Date posted: February 14, 2013
February 14, 2013
This article was originally published in DJ Mag’s February Edition.
Well well well, yet another breathtaking edition of the ever so popular BPM Festival has come and gone. Ten days of beaches packed with sexy people and groovy beats that keep you moving early into the mornings is an easy sell for anyone looking to escape the day to day and let loose in the tropics. This pinnacle of the dance music’s underground community has been attracting more and more people every year and this January proved even more growth throughout the loyal BPM following. With more than 60 thousand fans from around the planet gathered in Playa Del Carmen, the flurry of day and night parties were consistently flooded by music lovers with a keen ear for real dance music. With a staggering amount of parties to choose from we could only attend so many, here is a review of our time at the BPM Festival.
Partying on the beach during the winter months is evidently alluring to Canadians toughing the cold snow up north. This festival is also founded and run by Canadians which helps explain the tremendous amount of Canucks we met throughout our five days in Playa. At one point it seemed every person we spoke to was from either Montreal or Toronto, with many others from British Columbia and mainly anywhere out west. More and more people from all over the world are also now travelling to BPM, we met several fans from the U.K, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and even Australia. The BPM Festival is truly an international brand and is now growing at an unprecedented rate.
We arrived on Wednesday which was day six of the festival, leaving us five busy days to fully submerge ourselves in the BPM experience. We checked into our condo, had our first of many authentic Mexican dinners and got ready to go out. Staying only a block away from two of the main night venues, Blue Parrot and Coco Maya, we could hear the sound of the action from our place as speakers everywhere were blasting beats through the narrow streets. The music is the reason we were there so off we went to Coco Maya. The two venues share the same corner of the street for their entrances and the entire stretch of the avenue was literally a block party before we even got in. Packed with people and music blaring into the crowds from neighboring clubs, one could have a great time just partying out on street with hundreds of people. We were set on seeing Jamie Jones and Lee Foss throw down an epic set together so into the club we went. Coco Maya is huge inside with a capacity for thousands. It spans all the way to the beach and has a huge open-air sand dance floor where the DJ booth was set up with an overlooking VIP deck. The party we entered was unreal, as a first experience it showed us how busy this festival actually gets. Jamie and Lee grooved late into the night with their gripping techno sounds and created an energy we had rarely experienced before. A quick stop inside the Cadenza showcase at Blue Parrot on the way home was enough to catch Luciano killing the dance floor with his house tracks.
Doug Van Sant
The next day we were looking forward to a boat party with Art Department and Ben Klock, which was cancelled due to rough seas, so we took in some of Playa’s essence and got our bearings straight with a long walk through the old streets and shops. So many friendly locals, it’s easy to lose track of time while discovering this distinctive town. We squeezed in the end of the Mark Knight party at Kool Beach and caught a solid piece of the action. Turns out, Mark’s epic set seemed like the favorite performance of many fans to that point of the week. Some dinner and rest ensued and we were ready for our second night out, this time Blue Parrot was on the agenda. We knew it would be a crazy night with Tini, Martin Buttrich and Loco Dice scheduled to play. As we made our way along two hundred yard stretch from our condo through the bustling street to the club, the atmosphere was rampant and inside Blue Parrot we found a sea of fans dancing to Martin’s technical style. This club is enormous, with the DJ booth nestled on a perch right by the entrance and a dance floor that fits thousands, the energy was always non stop. The sound system was crisp and the bass hit you in the chest when you were on the dance floor. Later into the night Loco Dice came on and the crowd loved it. These two DJs have been in a decade long partnership and it was apparent as the upbeat vibe kept constant long into the morning. DJ Mag Canada’s very first time at the infamous BPM Festival was proving to be an introduction of sorts.
Friday we set out for the day party at Kool Beach with Cassy and Sasha on the poster. Kool Beach is an awesome day venue with a small pool, a raised VIP section across from the DJ booth and tables laid out all the way down to the beach. You can grab a spot in the sand or a day bed by the pool and lounge to the beach grooves as the sun shines and then sets. Cassy was on the decks for a while and she seriously had the place moving. Her career progression from vocalist to DJ/Producer was evident as she harmonically mixed a steady set of underground house and techno tracks. Sasha came on for the three hour sunset slot, he kicked it off with some techy beats and it wasn’t long before he got into some darker melodic vibes. The occasional vocals he dropped on top of his live mixes were hypnotizing and the way the crowd bounced throughout his set is proof enough that this style of music is exactly what people attend BPM for. With day parties going on until 8 or 9pm and the night parties beginning at 10pm, we didn’t have much time for recovery from the daytime dancing and Tequila shots. Nonetheless, another Mexican meal and a small nap and I was off to a party with somewhat of a different feel. Our editor was having his unfortunate turn battling the popular flu bug so I went ahead to catch the party that did indeed stand out from the usual lineups. Thomas Gold, Third Party and Chris Garcia were scheduled to play at Blue Parrot to help bring a taste of progressive house to the festival. For all the underground music played during the ten days of this event, a slight bit of the commercial scene did make it onto the schedule. Nickey Romero played a BPM set earlier in the week with a surprise appearance by Tiesto, unfortunately we weren’t there to see that go down. What I did see though was Third Party dropping a huge set full of their European influenced big room tracks before Thomas took the decks. He played from 3 until well after 6 and kept everyone dancing until the very last track with his long build ups and drops. Although the festival is clearly geared towards a much more underground sound, perhaps the presence of select mainstream DJs helped BPM reach carefully into another demographic of fans.
What a beautiful day it was Saturday although I was stuck sleeping off the famous one day bug that was making its way around. A minor flu was taking its toll on festival goers. Good news was it only lasted 24hrs although it seemed like a good number of people had it slightly dampen their week, including us. As I rested our editor headed to Kool Beach to catch the Sander Kleinenberg and Sharam sets. Another pool party filled with sexy people and amazing music, the club got packed and people danced until it was dark. Across the street at Mamita’s, Lee Burridge and Christian Loffler were ripping it up all day. Mamita’s Beach Club is somewhat similar to Kool Beach minus the pool and with a DJ booth set up directly on the beach. In the evening I started feeling better and there was no chance I was going to miss Marco Carola at Blue Parrot, he was scheduled to drop a marathon eight hour set from 10 until 6am. We didn’t arrive until well after 2 and the club was already in full swing to the techy sounds of Marco’s distinct style. This guy has a massive repertoire of sick tracks which he displayed and the fans danced all night long. The techno titan brought the club into the morning with some of his most gripping bass lines and a flurry of mixes that would catch anybody’s ear. The early morning walk home was somewhat bitter sweet with the realization that Sunday brought with it, so soon, the last day of this refreshing music festival.
Doug Van Sant
Back to full steam on the last day we headed out to Kool Beach for the final day party featuring Mike Montano, Rodrigo Madrid, Jozif and John Digweed. We were given the amazing chance to sit down with Digweed, a legend of house and techno in his own right, and pick his brain a little about upcoming projects just before he made his way onto the decks. We did an interview with Johnny and Kenny from Art Department, the house/techno masterminds that graced the cover of our January edition. These two really cool guys have had such a successful last few years and gave us a rundown on how it has all come together for them. We also had the opportunity to talk with Craig Pettigrew, a director of BPM, and got some insight on the inner workings of this complex festival. For someone with such a monumental festival on his shoulders, he has a clear idea of where he wants it to go and evidently has succeeded on most fronts. After quite a productive afternoon we had to stop in at Mamita’s to catch a little bit of Guy Berger’s set, little did we know Seth Troxler would be joining him as a surprise guest. BPM likes to throw the odd twist into the schedule, perhaps to keep the fans guessing. Seth played earlier in the week but was back with his energetic stage presence, he played alongside Guy until well after the sun set.
As opposed to the three night party standard of the festival, the final night had only one on the schedule. Danny Tenaglia was scheduled with a slot for “special guests” at Blue Parrot to bring BPM to a close. Rumor had it that Art Department would be closing the festival down, and much to fans enjoyment that was the case. Getting through the club that night was no walk in the park, a mass of people spread all the way to every corner of the venue dancing to Danny’s veteran techno style. He came on the mic a few times and gave his traditional shout outs and it seemed like not long before Art Department took the stage. They quickly gained control of the room and began the final journey into music of the festival. Spending the night dancing can make time fly by and before we knew it the sun was rising over the beach, yet the club hadn’t seemed to get any emptier. It was almost seven in the morning and everyone seemed to want more, so the DJs kept playing. Not long after that, it was a short walk home along the beach and small moment of reminiscing which led me to the realization that I need to be there every year for this phenomenal music festival.
Doug Van Sant
There were a ton of other artists we would have loved to see throughout the week like Ritchie Hawtin, Chus & Ceballos, Carl Cox, Sven Vath, Josh Wink, Victor Calderone, Nicole Moudaber, Steve Lawler, Nic Fanciulli, Mark Knight, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, Saeed Younan, Dubfire, Carlo Lio, Shaded, and that’s only naming a few. Nonetheless, as DJ Mag Canada’s first time at the festival, we experienced enough to say we now understand the reason so many people head to lively Playa Del Carmen every January. It’s not that easy these days to find a nice change from the popular everyday commercial aspect of dance music. This festival has encompassed everything underground and placed it in a beautifully appointed tropical destination, creating a paradise for lovers of good music. We will definitely be making the trip again next year and hope to see you all there.
Words by: Stephan Abrecht