The BPM Festival 2015: The Year of Change
Blue Venado at The BPM Festival 2015 by Marjana Jaidi
Playa del Carmen, Mexico -- From the moment I arrived at The BPM Festival for my second consecutive year, I knew change was in the air. It started with my wristband (RFID!) but didn’t really sink in until I walked into Mamita’s. The place was unrecognizable, save for the Mamita's logo greeting you at the entrance. Gone was the palapa that housed the main bar, and in its place stood a massive, modern, indoor/outdoor structure and what felt like at least twice as much dance space on the beach.
"Mamita's is definitely different from what it was last year," Craig Pettigrew, director and co-founder of BPM, told me in an interview at the venue last month, "[and] Blue Parrot went through a major renovation."
Indeed, BPM went through a growth spurt in the past year, with more venues, parties, and people than ever before. Blue Parrot's renovation included a permanent stage area and the addition of more raised areas, such as a pool and several platforms, making the club more conducive to bottle service.
Blue Venado also added bottle service areas in the form of roped-off sections along the beach, but more importantly, they paved the roads leading up to the venue (no more pitch-black jungle treks!) and implemented a free shuttle, which made the venue, located just outside Playa del Carmen, and its parties far more accessible.
There were five parties scheduled at Blue Venado this year, all top-tier showcases: Life and Death, Used and Abused, Paradise, Innervisions, and Social Experiment, the latter of which merged with the Mamita's closing party at the last minute.
I attended two consecutive parties, Paradise, and of course, Innervisions, both of which had a noticeably higher attendance compared to last year, with good reason.
"It's just an unbelievably picturesque experience that you can't have anywhere else," says Josh Bennett of LessThan3, "the sunrise feels like it cleanses you whenever it happens and makes you ready for a new year of new possibilities."
Blue Venado is the perfect example of the delicate dichotomy that BPM faces as it grows. Last year, it took a $50 taxi ride, followed by a long trek down a dirt path in the pitch-black, just to get to Blue Venado. It took money and effort to get there, so you really had to want to go, but, in the end, you were handsomely rewarded with an amazing, intimate, singular experience. There's something very special knowing that of BPM's 10 days, there was only one sunrise at Blue Venado, and we were among the lucky few (hundred) that were there to witness it.
"After Innervisions last year at Blue Venado, which was one of my highlights," Pettigrew recalled, "we felt that venue really was something special and we could do some other cool showcases there. We [did] five this year, and it's been a great response."
BPM made all the right moves in expanding its partnership with Blue Venado - they booked amazing showcases and made it free and easy to get there - but part of the magic has diminished as a result, at least at that particular venue.
There's still plenty of magic to be found at BPM, it just seems to be migrating south towards Tulum, the picturesque beach village about an hour's drive from Playa del Carmen. This is the first year that BPM really made its mark in Tulum, though festival artists had already started staying there in years past. The festival had planned to throw a pop-up party there last year, but had to cancel due to the weather.
This year, BPM took a careful approach to its Tulum events, quietly releasing them through the mobile app, then following up with a last-minute Facebook event. I attended the second of two parties, The BPM Takeover in Tulum Beach, which turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for.
The event was held at Las Ranitas Eco Hotel, in a relatively small event space with direct access to the beach (the holy grail of venue features). And, for the first time that week, I experienced the perfect level of crowded. Inside, there were enough people to make it a party, but still enough room to dance and maneuver with complete comfort and ease. Outside, ample tables and lounge chairs made a seat easy to come by, with waiters to bring you food and drinks. Musically, the DJs were solid across the board, producing one of the best collection of sets that week (scroll down to the bottom of the post to check out the BEAT.TV lifestream). Oh, and did I mention the stars?
As with Blue Venado last year, this party wasn't easy to come by. An hour is a long way to travel for an untested party, and getting there is either easy but expensive (taxi) or cheap but challenging (public transport). Still, it turned out to be my favorite party of the week and an extremely rewarding, worthwhile experience.
Regardless of the changes, one of the best things about BPM remains how easy it is tailor the experience to suit your own personal agenda.
"My favorite thing about BPM is all of the options," Lyly Villanueva, founder of III Points Festival in Miami, told me on the beach in Tulum. "You can go to six different parties in one day, listen to six different types of music and you leave satisfied, you know? You're like, 'that was worth it.'"
Whether you're looking for an all-out 24/7 10-day party or you just want to kick it on the beach with some great music, it's all present at BPM, it's just that some things are harder to come by than others. After two years at BPM, one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is that the best experiences come at a price, financial or otherwise. If you're looking for those unique, intimate experiences, you have to be willing to take a risk on early test runs and be the guinea pig. If you're looking for a big beach party with the best DJs in the world, BPM has you covered in spades.
"You become a victim of your own success, and we're trying to figure out a way to keep our long-time BPMers happy and faithful, and doing our best to make that happen," Pettigrew said when asked about the pitfalls of growth. "I think it's just adding different elements and still doing those one-off events that are unique to those people. Maybe they don't come 10 days in a row now, maybe it's two days, three, but you still have that something special sort of event for them. That's kind of why we're always finding these little pop-ups… things to offer people so that they still want to come and it's very boutique and niche."
On the Tuesday after BPM ended, I found myself on a tiny island surrounded by a cenote, with a Funktion One system blasting. It was in the middle of nowhere (directions told us to pass three speed bumps and look for a farm), and unlike every other venue I'd been to, taxis were not lined up outside. That's the beauty of the Quintana Roo region, there's still so much uncharted territory left for BPM to explore.
The team behind BPM has built such a great festival, it makes perfect sense that more and more people want to take part in the amazing experience, but what I'm really excited about is what they come up with next.
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