7 Things We Learned At BPM Festival

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Mexico. Home of in no particular order; the Aztecs, tequila, some of the world tastiest cuisine, sombreros and most notably – for us at least – stonkingly good electronic music. Yes, there’s no doubt about it musically Mexico is a country on the up, with the the country’s vibrant electronic scene having house and techno lovers the world over sitting up and starting to take notice.

2016 saw the ninth year of the country’s renowned BPM Festival. Held across ten days in Playa del Carmen – the Mayan Riviera resort is as close as Mexico gets to Ibiza’s glossy, beautiful scene – with the January festival’s line up featuring over 375 artists including the likes of Richie Hawtin, Maya Jane Coles, Luciano and Sasha.  Promoters tipped 2016 to be bigger and better then ever before as a who’s who of the electronic music world descend upon Mexico for sun and mescal a plenty. Thus, not wanting to be left out, Data Transmission packed our bags and set off to get in on the action. Here’s 7 things we learned whilst there…

Mexico is the place to be weather wise. 

Let’s face it, January sucks. Unless you like us decided to take the plunge and head out to BPM – a wise decision if ever we saw one – then you were prob braving the cold, staring a considerably lighter bank balance whilst thinking about how to shift those extra pounds you put on over yet another overly indulgent Christmas period.

Well it doesn’t have to be this way. With an average temperature of 24°, we don’t think we’ll be ever spending the start of the year in the UK ever again. Now we’ve tasted that sweet winter sun, we just can’t go back to the wind and the rain. Please don’t make us. We’ll make you breakfast.

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Eagles & Butterflies is set to blow.

Having spread his wings and fluttered across the various reaches of the electronic music spectrum with his productions in recent year, 2015 was the year that Eagles & Butterflies career really took flight as he dropped records on InnervisionsNoir Music, Bedrock and his own Spread Your Wings imprint, before rounding out the year with the release last album ‘Abstract’ on Get Physical.  

Maintaining his momentum for the new year, E&B started as he meant to go on dropping a showstopping performance for Bedrock, in what was undoubtedly our favourite day party.

As a long term, friend of Data Transmission and the superhero presenter of our long running radio show, you’d be forgiven for suspecting we might be a bit a bit biased on this one as we lavish praise on the English born, LA based producer but we’re not. We simply rate him that highly and this is his year.

It’s a marathon not a sprint.

So we feel this is pretty self explanatory but we’ll share our observations with you anyway. Unless you have the partying habits of a young Charlie Sheen, you’re going to want to pick your battles wisely. Sure, you’ll prob hit the trail pretty hard but with ten days of debauchery to enjoy and the best part of 400 artists on display, making sure you see who you want to see will require a strategic planning rarely seen outside of the military.

We’d also recommend, you know, seeing some of the culture. DT took a few days out to visit Mayan world heritage sites Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba, the latter offering up a pyramid you can actually climb.

Top Tip: Do not rent a big white American 4X4 to head our on excursions. You will be repeatedly stopped by the police.

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Lots of EDM fans have graduated to techno.

Rest assured, we don’t mean this in some ‘we’re achingly cool’ hipster way. Some of us do have beards and tattoos but we don’t pay in bitcoins and we enjoy regular beer. That said, we’re not without our own innate prejudices even if we don’t realize it until after the fact. Thus having looked at the line up, it still surprised us just how many people who would have been attending something much more EDM focused a few years ago had made the pilgrimage down to Mexico to enjoy less mainstream offerings. Having spoken to a number of the EDM converts, Data Transmission is pleased to report that a good time was had by all as we ignored the vest and snapback combos to welcome them into the techno fraternity. The scene’s based on a sense of community after all.

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The term ‘jungle’ means something very different in Playa Del Carmen.

Where we grew up ‘Jungle’ had one of two meanings. It meant either “a style of dance music incorporating elements of ragga, hip hop, and hard core and consisting of fast electronic drum tracks and slower synthesized bass lines” or an “an area of land overgrown with dense forest and tangled vegetation, typically in the tropics.” Thank you Wikipedia. In Playa Del Carmen however, you can forget fat basslines and Mowgli because it means a brand spanking new club built on the outskirts of town.

Not quite the rave in a jungle we were expecting it was fun none the less as the likes of Solomun and Jamie Jones strutted their stuff in it’s glitzy, Ibiza inspired surroundings.

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Lots of things aren’t as they seem.

Now, we’re from London – we know, we know, we don’t stop banging on about it – and that means that well, as anyone who has stood on the wrong side of an escalator on the tube can testify, we expect things done a certain way. Thus, having to deal with shall we say, certain shady practices by a host of officials and people posing as tour operators and the like – although we’re keen to stress nobody involved with festival– served as a bit of a fly in our ointment. Do your research before you go and don’t pay for anything not directly affiliated with the festival up front. We met quite a few people there who unfortunately learned this the hard way.

Latin America might be the future of electronic music but it’s not there yet…

With the many parties and festivals spread out across Central and South America and the development of the regions own distinctive sonic identity, Latin America is starting to feel like it could be a new proving ground for electronic music. Mexican labels in particular have flourished in recent years and having checked out a host of domestic talent whilst at BPM it’s easy to see why.

Having to a large extent bypassed the EDM phenomenon that engulf their neighbors to the north and taken careful steps to actively conserve their own electronic ecosystem, what remains lacking is the infrastructure to support all of the talent they have on offer. It’s not there yet but with festivals like BPM leading the charge and new clubs being opened all the time, we’re going to have a great time watching them get to the promised land.

Photos: aLIVE Coverage for TheBPMFestival.com