Photo: A woman prepares her dance moves for the upcoming night at Baby’s All Right on Friday, Nov. 7th.
It would appear that the rhythm finally got me, as I type this review to you in bed surrounded by tissues. That said, a head cold is a small price to pay for the music-packed weekend that this year’s BEMF delivered. Featuring more than 30 artists and 9 venues from across the electronic genre, there was truly something for everyone, and I did what I could to absorb the spectrum amidst spending time with my boyfriend who left for Vegas for a month on Sunday. (Spoiler alert: I came home around 6 AM both days, and he was pissed.) But we’re cool now, and besides, you don’t care about those details of my relationship. THIS IS ABOUT MUSIC.
For starters, I felt like the event had a certain maturity and class about it this year that I didn’t necessarily notice last year. Now, don’t get me wrong, I HAD A BLAST last year. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my time drinking tequila and smoking cigarettes at grungey, DIY venues like 285 Kent which no longer exist, or maybe it’s because I wasn’t as engulfed in the EDM scene as a whole. Whatever it was, things felt different this year, in a good way. I thought the Kinship headquarters (also a new Venue this year) was a great atmosphere in which to be welcomed to the festival. Staff was friendly, composed, and knew what they were talking about, which I’ve found is surprisingly rare at city festivals. The iPhone app was attractive and easy to navigate, and the push notifications definitely came in handy with the frequent announcements of which shows were sold out and where to find venues with free booze. Well organized pre-parties, Boiler Room events and daily Q and A panels made this event one that people will talk about for a long, long time. Bravo, guys.
Photo: Artists spinned their finest at Cameo Gallery’s Boiler Room Events.
I kicked off Friday with the early DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist “Renegades of Rhythm” show at Verboten. This was probably the coolest show I saw all weekend, so it’s unfortunate that the crowd left something to be desired. We arrived just minutes before the two DJ’s took the stage. This set was a true lecture in the history of hip hop. With six turntables and Afrika Bambaataa’s original vinyl collection, the gurus kicked off the set with legend James Brown, exploring anecdotes and musical elements from each decade, Bambaataa’s vinyl collection acted as the through-line for this hip-hop 101 (or possibly 301, a lot of the references seemed relatively obscure to me). There was no shortage of narration, and their scratch was on point. It was a truly unique show, with elements that felt theatrical and more like a performance art piece than your typical DJ set.
Verboten’s sprawling white walls lent themselves particularly well the racing visuals which featured images of Afrika Bambaataa himself, as well as iconic photos of some of the birthplaces of R&B and Hip Hop. Covers of his favorite vinyl’s danced across the space in a colorful flurry. It was such an energetic set that I’m surprised this didn’t influence the crowd more positively. Maybe it was because it was 9:15? I don’t know, though. It didn’t stop several members of the audience from being completely shitfaced by this hour. Everyone was just kind of standing around, which doesn’t really work in Verboten’s space, which has obvious sightline issues at sold out shows and bottlenecking tendencies around the bars. At one point DJ Shadow had to to tell some folks in the front to shut the fuck up and listen to his lecture. To be fair, he was dropping some serious knowledge for the dome. And when a man plays Parliament Funkadelic or Michael Jackson, you dance. You just do. Take note: It’s a rule.
Next we wandered over to Music Hall of Williamsburg for Galantis, and as I expected, all of the kandi kids had come out to play. The Galantis/Booka Shade block ended up selling out, so by the time midnight hit, you were inevitably forced to wade through a sea of neon and space cat masks to get a drink at the bar. This was probably the closest thing to a Top 40/trance show you’d find at the festival, so the 18+ PLURfam covered in jewels, face paint and hot pink fur were there in full force. That said, the energy at the venue was amazing and it made for a very fun show.
I am a Galantis fan. I like the incorporation of the live drum kit, and I’ve been a big fan of Christian Karlsson since his work with Swedish electro-rock collective Miike Snow. The duo kicked off their set with hits like Smile, Runaway and a remix of the 2009 Miike Snow hit, Animal. The show had a rolling energy that built effortlessly. At one point, I thought, “Why are we hearing Smile and Runaway AGAIN in this hour long set?” And I’m not sure if it’s because they were short on material, or if they just wanted to bust out those Skrillex samples that they had been waiting to use in a familiar context. Either way, it happened. I just got back from Something Wicked in Houston, and I swear to God, I heard every DJ there remix Runaway, so I guess I just have to accept that there’s no escaping it. Even if I try to Runaway, it’s always there.
Much of the younger crowd dispersed after Galantis wrapped, and Berlin-based house legends Booka Shade retained the more refined, adult audience. Driving house beats flooded the space, and after seeing the previous set, I have to say that this style of electronic music sounds a hell of a lot better in MHoW than soaring vocals and dubstep drops. House fans were still bringing it when we headed out shortly after to meet a friend at Baby’s All Right.
Photo: 20-year-old Lindsay Lowend plays an energetic set at Baby’s All Right on Friday, Nov. 7th.
Which brings me to, HOLY HELL! Baby’s All Right! I’ve been to this venue several times for rock shows, but never for an electronic set. “This reminds me so much of France,” my boyfriend yelled over Lindsay Lowend’s glitchy, soundscapes. The lights looked incredible against the stage’s metallic backdrop, and the young Lowend was really bringing it in the bar that I’m almost certain in which he was too young to perform. Even so, you’d have no idea with the early 90s discography he was sampling, featuring old school hits like Ginuwine’s Pony. We also got a fantastic cover of Disclosure’s Latch before we fell head first into a pool of chiptune laden beats, and wandering melodies. His sound isn’t easy to follow, yet it’s surprisingly appealing to the ear. He reminds me of a slightly younger Porter Robinson, who I absolutely love, so this set was a treat.
After retreating to a friend’s place for some back porch beers and a Dillon Francis-inspired kitchen dance party, we tried to hit Output at 5 AM for Todd Edwards who had gone on about an hour prior, however we were not admitted entrance. I understand that it was late, but this was a little frustrating considering that the BEMF app had been sending out updates all night telling us to “Come see the Legendary Todd Edwards”. Maybe I missed the fine print about doors closing at a certain hour, but we wasted money on an Uber so I was annoyed. That said, it was probably time to call it a night anyway.
Photo: A party breaks out at Cameo’s Boiler Room on Friday, Nov. 7th.
My Saturday night kicked off with an on-site interview session with the adorable and amazing Chris Malinchak, so I ended up spending most of my evening at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The night’s schedule was eclectic with English DJ/Producer/Singer/Songwriter Shift K3Y and house duo Billion kicking off the night. The energy was considerably calmer here on the second night. I don’t know if the kids got tuckered out, or if they just generally think house music is for old people, but even the security guards seemed to be having a much easier night with crowd control (I saw a guy put a kid in a headlock and throw him to the ground on Friday. SO NOT PLUR). In fact, the only person being a mondo asshole was the bartender upstairs. That schmo aside, Billion’s set was great. Special guest Maxine Ashley showed up in a glow in the dark/futuristic hammerpants giddup to perform Special and her kick ass vocals were just the icing on the cake. The crowd went nuts for that chick (or those pants. Up for debate.)
Electro-synth pop artist Little Boots was next, and she brought a new vibe to the space. Cool blue lights and her soothing voice created a kind of ethereal quality, much different than the pulsing beats ad subtle drops to which our ears had grown accustomed. It was unlike anything else I’d seen during the festival. While she has toured in the past as a DJ-only act, she came with a posse of foxy gals in suits and sunglasses, and some band members. She maintained energy, but I had a hard time getting particularly into this show. I was also completely exhausted, so I’m sure that had a large part to play.
Her set ran late, so Malinchak didn’t go on until around 1:45 AM or so. I am such a fan of that dude. The Brooklynite turned Jersey dweller has an energy that is out of control, and his connection with the audience is so authentic and fun. You can tell he loves what he’s doing. Plus after chatting with him, it all makes sense. The kid is a freaking piano virtuoso – has been since he was 2 years old. To create this house music is just an elevation of that core love he has for making music. And his sound is so timeless. His incorporation of funk, soul and pop had me wondering where he drew his influence (he said it’s definitely NOT his parents). To see Chris Malinchak play is a gift. It’s watching someone experience pure, unadulterated joy and then SHARE that with you. Anyone who goes to his show, and doesn’t feel moved is just a GREAT, BIG IDIOT. He played through his newer material including Stranger and Happiness and gave us a fake-out closer of his hit So Good to Me before coming back to the stage with a new level of bass and fervor. Talk about ending on a high note.
I wandered over to Cameo to see Aeroplane and JDH close out the night and continued to slam sugar free Red Bull’s and tequila because I hate myself. This resulted in full scream singing of hits like Madonna’s Like A Prayer and me asking my cohort for the night questions like, “Do you think we’ll be friends forever?” WE TORE IT DOWN. And then I ended up crying on his back porch about jealousy issues before talking some Uber driver’s ear off about god knows what.
And that’s how you end an electronic festival people. I’ll be in recovery for the next few, until I hit Vegas. At that time, I’ll be accepting prayers and well wishes.