Mexico’s BPM Festival continues to bring the underground to the shoreline.
Words: Bridget Mills-Powell
Pictures: Cheyenne Bosco, Bennett Sell Kline, Douglas Van Sant
A cluster of Canadians sit in the scorching Mexican heat, reclining on deckchairs with their toes playing in the white sands of Playa Del Carmen’s beach, drinking beer. They order a round of tequila. Another round naturally follows. With the sun on their face and booze pumping in their blood stream, they make a decision that will change their life. Playa Del Carmen, they agree, would make a perfect location for a dance music festival.
A year later, in 2008, Phil Pulitano and Craig Pettigrew found themselves directing the first ever BPM Festival, bringing in five headliners and some local DJ talent to play across four venues in the area. They were proved right.
“Playa del Carmen had the paradise feel that we knew would make it something special,” says Phil. “The first year about five thousand people came throughout
the seven days."
The area really is a perfect location for a festival. Playa Del Carmen, on the eastern extremity of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, down the coast from Cancun and due west of Cuba, is well established on the tourist party trail, with plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants, but still holds onto its natural beauty. It’s a decent size, but you don’t even need taxis. Everything is just off the main street, 5th Avenue, so you can flip-flop to any of the BPM parties and even pick up some nachos en route.
While the original concept was an industry-heavy gathering for ‘Bartenders, Promoters and Musicians’ (hence the name), five years later, 250 of dance music’s finest are playing across six different venues, with three night-time events and three day-time parties to choose from over ten days, each heavily loaded with an impressive line-up.
Despite the huge explosion in size and wealth of talent on offer, BPM was originally conceived six years ago as a drunken holiday brainwave, and the undercurrent of relaxing and partying with friends still runs through the festival. Just as the founding members did, BPM offers industry-heads, artists and punters the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Riviera Maya area in a relaxed setting – or party non-stop, of course.
After a six-hour Cocoon set, a newly shaven-headed Sven Väth stage-dives and crowd surfs as the sun rises. Meanwhile, down the road in Tulum, Guy Gerber takes the opportunity to do a different kind of diving, as he bolts around riding the waves of the beautiful nearby beach. That’s the nature of BPM Festival: party or enjoy the climate and the beach. Most, obviously, choose to do both to excess.
Many of the DJs opt to use the festival as a chance to catch up with their music pals and recharge from their busy festive season. “BPM takes place in a month perfect for DJ holidays,” Loco Dice tells Mixmag. “I’ve rented a house and come with my family and friends. I see it as a festival where I can visit other DJ’s parties, hear music, dance or meet my American friends.”
Soul Clap’s Eli agrees: “We stay longer for BPM because Playa is so fun and Tulum is so beautiful. Plus a bunch of our music friends stay on, so it’s great hangout time.”
Each day special surprise guests are announced on the mobile app, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp network. And they’re good guests too, with surprise DJ sets from Sven Väth, Steve Bug, Seth Troxler and Carl Cox, to name a few. And in contrast to Miami or Ibiza, getting a round in isn’t going to pillage your wallet. Four bottles of local beer XX Dos Equis in a club will cost you no more than a tenner. Go to a local shop and it’ll be half that.
During January the worst weather conditions in the area are a five-minute shower or a few hours of cloud. Other than that, it’s around 25 degrees or more.
With a huge surge in Mexican dance music fans on Facebook, there is a notable number of Mexicans mixed with a large percentage of North Americans, a small collection of Europeans and a spattering of ‘techno tourists’.
Predictable comparisons to Ibiza and Miami are inevitably made, but truth be told BPM is a festival in it’s own right, firmly placing Mexico on the map as a dance music destination. You decide if you go heavy on the sun loungers or tequila. Or both.
See more pictures from BPM by pointing your mouse here.
When? This year the festival took place January 4–13, 2013. Next year’s dates TBC
Where? Playa del Carmen, Mexico
How much? Individual event prices vary, but start at $15 for general admission. Early-bird VIPs: $350, full price VIPs: $600 (includes expedited, guaranteed entry and re-entry to all day and night parties)
FOUR OTHER PARTIES IN THE AREA
BPM isn’t the only thing going on in this part of Mexico...
‘Off BPM’ parties
Just as Sónar has with Off Sónar, various parties spring up in the nearby town of Tulum, along the beach, in the jungle, around the ruins, outdoor bars and at hotel venues.
Fiesta En La Playa at Mezzanine, Tulum
A year-round, weekly party every Friday on the Mezzanine hotel’s terrace with a distinct Ibiza atmosphere, run by Ibiza-heads, booking Ibiza residents. Cirque du Soleil-
style performance art also thrown in.
Find out more at www.facebook.com/FiestaEnLaPlayaAtMezzanineTulum
Cancun or Playa Del Carmen’s clubs
BPM is right in the heart of all of Playa’s bustling bars and clubs, with Cancun’s heaving (albeit extremely cheesy) nightlife less than an hour’s drive away.
Papaya Playa Project at Papaya Playa, Tulum
A weekly event every Saturday night from some of Berlin’s Bar 25 crew on a 900-
metre stretch of beach. The hotel also has recording studios for producers who’ve re-energised their creative juices.