All photos compliments of The BPM Festival and Plexi PR.
Staff and festival goers spend time on the sand outside Wah Wah Beach Bar.
Winter may have finally decided to settle in over New York City last week, but I didn’t know that. I was too busy partying it up in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with 375+ of techno and house music’s biggest names. We had our eyes on warmer weather and unbeatable vibes. I’m talking about The BPM Festival, an event that has become a top destination for electronic music lovers and those who have a pulse on the world’s most epic parties. Between watching the sun rise in the jungle with local favorites like The Martinez Brothers, and spending hot afternoons chilling on the beach with Brooklyn-based acts like Wolf+Lamb and No Regular Play, I can honestly say there’s no other festival that can compare in terms of what BPM is offering. It’s the best of all words, wrapped up in a tropical paradise with an endless supply of tacos, tequila and the very best in electronic music from across the globe.
When I first heard about The BPM Festival, I had a lot of questions. Was it an outdoor festival? Was it only for hardcore techno fans? How do people manage to party for 10 days straight and still survive? I had no effin idea of what to expect. Some friends compared it to SXSW, that is, if the showcases were to take place on the planet’s most prized white sand beaches, with production value and an artist lineup that would bring any avid music fan to their knees. There are several reasons that everyone should get there pasty white asses down to Mexico next January to experience the very best in house and techno. Here’s a few of them:
The BPM Festival takes place across eight venues in the picturesque city of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
1.) BPM Festival takes place in paradise. – White sand beaches, crystal clear water and romance novel cover-worthy sunrises are just a few traits that make Playa Del Carmen one of the most magical places to hold a multi-day music festival. This year’s BPM Festival featured 11 official venues (Canibal Royal, Martina Beach Club, Blue Parrot, Wah Wah Beach Club, Salon Salsanera Raices, La Santanera, The Jungle, Thompson Hotel, Mezcalina, Tribeca and Coralina Daylight Club) which hosted a myriad of day and night parties in front of crashing waves and atop some of the city’s most desirable open air clubs. Among my favorite showcases were the Crew Love party at Canibal Royal featuring New York’s own No Regular Play (Live), Wolf+Lamb, Pillow Talk and Soul Clap, not to mention a surprise appearance from Laid Back (who my friend confused for Randy Newman, which basically made my entire week, so thank you for that Alex). There was nothing more soulful than No Regular Play’s blaring trumpet sending the sun off in style, welcoming the full night of partying ahead. Nicole Moudaber, Sasha, Solomun and Guy Gerber were among the biggest acts to attract eager crowds to Martina Beach Club, the largest of the four beach venues. Blue Parrot boasted a half indoor/outdoor space that was 100% LIT AF every day of the week. Acts like Hot Since 82, Luciano and Maya Jane Coles packed the house shoulder to shoulder, making it by far the hottest spot nightly from about 2 AM until 6 AM. Wah Wah Beach Bar played host to showcases from Black Butter Records and All Gone Pete Tong featuring stellar sets from some of house’s top names among which were Pete Tong, Patrick Topping, Julia Govor, Kidnap Kid and Gorgon City. Place all of these fantastic artists in a setting fit for a motivational quote poster, and you’ve got BPM Festival in a nutshell.
Pete Tong poses with AndHim during the All Gone Pete Tong Showcase at Wah Wah Beach Club.
2.) The artists create an immersive experience. – Where else will you find an event where the artists are down to produce pop-up concerts at the city’s most famous taco stands? Nowhere. On Sunday night, one of the city’s most busy roads, became a FREE venue for festival attendees and locals alike as Richie Hawtin and Dubfire played a driving techno B2B in front of the famous El Fogon restaurant as part of their Techno and Tacos event. It may as well have been an official BPM party as this seems to have become an annual tradition for the two highly sought after performers. Delicious and danceworthy! That’s a win in my book.
Richie Hawtin and Dubfire Played B2B in front of the legendary El Fogon Taco Stand.
3.) The party never stops. No, really. – Maybe it’s because the Cartel runs the city, or maybe it’s because techno lovers literally have no off switch, but when I say the party doesn’t stop during BPM festival, I mean it. From 12 PM – 9 PM beach parties take the spotlight, giving eager festival goers a place to sip their cool Coronas at prices that are still remarkably cheap compared to any other festival. Then from 10 PM to 6 AM, there’s a shift toward the club scene where official parties pulse until twilight across the length of the city. For those who have absolutely 0 inclination toward the turn down, a number of unofficial venues hold after hours events complete with mimosas, breakfast, indescribably beautiful sunrises and a host of local and visiting DJs that have somehow mastered the ability to function long after the average EDM-star would have called it a night. Newbs. (P.S. – I heard Ricardo Villalobos played a set until 6 AM, stayed up, then played another 7 hour set after another DJ cancelled. Like holy f@*k, Avicii. I dare you to even try.)
4.) “The Jungle” brought traditional summer fest vibes. – This year’s new venue, “The Jungle” helped bridge the gap between city event and outdoor festival. Accessible via a free shuttle ride from downtown Playa Del Carmen, The Jungle offered a more traditional atmosphere to fans of outdoor music festivals. Featuring two expertly produced stages and some of the best parties of the week, The Jungle was considered by many a fine addition to the existing venue lineup. The appropriately named “Paradise” party featured an all-star lineup – names like Bob Moses, waFF, Patrick Topping and perhaps most impressive, Jamie Jones B2B Joseph Capriati, which came through as one of the funkiest and most fun tech-house sets of the weekend. These two played for a wicked four hours fueling each others energy in a way unseen at BPM before then. Having seen Capriati in the past, I was beyond impressed with the flavor he brought to the B2B which bumped on the mainstage until the sun peeked over the encapsulated venue’s lush, tropical foliage. The opposite stage took on a more casual feel as DJs spun at audience level under an extravagant chandelier, disco balls and a glamorous lighting plot to match. It felt like Verboten, but if howler monkeys were on the guest list every night. God Bless that venue, and let’s hope it comes back next year. Shout out to UK house DJ Steve Lawler for bringing the party vibes on Saturday night. You single handedly kept me locked into YAAH MUUL II for the rest of the party.
Dubfire and Hot Since 82 Headlined the Sci + Tec Party at Blue Parrot on Saturday, 1/16.
5.) You don’t get FOMO. Well kind of. – Here’s the deal – BPM is a 10-day music festival, so pacing oneself is critical. At the beginning of the week, you might kick yourself a little bit for turning in at 4 AM, but you’ll be glad you did. And the best news is, in most cases you have at least two chances to see your favorite artists, meaning you can take that much needed nap when necessary, or plan that snorkeling trip in Tulum if your heart so desires. You’ll still have a chance to see Solomun tear it up at Martina at the end of the week. While I was sad to board my plane at the end of 10 days, I was also ready. You have time to lay the ground work for real friendships and leave with a better understanding of the music. And let’s be real, three more days and we would have all left Mexico looking like the crypt keeper.
Guy Gerber played a three-hour set at Martina Beach Club on Saturday, 1/16.
5.) I actually remembered to eat. A lot. – You know how it goes – you get to the festival grounds, you start slugging beer and then you realize 10 hours later you forgot to eat. So you haphazardly shove a piece of three-hour old “utility pizza” in your face hole, not because you want it, but because you know if you don’t you’re going to drop. Well, shake that tired image from your brain, and get ready to have your mind blown by an endless supply of unbelievably delicious food on pretty much every corner in Playa Del Carmen. Salon Salsanera Raices and La Santanera, the two more traditional multi-level “club venues”, were conveniently positioned next to some of the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life: Don Sirloin and Republica Taco. For a fresher bite, I visited Los Aguachiles near Martina Beach Club, a famous seafood tostado joint frequented by festival goers and DJs alike. Big ups for feeding us, and keeping the party alive round the clock. And for those of you who aren’t taco fans (blasphemy) every place, from beach bar to hole-in-the-wall had amazing ceviche at a fraction of the price you’re used to. Several venues were serving up their own nom noms – take Wah Wah Beach Club for example, which offered their own limited menu of burgers, dips and empanadas, and Blue Parrot, which had the most enticing sausage stage right outside their exit door. So much for losing five pounds.
San Francisco native Behrouz poses for a picture during the Rumors Party at Martina Beach Club.
7.) Bowie was everyone’s special guest. – Despite the fact that I was having an incredible time during AndHim’s Vs. Superfriends showcase at the always hopping two-story Salon Salsanera on Sunday, January 10th, I had to call it a night around 4:00 AM when I caught wind from the real world that rock legend Bowie had sadly passed away. Pillow Talk stated it well during the intro at Canibal Royal the next day after blasting Fame loud enough for the water bound Pelicans to enjoy. “We shouldn’t be sad that David Bowie is gone, because he lived an incredible life, and that’s something that we need to celebrate here today!” And we did . . . and we kept celebrating – for the rest of the week in fact. Bowie’s greatest hits were littered across sets during Crew Love that day thanks to East Coast favorites like Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb. Other acts like Canadian house DJ Clarian and UK tech-house master Jamie Jones made sure to sprinkle a little magic in their sets. Bowie’s death, while tragic and too soon, helped everyone else live their life to the fullest last week. The loss gave us pretty things a chance to bond through music, life and love.
The DIYNAMIC Jungle Party went hard until sunrise.
Needless to say, The BPM Festival is THE PLACE to be next January. I left with solid friendships, a deeper appreciation for techno and a few really incriminating videos of myself (nature of the beast). The BPM Festival was one of the first events I went to where I really felt as though I was part of something bigger, a movement, if you will. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world. Get in on the presale when 10-day passes are half the price. I know the length looks overwhelming at first glance, but you’ll be glad you committed. Words from the wise though: This festival is a marathon, and in no effing way a sprint. Start conditioning now! It takes a seasoned partier to keep going hard after day five, and you’re going to want that last push to experience all that beautiful Playa Del Carmen has to offer.