Editor’s Note: It took a while, but I’ve finally digested everything that went down at this year’s BPM Festival. This article is longer than normal so set aside a few minutes to read. The wrap-up is divided into two parts – 1.) The BPM Festival with a focus on the music and parties; and 2.)The shooting at Blue Parrot. These three areas represent the main chapters of my experience in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from January 10-16, 2017. Feel free to jump ahead to any portion and as always to share your thoughts and feedback with us on this post or by emailing me directly at [email protected]

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Part 1: The BPM Festival

This year was the 10th anniversary of The BPM Festival, happening in the beautiful resort town of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. For those who don’t know, The BPM Festival was started by a group of nightlife industry veterans from Toronto who wanted to hold a post-new year’s gathering. Contrary to popular belief that “BPM” stands for “Beats Per Minute” in reference to the tempo of dance music songs (DJs mix songs of similar BPMs to create a smooth journey of music), BPM actually stands for Bartenders, Promoters, and Musicians. Over the past 10 years The BPM Festival has quietly become one of the biggest destinations for underground dance and electronic music lovers in the world. For most of my friends who aren’t huge dance music aficionados, explaining this festival before I left was a challenge. They appreciated the music festival aspect of BPM but when asked who the headliners were I was having trouble articulating that some of dance music’s biggest names would be there. Struggling to offer artists my friends might know, such as Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Nicole Moudaber, Danny Tenaglia, Mark Knight, Dubfire, Green Velvet… the list goes on… I was mostly met with blank looks. No matter, this trip was for me and very much a bucket list festival to attend after retiring from four years of Holy Ship.

I made the 6-hour journey from San Francisco to Playa Del Carmen by way of Cancun on Tuesday January 10th. Upon exiting my taxi from the airport, I could already hear the BOOM BOOM BOOM of kick drums in the distance. The air was warm, smelled of the ocean, and my supply of Tecates was already halfway gone. I was ready to party.

Once settled at my Airbnb I was reunited with my friends from the East Coast who had arrived earlier in the day, many of them Holy Ship veterans just like me. For those of us who had chosen to skip the Holy Ship sailings this year, BPM was the next logical choice… and boy was it a good one. The BPM Festival quite literally takes over Playa Del Carmen for 10 days. There are beach parties during the day, club parties at night – with some trips to the jungle sprinkled in – and it felt like every bar or restaurant you passed had a DJ playing.

Our first team dinner consisted of one of many Shrimp and Avocado pizzas that I would consume during the week. With bellies full our first stop was the Solomun block party happening for free in the middle of the town square. It was absolutely packed and people were dancing away to fantastic House and Techno by BPM’s most-liked artist (according to the official mobile app). After Solomun’s block party ended it was time for the night parties to begin. That night we split our time between the Santanera Rooftop (which hosted two floors of BPM parties and was possibly my favorite club in the city, unfortunately now closing) and Blue Parrot (probably the biggest club in PDC). The night featured a Hot Creations showcase (Riva Starr, Mat.Joe, Russ Yallop, Solardo, etc) at Santanera and a “We Are The Night” event at Blue Parrot that to our excitement would feature a surprise 5am Carl Cox b2b Nic Fanciulli set. I was pumped about this because I thought Carl Cox would be leaving before I arrived. Big shoutout to The BPM Festival organizers for keeping us up to date on set times (Twitter) and details on the festival with a very user-friendly app.

Though it was enjoyable hearing the legendary Carl Cox and Nic Fanciulli spin fantastic Techno together, the Hot Creations night stole the show for me.  Major shoutout to Solardo who easily had the best set of the night.

With my first day over and my second one upon me, I was settling in to what would be a week of parties and nocturnal functioning. One of my biggest regrets was not attending more beach parties, but that is pretty hard to do when you’re out partying until 6am from the night before. On Wednesday afternoon we headed to Martina Beach Club, just blocks from our Airbnb, for an all-day set of Apollonia. These guys were so much fun to see live, spinning an impressive 9-hour set. The vibes were on point and there was no shortage of danceable 4×4 beats.

Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage for TheBPMFestival.com

Wednesday proved to be a day of marathon performances as later that night The Martinez Brothers, who simply owned BPM this year, took to the Blue Parrot decks to play for over eight hours past sunrise. We found ourselves again splitting time between Blue Parrot and La Santanera – which had several parties happening on its five floors, including “Listed presents PLAY” (Pork Chop, Mikey Lion, No Regular Play, Andy Warren) and “Nonstop vs D-Floor” (Pirupa, NICe7, Leon). Again – hate to talk out against legends, as The Martinez Brothers were KILLING their set, but the surprise Pirupa b2b Leon set at Santanera stole the night for me. They were playing in a lounge area with awesome lights and a vibe that reminded me of The Black and White room on Holy Ship (Shipfam knows what I’m talking about). Pirupa and Leon were laying down some fire G-House and overall bangin’ House toons which always tickles my fancy more than standard Tech-House.

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The Martinez Brothers marathon Solamente set

Thursday was perhaps the best overall day with two incredible lineups both day and night. During the day we had the pleasure of a table at the All Gone Pete Tong party at Blue Parrot featuring Pete Tong, Joris Voorn, Jonas Rathsman, Butch, Yotto, and Cristoph. The people we were with, the music we heard, and the daytime vibes all combined to be a smiling occasion into the early evening. Joris Voorn was the perfect fit to close out the night and certainly can’t knock him for playing the only Daft Punk song I heard all week.

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Butch doing what Butch does best

At night we headed to the venue aptly titled “The Jungle” which was a festival within the festival. A short taxi ride brought us to festival entrance gates and this was the first time I truly felt like I was at a music festival. On tap that night was Jamie Jones’ “Paradise” party which I had been to previously in Miami and was very excited to be a part of given the lineup of folks like Skream, Jackmaster, Lee Foss, Nicole Moudaber, Danny Tenaglia, and of course Jamie Jones himself. The music was spread across two stages with small art installations, bars, food vendors, and tables all around. It certainly was a tight squeeze navigating the crowds but overall the tunes were great. Jackmaster’s set may have been the most diverse, featuring Techno and Disco all in the same set, and I was disappointed not to have caught Lee Foss’ set which is what I was most excited for.

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Skream b2b Patrick Topping in the Jungle

Friday brought us to the Wah Wah Beach Club for the Anjunadeep showcase. This one featured some of my favorites in Yotto, Jonas Rathsman, and Moon Boots. Great funky and deep vibes here with a beautiful and friendly crowd and a view from the beach that’s hard to beat. At night we took to the Mayan jungles of Tulum for Damian Lazarus & Crosstown Rebels’ famous Day Zero party. More on that below.

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Yotto, Jonas Rathsman, and Moon Boots

Because Day Zero was an all-night event, I used Saturday to play catch up on sleep, though very excited for the Ya’ah Muul party in the jungle at night. When night was upon us we ventured back to the Jungle for round two. Though I’m a huge Guy Gerber fan, there was really only one thing that mattered to me here: The Martinez Brothers b2b Seth Troxler b2b Loco Dice. Reaping the benefits of a luxurious elevated table to view the party from, I was able to freely dance to some amazing House and Tech-House. Guy Gerber’s set acted as a great warm-up to the b2b2b set we were about to witness and I may not have had more fun dancing around at any other point during my week in Mexico. The b2b2b set was as good as advertised and there’s no doubt Loco Dice played a huge part of that. Walker & Royce’s “Get Them Draws” was played and I nearly lost my shit (there’s a joke in there, ask me later). Eventually the sun came up and we ventured back to playa for some beach parties and eventual sleep.

The next day Sunday was upon us which would be the closing day of The BPM Festival. On my last leg, I elected to wait until nightfall to attend a party. We chose to go to one of the two  main parties, which would be the elrow party at Blue Parrot. elrow is famous for throwing epic theme parties around the world and that night would be no different. The theme was “Psychedelic Trip” and the whole club was outfitted in 70s throw-back decorations and glow-in-the-dark neon. At times throughout the night we would hit large beach balls out of the air and get sprayed with confetti. The stellar Techno playing the entire time definitely added an element of smiles. Unfortunately our night was cut short due to the unfortunate shooting that happened at the club. Please see Part 3 for reflections on this.

Part 2: The Shooting At Blue Parrot

*I’ve done my best to share the details of this event as they were reported. If there are any factual errors please contact me and I will make sure they are accurate*

On Sunday night January 15th during the elrow closing party, a shooting occurred at the Blue Parrot nightclub. My friends and I were inside when these tragic events unfolded.

At the time of the shooting, I was having an amazing time with friends new and old. The psychedelic theme was unlike any other party at BPM and the music was as thumping as ever. Around 2:30am we heard a pop pop pop sound and while we didn’t immediately react, eventually found ourselves ducking and covering on the floor. The reason we didn’t immediately react is because of the noise itself and how it sounded like it could have been fireworks for closing night – plus the loud music masked the sound. Once everyone realized what was happening, in a matter of seconds, the music was off and people were screaming, running, and crying. Eventually we started to get up to see what was going on and then another wave of “GET DOWN” hit the venue. At this point I was starting to realize the gravity of the situation and thinking this could be it – I could have it all end here at any moment.

Fortunately we didn’t hear any additional shots and we got up to run for the back of the club, where an eight-foot fence stood between us and the beach. As we began helping people over the fence we were diverted through a back exit and alleyway that led to a different street than the one we entered from (the shooting happened at the club entrance). As we were running out of the club I asked a security guard what happened and he said “fireworks”. Yeah, I don’t think so.

Once out on the street, my immediate group began calling and texting the rest of our group to make sure everyone was okay. In the meantime we saw ambulances and police cars speeding down the street. More and more people were running and there was a lot of commotion. Eventually we accounted for everyone and headed back to our accommodations.

Because this was the last night of BPM I didn’t want to end my night on a low note. A couple of us ventured to a nearby bar to drink heavily and eat some food. All the while I was monitoring social media to see what was happening. This was real. This was fucked up. This was Mexico. When I told the bartender what happened, he didn’t seem to think much of it. It seemed relatively unsurprising to him.

Until January 15th I had never been through a near-death experience. Not to say I was injured in any way, but it easily could have been me if I showed up to the club an hour later. My heart goes out to those affected by this tragedy and it pains me every single day to think that such a beautiful experience was ruined by people with no regard for human life.

I’m not going to discuss politics or the details of the unfortunate event, but it certainly has been an emotional time for me and the rest of my group. I’m thankful I made it out alive and can share these experiences with you here today.

To anyone reading this who was at Blue Parrot on the night of the shooting or who had friends or family there, I’m more than happy to talk. I also recommend talking to a professional if you’re in need of an outlet.

To the festival organizers and to the folks at Plexi PR. Thank you for an amazing experience despite how it ended. I truly hope BPM can stay alive and grow from this because what you had built was something special.
Peace, love, and dancing.
-Jon