While much of America was headbanging to drop-jockeying at the turn of the decade, The BPM Festival was blossoming out of its infancy into what it has now become – North America's premiere destination for dance music aficionados with developed palates. Spanning ten days at as many venues on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico, and with a dizzying array of the planet's most notable electronic talent in tow, BPM is one of the world's landmark festival experiences.
That said, BPM is by no means a festival in the manner that we've come to understand it. Rather, think of a SXSW-style takeover, with (mostly) house and techno, set betwixt Playa Del Carmen's white sand beaches on one side and ancient Mayan ruins on the other. Perhaps even more importantly, where else is there a greater likelihood of you enjoying an octopus taco with Carl Cox?
We had some words with BPM directors Phillip Anthony Pulitano, Craig Pettigrew, and Alessandra Axelsson to get the inside scoop on the festival's meteoric rise and what this year holds in store for attendees.
"For us, the most important thing for us is people coming down and getting to hear music that's not being fully represented at other festivals in North America on this scale," says Pettigrew. "We really want the underground music (read: non commercial EDM) to be the focus so that people have a chance to hear something different on a main stage other than what's being played on the radio."
He adds, "The BPM Festival is the opposite of what's being offered to people in North America at the moment, so we really get a specific music listener and a certain type of sophisticated clubber who attends BPM."
Some find themselves daunted by the prospect of a ten-day festival, but, therein lies the paradigm shift BPM proposes. It's not about perpetual rage mode, there's a lot more to it than that. Pettigrew explains, "If you have 10 days it really opens time for exploration rather than trying to cram everything into 3 days and rushing around everywhere. People come here from all over the world to relax after new year's – they party hard but also reconnect with friends and recharge for the new year… Ten days is a true winter holiday and it really gives people the chance to explore the beauty of the Mayan Riviera. "
Invariably, any discussion of BPM will include the phrase "vibe" at some point of another. Phillip Pulitano explains what that means: "I think that refers to the unique vibe that is felt here. No matter how big the festival is growing & becoming, we still manage to offer a very intimate feeling and setting at our events. Playa Del Carmen is a small walking city so you can easily walk down the streets and bump into your friends from another city or country and see DJs eating at restaurants or shopping. Also the natural setting and beautiful backdrop of the Mayan Riviera beaches and Mexico, creates a very natural, intimate, organic feel to the festival and every party that you attend."
"I always personally tell people to get the Festival Pass," says Axelsson. "It gives you the benefit of enjoying all of the festival events while still being able to wander off & explore the region, as Playa del Carmen and Quintana Roo state truly have some beautiful, natural & historical surroundings - for example you can start your day off with a Dive in a cenote, go for a nice lunch after, and then shower and hit an event for sunset…Once you see & experience BPM and Playa as a town, you see that we offer a diverse platform and that we truly utilize the entire city as our festival canvas."
Jemayel Khawaja is THUMP's Managing Editor - @JemayelK