Disclaimer: I was only at The BPM Festival for three full days and was insanely sick for one of them. My observations come from a very small sample of what’s become a pretty massive global event.
1- Playa Del Carmen is a much better party destination than Miami
The fact I only stepped into a taxi to go to and come from the airport is enough to give Playa Del Carmen the edge for me. You can travel to Tulum or to the forest events if you choose, but all you really need is a short walk away from wherever you are. And who minds walking when you’re in such a beautiful tropical location with amazing weather (something never guaranteed in Miami in March)? Paying half the price for drinks is another major plus for Playa over South Beach. Not feeling raped every time you order a drink is an excellent feeling when you’re on a clubbing vacation.
2. BPM is all about the day parties
La Santanera was a nice spot for the INTIMATE & UNDERGROUND concept. It has great sound, a pro booth and a cozy dance floor. The problem with our event was that it was inside at night. When there’s sunshine and a beach available, that’s where our funky house beats should be played. And coming from a cold climate, I felt ripped when I slept the next morning away. The vibe, energy and visual of a day event in Playa is absolutely epic. If we’re lucky enough to be invited back next year, that’s where I hope we can make the magic happen (at Canibal Royal to be exact).
3. The BPM Festival is a massive “party!”
I could complain about the quality of a lot the mixing and a lack of programming. I could even get into the subjective genre argument and the suitability of the music for the environment (okay, maybe I just did), but one thing I cannot debate is the enormity of the party both in numbers and energy. The BPM crew brought it big time! I enjoyed myself at every event, whether I was into the music or not. And as you can see by the sea of people trying to get into Blue Parrot on the first Saturday night, A LOT of people share my excitement for something Ibiza-like on this side of the pond (click the pic for a larger size).
4. To be successful in today’s EDM you need to have a gang with a brand
This is the most important lesson I learned throughout the entire experience. DJ’s used to be the most prominent names on a flyer, nowadays, it’s the name of a party, label or some other community. The music doesn’t necessarily need to be cohesive, just the image. Electronic music is now mainstream. Even if your sound is underground, you need to play by commercial rules. It’s quantity over quality, style over substance; however, if you can achieve all four, the sky’s the limit. That’s our goal for 2013.
5. Take your shots BEFORE you go to Mexico
I have next to no pics of my trip, because quite frankly, I wasn’t up for much. I began to feel weak after my first full day in Playa, and by Day 2, the day of our event, I became violently ill with a strand of the Norwalk virus. I was trapped in my room the entire day. If it wasn’t for a shot of antibiotics and another shot of B12 administered by a house-music-loving MD, I would have missed the only party I was at the festival for. With so many people shaking hands, hugging and talking ear to ear, it was a miracle if you didn’t get sick. Next year I’ll definitely take the shot before I get on that plane.
Before I get too deep into a rant, let me confirm how much I enjoy the music in this set. It’s reminiscent of what I’d play at the East Liberty Lounge (aka our home). But that’s one of the major problems I have with it. I said, “What I’d play.” I’m no DJ!
Here are my beefs:
I rarely go to Footwork, even though it’s the best underground space in the city. I just can’t waste time, when it’s become so precious, testing out different acts at a club that stacks the odds against us. Let’s be honest, Footwork likes it sketchy. But I get it, the crowd is loyal and spends money every week. The guys have to pay their bills, so they need to cater to the clientele who puts food on their table.
And to be honest, I just had a vague awareness of who Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap are when I heard they were spinning on the long weekend. All I knew is they look hipster and have cool websites. I would’ve never expected them to spin cool down-tempo disco when they support boring minimalists like the Art Department.
But it frustrates me so much they give a night like this a huge push. We’ve pitched light-hearted music to the club for years and they brush us off like INK dodges issuing cheques. In the only occasion we were able to partner for a funky party – The Rogue Show – they treated it like a night off and didn’t mind us assuming the loss when 90% of those who walked through the door were on our guest list.
This Modern Love Affair proves one thing about our rocky relationship with Footwork; it has nothing to with the music, its personal. I’ll take partial responsibility for being so head-strong when it comes to professionalism, but I’m not so sure they’d be quick to share the blame. I know they don’t even care.
Back to my opening point: I’m no DJ and this is what you’d hear at my kitchen table right now, both musically and technically. We’ve always been into funky-soulful music, both classic and fresh. Our new sound system comes with an unlimited streaming account from Napster, so we have the entire anthology of favourites at our fingertips. We’ve spent hours dancing around the living room to a random selection of hits spanning our entire lifetime.
But I emphasize random, and I point out we’re using software that has no mixing or equalizing capabilities. I’m just winging it, track by track, and what comes out the speakers is undoubtedly fun, but by no means pro. You can get away with this by a pool, on a patio, in a lounge or even on a boat, but in a proper underground club? That’s blasphemy!
If you’re paying top dollar to hear a DJ in a dance club, it should be about dancing. This is after-party music, not club music. I’ m sure Footwork views the night as a massive success, as social gatherings like this sell tons of booze. But I’ve already concluded above, Footwork’s primary concern isn’t music.
In my opinion, a night like this continues to waste Toronto’s coolest underground space, and further buries the entire underground concept in this city. I remain sad and frustrated, even when I dig the tunes.
Before: In a few hours I’ll hear Deadmau5 for the first time, live to air on Much Music at the Masonic Temple studio courtesy of my friend Tracy who did the publicity for the event. I’m quite intrigued by what I’m about to experience. I couldn’t trainspot a Deadmau5 track to save my life, but it’s going to be cool to see what this phenomenon is all about in an INTIMATE & COMMERCIAL setting.
See, I’m still the kind of guy who longs for the days where DJs made their money through the clubs and producers cashed in on the charts. If you could do both, you were a destined star. If you were only skilled in one of the two aspects, you were pretty much in the game strictly for the love.
Unfortunately, producers now dominate the dance floor; whether you can properly rock a room or not, you’re shit out of luck if Pete Tong isn’t playing your original cut. Add a marketing hook – for instance a pair of over-sized ears – and all you need to make it on DJ Mag’s Top 100 is a big phat electro track or some stripped down techno with your name on it. How it sounds in the mix (or not) doesn’t really matter, because let’s face it, flow and direction are so 2002. Look ridiculous in a few promo shots and you’re well on your way to being a sure fire hit.
I guess I’ll hear and see the winning formula up close and personal tonight.
After: Well I’m relieved about one thing: all my shit talk wasn’t just shit talk. The entire event was actually worse than I thought. The music was incredibly horrible and the production was absolutely sensational. My worst nightmare comes true.
Deadmau5′s music is simple and unimpressive. His first half hour was nothing more than banging noise. The rest of it was generic electro trance. Anyone with any knowledge of music production could piece together his sound. It’s tailor made for the untrained ear. Fortunately for him, there are lot of those mau5 ears up front and centre soaking up his cheesy energy to fuel their party.
Then there’s the corporate planet – the accessories to the crime – playing this crap off as the “best there is” with such an elaborate production. I get it, the mouse ears are marketable. Kids (and subsequently their parents) are buying it. His stage and light show are absolutely incredible and they even do an amazing job making that wacked thing on his head look ultra-cool. Deadmau5 truly puts on a Grammy-like performance and that makes money.
But put bluntly, the music sucks and I don’t feel he’s earned the fame. Unlike the likes of Luke, Nick Holder and Carlo Lio, buddy hasn’t paid his dues and worked the Toronto circuit as these guys have for many, many years. Let alone they make and play out music ten times the quality. I compare it to the hard working blues artist who’s been entertaining lounges for years with passionate tunes and is forced to watch Bieber Mania run wild after a couple half rate YouTube videos go viral. It’s just not right.
It is what it is and I guess we have to live with it. Just as we’ve endured years of Tiesto we’ll have to deal with people thinking Deadmau5 is a DJ (which he’s not). I’m sure he’ll be around for just as long as he seems just as popular. On a positive tip, kids are one step closer to real DJ culture by being exposed to any type of electronic music. We can only hope over time some on these fanatics escape the trap and trade their mau5 ears in for more musical ones.
Just when I thought it might be winding down, the passion I feel for the underground seems to fire up again. See, I’m approaching a crossroads, a point in my life where I need to begin to focus all of my energies on only the important things in my professional life. Now I just need to figure out what it is that’s important in my professional life.
I’ve come to grips, many times, that EDM is not where I see myself in 5-10-20 years. I’ve always said that it’s too unprofessional, too random an industry to spend the rest of my life trying to make a difference and earn an honest, secure living. But really, is EDM any different from the corporate world I find myself in now? Truly, no matter the profession, isn’t the secret to professional success about choosing to work with people you respect in an environment that’s inspiring?
INTIMATE & UNDERGROUND is a great example of getting the most out of the choices we make (Check our pics from I&U v8). We’ve stayed true to the underground essence, embraced it for what it is and have never tried to make it anything more than what it should be. And by doing so, we’re creating unforgettable memories each time we fill the dance floor.
Now we’re well aware the true tests are yet to come. Will we be able to recreate the electricity of our gigs headlined by Luke & Ricky with lesser known, up and coming artists? That’s always been our primary focus and in the end, our success will be measured on how many people come to bringthebeats / INTIMATE & UNDERGROUND events, not just for any one particular DJ.
And will we be able to properly launch The LocALe and finally become a recognizable group within the Toronto club circuit? As mentioned in the promo piece for v1, our long term success throwing events and introducing new talent to this city will be implicitly tied to our ability to attract local support from others working behind the scenes.
Over the next few months these questions will definitely be answered and the results will be one of the deciding factors in whether or not we should take bringthebeats to a full time level.
Saying all this, it’s the global effort that still excites me the most. How can it not coming off such an incredible Winter Music Conference in Miami (Check our pics Part 1 & Part 2). Damn was the music ever incredible and once again we met an abundance of like-minded, equally motivated colleagues.
Our friends from Embrace have definitely become a power house at the WMC, but it’s the detail, vision and enthusiasm of the Listed crew that has once again impressed me the most. They work so bloody hard and it shows in the quality of the music, production and most of all, the people on the dance floor.
Yes, the conference is starting to look quite a bit like a Jersey Shore pilgrimage, but that also means more of the mainstream is taking notice. We all most likely entered this scene with a style that we’re not as much interested in today. Let’s hope these people similarly convert to a less party focused participation and help the continue growth of the more underground sounds we believe should be at the forefront of this industry.
All in all, things are more positive for our movement than they’ve been in a long time. Looking back to my last IMO over 18 months ago, I think bringthebeats and the underground have taken more steps forward than in reverse, a tone I was definitely not writing in back in the fall of 2008.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the year will unfold, but whatever happens, one thing is for certain, 2010 is shaping up to be an all or nothing year for bringthebeats. Is it time to follow a dream or is it time to move on? Only time will tell; but the last few weeks has me looking more towards the stars now than ever before.
It’s been a struggle getting this column off the ground. I’ve been hanging in underground clubs for almost nine full years and have seemingly a lifetime of DJ culture and partying to shoot my mouth off about. Over that amount of time I’ve accumulated an abundance of in my opinion’s, making brainstorming for v.1 super confusing.
However, Alex’s stellar debut of Holologic was motivation enough to just get started and see what flows out of this annoyingly overactive brain of mine. I’ve broken the process’ success down to bottling up a little of the passion (aka obsession) so that I don’t come off sounding too bitter and / or pretentious.
Because being misunderstood is always what I’ve been afraid of when posting reviews or making any type of critical comment on the web. I honestly love the scene more than most other aspects of my life; nevertheless, the club industry has become an incredible nuisance in so many ways. So much so that when I get on about my experiences, I too often find myself speaking in a very unbecoming tone. I definitely don’t want negativity to be the basis of my conversations and most certainly not this website.
But on the other hand, for the sake of my sanity and the longevity of my involvement in the underground scene, it’s imperative I let out some of this pent up frustration. I figure there’s no better place than the space we pay for to go off about all the shady and just plain ignorant moves I see taking place in the club world. For way too long I’ve watched the powers that be do very little to nurture the credibility of dance music.
It’s all the nagging behind the scenes bullshit that fuels this criticism. I guess to some extent it’s the disappointment we feel for the current state of the club scene that has us still working so crazily on the entire bringthebeats project. Because trust me, we’d all much rather be the crew that just shows up on the dance floor each week, drink in hand, smile on face, stress left at the door… oh man I miss those early Breathe days.
But the unfortunate truth is that the widespread perception of our culture is most certainly not underground. And its the businesses at the top of the scene who are th most to blame. Who would have ever thought bottle service and house music would be found under the same roof? That dudes with less CDJ skill than my girlfriend would be headlining festivals with their farting basslines and cheese ball electro? What happened to tight mixing? Fluid programming? Proper journeys on the dance floor? To club promoters who are actually into the music?
Our motivation to create something special on the web and in the clubs stems from the mainstream’s warped impression of what true EDM lovers do. However we’re CONVINCED the magic isn’t lost forever, and we know this scene can appeal to the mainstream without becoming commercial. We download two to three sets each week that blow our mind. If the clubbing corps would just give the new breed a chance again, the fresh talent on the peripheral of the industry would drive dance floors absolutely crazy. It would be a true house.music.re-evolution.
Instead, almost all the gigs continue to go to the legends. The ones that simply work through the motions to collect their fee. Promoters have stopped making it about the music and have concentrated soley on who can get the most people through the doors and into a drunk immediately. The same circuit of DJs dominate our clubs and it kills me. If I wanted to hear the same music over and over again, I’d listen to rock and roll.
So if you continue to read this column, think of it as constructive hostility. It’s my way of telling it like it is, under the pretence that it’s absolutely, 100% my opinion and nobody else’s (some days it seems that way). But if you do happen to agree with what I write here, please come to our parties.