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BPM Festival in picturesPartying on a Mexican beach? RA’s Grego O’Halloran reports back from what’s rapidly becoming an essential stop on the global festival circuit.It’s fair to say that the BPM Festival has carved a niche for itself as the place to be at the start of each clubbing year. Much like WMC, ADE, the event has become a meeting point for the industry and clubbers alike. With the start date of BPM’s sixth edition shifted forward to January 4th from its traditional straddling of New Year’s Eve, the ten-day program featured a bumper roll-call of dance music’s biggest artists and brands.ArtistsThere was a quote from Dubfire on the BPM website describing the event as « Ibiza in Mexico, » and it was easy (especially as someone accustomed to the white island) to see the similarities. All the big brands were there—Cocoon, Circoloco and Desolat—and all their biggest artists played—Sven, Seth and Dice—making for crowd-pleasing performances all round, rather than anything experimental or avant-garde. One of the highlights of the early parties was a chance to see Apollonia (Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom and Shonky) play an all-night, one-record-each, back-to-back set at La Santanera. It proved to be a masterclass in the art of multiple DJs spinning together, with the trio totally locked into one groove just days after playing separately at DC10 on New Year’s Day.The parties early in the festival benefited from the fact that the area was at its busiest thanks to post-Christmas travellers, as well as a public holiday on the 7th. The Circoloco bash at Coco Maya was a perfect example of this. It was definitely one of the busiest events and seemingly everybody was desperate to grab a look at Seth Troxler, who topped the bill, leading to a comically busy DJ booth as industry folk and local faces battled to get as close to the action as possible. The dance floor was equally heaving, with The Martinez Brothers also causing a fair furore in the beach venue that turns into a cauldron of sunlight as day breaks. Of the big acts, the formula was simple: they brought their 2012 roadshows to BPM and took no chances. The likes of Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Marco Carola and Loco Dice all used their templates for success in Ibiza and beyond from the previous summer to full effect here—and who can blame them?In search of sounds less familiar to the ear, getting to experience Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream party at Mamita’s was a highlight. There was an almost sentimental feel to the event, taking place on the penultimate day of BPM, with bodies and souls both noticeably fatigued by this time. After Christian Loeffler, Burridge played the finale with an anthemic soundtrack that produced the kind of moment only these type of festivals can—nine days in, 20 parties down, and proceedings drawing to a close in all senses of the word. As the tired troops danced with sand between their toes and a mesh of ball-like lanterns shook in the Caribbean breeze, it was as though Burridge had written the script for exactly how this was meant to look, sound and feel.

 

Venues

Over the course of the ten days, six venues play host to the majority of the festival agenda. By day, it’s beach barsMamitas and Kool Beach, directly opposite each other, along with Canibal Royal, just a little further up the coast. By night, the action shifted five minutes down the road with another pair of beach clubs right next to each other, Blue Parrot (the main venue) and Coco Maya. A matter of 100 meters away, and not directly on the beach, La Santanerawas the odd one out in many ways, smaller and more intimate, the most club-like of all the locations, and interestingly, the only one of the main venues to offer a second room. It’s very much a subjective matter, of course, but the daytime venues felt more like they captured the essence of what BPM is about.

Without knowing what these venues look and feel like outside of BPM, it’s hard to fully comprehend the overhaul these relatively small-scale spots go through in putting on the world’s top electronic artists. Stories of several big rigs travelling down to Mexico from the States under the guidance of Integral Sound man George Stavro’s new venture, Sonic Lab Audio—with their own security cavalcade while passing through Mexico—stand as testament to the lengths gone to in order to get this right. It did, naturally, also sometimes feel like the events were almost too big to be taking place there, though, in fact, that somehow added to the charm. The novelty factor was also certainly at play for those events that took place away from the main six sites; a pair of parties at the Alux Cave, just outside Playa del Carmen, and Blue Venado, where Rebel Rave took place on the penultimate night.

 

Playa del Carmen

Unlike festivals where you might only encounter others who are there specifically for that reason, BPM’s place in Playa del Carmen, which is most definitely a tourist resort, makes for a truly mixed crowd. All the parties attracted a mixture of holidaymakers, locals and industry faces, but mainly clubbers from the US and Canada. There was a strong European presence also. This melting point, compounded by the fact that there was almost always a party happening, meant it wasn’t uncommon to see the « night before » serious music crowd at beach parties alongside local fans getting what is likely to be an annual chance to experience artists and parties of this calibre.

Step outside the venues and official BPM spots, among the frenzy of the somewhat brash Playa del Carmen nightlife, and you might not even know the festival was happening. Get within touching distance of an official event, however, and you could hardly imagine the place without BPM.

The sunshine and holiday feeling helps proceedings enormously, and while Playa del Carmen isn’t some kind of unchartered paradise, nearby Tulum really does feel as such. Not only was it seemingly the location of choice for many of BPM’s artists, but it felt a lot more like the real Mexico, and has spectacular Mayan ruins to boot. Several off-BPM parties took place in this area and the vibe at beach bars, such as Mezzanine, was the perfect tonic to the faster pace in Playa del Carmen.

Published / Thursday, 31 January 2013