (Black Flamingo) are all part of the package. That’s always been, and will continue to be, a main draw.
Plus, BEMF always finds a way to give back. Hurricane relief took center stage at TBA Brooklyn when select artists offered their talents to PR LOVE: A Dinner and Dance Benefit for Puerto Rico. Thankfully more and more festivals are using their popularity as a platform for doing good. After all, who can say no to having fun when it’s for a worthy cause?
Based on the success of the four-day festival (and most notably the new audience that was tapped by the Kingdom/Relief warehouse party headlined by powerhouse label heads Green Velvet and Gorgon City), we can only assume that BEMF will get bigger and better with time. Brooklyn is a market that craves new experiences, and as long as BEMF keeps delivering, we’ll keep going. Here’s to another decade of outstanding music and world-class show going!
Stay in touch with the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival by following them on social media. All links can be found on the official website HERE.