BEMF: A Festival That Finds Unity in its Variety

Photo Credit: Fitz Maro

This past weekend, in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival kicked off its two-night residence alongside the NYC’s first winter-chill of the year. Now in its seventh year, BEMF 2014 featured a broad variety of 30+ artists – from underground deep-house to more commercial EDM – who played at an equally diverse lineup of nine spaces throughout the area.

As a first-timer at this smaller-scale festival, I found its urban environment very unique yet very enjoyable. Though it was tough to see all the artists I wanted to, on account of show overlap, BEMF certainly has something for everyone into this scene. Scattered among some of my favorite area venues, including Verboten and Output, the backdrop of Brooklyn’s thriving nightlife made it unlike any festival I have experienced.

Friday afternoon’s wristband pickup at Kinfolk was quick and painless. Organizers encouraged me to download the festival’s official app, which I was incredibly impressed with; I curated a custom lineup and throughout the weekend, the app provided me with helpful push notifications relating to set times and other relevant alerts. After getting my pass, I quickly headed home on the L for some necessary things: a clothes change, two PBRs, and some pad thai. With the proper fuel for the night, I returned to the Bedford stop and made my way to see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Verboten. Though the crowd’s size and demeanor at this early show left a bit to be desired, the artists themselves certainly didn’t. The OG DJs, armed with original vinyl and a half-dozen turntables, scratched and narrated their way through a great hip-hop inspired set. Though an overwhelming number of attendees merely bobbing their heads, I, along with a few other inspired fans, danced to the heavy beats and busy visuals being projected. No regrets, it was a blast.

Photo Credit: BB Gun Press

With an adequate sweat worked up, I walked a few blocks south to rendezvous with friends for drinks before the night’s big show: Galantis and Booka Shade at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The venue is one of the few in the area that can host larger acts, yet still maintain the intimacy that is such a draw for Brooklyn shows. It features a lower level, flanked by two raised areas, as well as a balcony overhang in the back; the whole place is covered in lights and projections that fully immerse fans in the artist’s style. When we arrived, the crowd was a bit sparse, but it quickly filled in as the set-time approached. Although the coat-check line was a painfully slow process on a frigid 40º night, we were able to make it back upstairs with about 10 minutes to spare.

Photo Credit: BEMF

Galantis’ signature “Sea Fox” (wordplay on a more scandalous phrase: “She f*cks”) adorned cardboard masks that staff passed out to the crowd while fans got more and more hyped by the minute. Soon, Galantis appeared on stage and proceeded to whip their fans into an absolute frenzy with their hits Smile and Run Away. Manhattan-looking bros fist pumped alongside their kandi-adorning Brooklyn counterparts and the energy couldn’t have been better. Everyone genuinely seemed to be enjoying the music, a stark contrast to many recent festivals I’ve been to where fans are more intent on Instagramming or Snapchatting a show. The Swedish duo, who played for just over an hour, surprised the crowd with an incredible mix of Fatboy Slim’s classic Praise You and later reprised Smile and Runaway before finishing with a trap-esque remix You. They didn’t reemerge for an encore, however I was confident that everyone in attendance was pleased with the performance.Having recently topped both Hype Machine and Spotify’s number one spots, Galantis showed us why their are the hot name in electronic music right now.

As much of Galantis’ younger fans dispersed from the show, Booka Shade – the legendary Berlin house duo – took to their elaborate stage rigs. Their non-traditional performance setups, which include live percussion and keys, delivered powerfully deep beats to the late-night crowd. Around 35 minutes into their set, my crew and I decided to make moves, and we all headed back home to recover from an insane and very memorable day one at BEMF.

Photo Credit: Fitz Maro, FestPop

Saturday night, battling a pretty miserable cold, I hopped on the Q59 bus in Bushwick and headed into Williamsburg to catch Eats Everything, Jackmaster, and Chicago-native Honey Dijon at Output. I was most impressed with Honey’s style. She seems influenced by a wide variety of sources, from disco to house. For those who don’t frequent the Brooklyn music scene, it’s safe to say that Output has one of – if not the – best sound systems in the city. It’s definitely worth experiencing, and I have no doubt that BEMF was a great first taste for many in attendance who traveled into the city for their first show there. Rookies and veterans alike will be hard pressed to disagree.

After dipping out of Output, I fought my way south along Wythe Ave. to Little Boots’ show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Known for her electo-synth style, Little Boots brought an entourage of suited-up women in shades that made for a very fun and unique set. Her sexy voice carried the crowd through the set and I was quite impressed. I wish I could say I hung around for Chris Malinchak and Aeroplane’s late-night sets, but there wasn’t a chance in hell I could have made it. Splitting migraine and sore throat aside, I still really enjoyed myself Saturday night.

Photo Credit: BEMF

When I’d first been given the chance to cover the BEMF, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I didn’t know many friends who had been before, and to put it frankly, I wasn’t sure Williamsburg would be the best place for an electronic music festival. At 2:23 am, as I sat at the Bedford L-stop waiting for my train, ears ringing beyond belief, I began to reflect on the past two nights and found myself in a moment of clarity, albeit in a very bizarre, and tequila-induced analogy: Not unlike an incredible all-you-can eat Chinese buffet, this festival had a seemingly limitless variety and an incredibly convenient location- all at a bargain price. Compared to some of the bigger electronic festivals making waves, BEMF deserves consideration for your time and energy as one of the growing festivals on the circuit.

Written by FestPop Staff Writer

Fitz Maro

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