Partying in a New Comfort Zone at The BPM Festival 2014
Photo: Sunrise during the Innervisions Party at Blue Venado by Marjana Jaidi
Playa del Carmen, Mexico -- Last year when my friend Adam asked me why I wasn't going to The BPM Festival, I told him it wasn't my thing. "How could it not be your thing?" was his incredulous reply. The truth? I wasn't into house music and after a slew of teen-riddled commercial electronic music festivals, I thought I was done with the genre. A year and one BPM later, I'm eating my words.
As we put together our travel guide, I pored over the wisdom past festivalgoers shared and quickly realized that BPM was a very special place. "Be prepared, physically and mentally, to have the best marathonic party of your life," wrote Ivan Guerrero. Leonardo Manson added, "My first time going to BPM was in 2013 and it blew away my expectations. I found what are now some of my favorite DJ's at the festival," while Andre Rocher put it simply: "Such a magical place. You will love it." Sold.
BPM was born out of a vacation in Playa del Carmen. "We wanted other people to see what they have here in this town," Vito Tomasicchio, one of BPM's operational partners, said of the location, "it was magical, to be honest with you."
"It was about doing something pretty special and unique on this side of the world," co-founder Craig Pettigrew, who books all of the festival's talent, said of starting BPM. "I was heading to Europe a lot, and I was like, we need something kind of cool like this in North America. So we started The BPM Festival in January because I wanted somewhere warm to go. I'm originally from Toronto, Canada and it's very cold in January, so we thought it would be a good fun thing to do a beach destination party."
BPM, which originally stood for "Bartenders, Promoters, Musicians," started in 2008 as an industry event, but quickly branched out to include consumers. "When you have all of these people that are influencers and DJs, and bartenders, and promoters all coming here, they're going to tell all their friends, and all their friends end up coming to hang out with them, so it kind of spiraled from that, just bringing the right people down."
While BPM has many elements that make it unique - the beach, the sun (under normal circumstances), the venues, the layout - most BPMers cite the community as one of their favorite elements of the festival. "The vibe is so different from any festival I've ever been to," said Josh Bennett, Editor & Chief Content Officer at LessThan3, "it's so much more chill and relaxed and friendly, and I love how you can just party directly on the beach, it's amazing. I've never really experienced something like that before."
BPM has a strong social element; not only do you meet a lot of great people, but you have 10 full days to hang out with them. Everyone I know got a villa or condo, which was very conducive to socializing. "I like the hours between the day parties and the night parties because you get to go home, regroup, eat, and then go back out again and party," my friend and BPM roommate Char DeStefano said when asked about her favorite aspects of BPM.
"It's amazing that you have four different parties each night," Char continued, "everything is so close that you can just bop around." Logistically, BPM was a dream - the venues' proximity, combined with the ease of access afforded by the wristbands, gave BPM the feel of a traditional festival, rather than city festivals like SXSW or CMJ, which are often plagued by long lines and quite frankly, too many options.
"The whole wristband thing is what people really enjoyed about BPM," Pettigrew said when asked about BPM's access system. "I saw what Miami was doing and it was a hassle getting into the door all the time. The guys at the door were really rude because they wanted you to buy bottles rather than come in and listen to music. So we wanted it to be more about the music."
Despite BPM's rapid growth, Pettigrew intends to preserve this aspect of the festival. "Tickets will be a little more limited next year. Unfortunately it's going to have to be one of those scenarios where if you want to buy your ticket, you'd better get it quick because it's probably going to sell out."
While BPM may have to limit tickets, they hope to expand their geographical size. "This region is rather large, and there are a lot of special, unique, little areas that are undiscovered and untouched that I'm sure we're going to be introducing in the coming years as the growth accommodates for it," Alessandra Axelsson, BPM's Director of Operations and Finance, said, citing Blue Venado as an example.
Located in Punta Venado, five miles outside of Playa del Carmen, Blue Venado hosted one BPM event this year, Innervisions, which was hands-down my favorite party of the week. From the moment I walked in and saw the beachfront setup, I knew I wasn't leaving until after dawn. Unlike other BPM venues, which are fenced off from the beach to deflect interlopers, Blue Venado's remote location affords BPMers the luxury and freedom of enjoying everything the beach has to offer, soundtracked by Dixon, Ame, Mano Le Tough, and more.
Dixon, who played my favorite set of the week, rang in the sunrise, a surreal and spectacular experience that united fans and artists on Blue Venado's private beach and marked my second of three consecutive sunrises. Quite a feat considering, by the end of the week, I was running on less than 3 hours of sleep per night and no drugs. To say that I pushed myself beyond my limits during BPM is a vast understatement, and I think that's part of the reason why my experience at The BPM Festival had such a tremendous impact on me.
It's astounding that something I so adamantly dismissed as "not really my thing," could turn out to be one of the best experiences of my life. BPM took me so far outside my comfort zone, an area that, despite my extensive travels, I realized I rarely explore. It makes me want to pursue other things that I've preemptively disavowed. Next stop, Burning Man? I guess we'll see...
Want more BPM? Check out our BPM 2014 Facebook Album!
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