BPM Festival, Mexico

We were in Playa del Carmen for so long we decided that we can now tell people we officially lived there. After a few weeks, we effortlessly morphed into locals—we had close friends in town, helped tourists with directions and recommendations; we knew the secret shortcuts and quoted prices with the confidence of natives. We even made a couple dentist appointments! We started settling into the flatness of a standard daily routine… That is until the area was flooded with a sea of activity for the BPM music festival.

We were long expecting the hurricane of international party people to hit the town, but we weren’t prepared for the magnitude of the storm. Now, every restaurant audibly erupted with miscellaneous languages and foreign accents from all over the world. The streets became a vibrant medley of color and cloth as exotic style rejuvenated our visuals and dazzled our sightlines. After adapting to our life as placid travelers, the hyperactivity and sheer volume came as a bit of a shock at first, but we quickly embraced the stimulation and planned our nap schedules accordingly.

BPM lasts 10 full days, with several beach bars and clubs hosting legendary DJs each day and night. It’s possible to buy a VIP wristband in advance in order to have access to every party; however, due to our lack of disposable funds, paired with our inability to stay awake or party like we used to, we decided to only attend three events and purchase individual tickets. We checked the lineup time after time and were perpetually unable to make our choices—the music selection was just too good!

cheersOn a side note, for about a week, we had been compiling a list of random necessities to purchase from the Mexican Wal-Mart: goggles, chapstick, peanut butter… The essentials. On our way to check out, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes: two of my close friends from college, Ben and Ralph, were standing right in front of me! I hadn’t seen either of them since graduation a few years ago so it was a welcomed and animated reunion. They were in town for BPM and had rented a condo in a prime location; we decided to meet up later that day and ended up joining forces for the remainder of the week. It was so nice to spend quality time with old friends! We sat on the beach behind the day clubs and casually listened to the booming music amidst thousands of bikini-clad fanatics, while taking periodic dips in the ocean and catching up on the past few years over piña coladas and cans of Sol.

As for our night party selections, Carl Cox was a no-brainer, as none of us had before seen the icon live. The five of us wandered over to the Blue Parrot around 1AM and already there was a line down the block. After some foxlike maneuvering, we wiggled our way up to the front and fluidly entered the scene. Once inside, we were hit with a force field of steam and immediately got sucked into the vortex of sweaty bodies and smoke. The next several hours were a blur of heavy techno baselines and neon lights. Nic Fanciulli and Carl Cox both played a great show and had the crowd going hard! There was barely any space to squeeze through the army of dancers—even using the restroom was an earnest mission as the venue was packed all the way to the incoming tide.

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 12.48.02 PMWith sunrise looming just below the horizon, I decided to leave with Ben and Ralph and get some shuteye at their nearby condo, while Kyle and Meghan stayed glued to the dance floor for a strong finish. The party was fantastic and well worth the $60 ticket price, but I had had enough. I likened the experience to seeing Gone With the Wind at a drive-in movie theater: you can’t pass up the opportunity to see a classic in full throttle. But that particular genre of techno loses its hold on me after a few hours and 6AM seemed like a reasonable time to head home.

We were planning to stay in and recharge our batteries the following night, but upon meticulous deliberation and the ubiquitous enthusiasm surrounding the Circo Loco event, we were forced to reconsider. Meghan firmly declined attendance and so it became a Harold & Mabel adventure. This time, however, we came up with a plan that was more sympathetic to our partying abilities (or lack thereof): we went to sleep at 8PM and set our alarms for 12:30AM. At first, we figured we could just circle around to the back of Coco Maya beach club, listen to the speakers and dance on the sand for free. But once we got a taste of the delicious music, our appetites swelled and we knew we needed get inside for the full effect.

307534_711203675093_10153519_nOur jaws hit the floor when the bouncer told us the cover charge was $100 each! Waaaaay too much. But by now our minds were made up—we were getting in. We crept around the back, trying to bribe security guards along the way to let us sneak in, but they were as stone-faced as the British Royal Guard. After several thwarted efforts, Kyle got a crazy look in his eyes and declared he was going to hop the fence. I halfheartedly went along with the plan, not actually believing we could pull it off, as the perimeter was sealed and secured: he would jump over and quickly blend into the crowd, meeting me in front, where I would pay the full cover and we could split the cost. We stood there for about 10 minutes and then, all of a sudden, there was a split-second distraction—a group of girls walked by in flamboyant, lit-up costumes—and Harold saw his chance. In a flash, he was gone, and we were in!

This party was twice as packed as Blue Parrot the previous night (something I had not thought possible.) We melded into the amoeba of people moving to Maceo Plex’s deep and dirty sounds. We squeezed up the stairs and found slight sanctuary on the 6or6balcony, a couple square feet of breathing room, if that. As time wore on the crowd did not dilute, in fact, it seemed to steadily grow. Once the Martinez Brothers hit the decks, my feet did not stop moving. The music was unreal—every couple minutes, they would drop another outstanding track and Kyle and I would stare at each other, wide-eyed and approving. The Martinez Brothers played back-to-back with Seth Troxler and we welcomed the sunrise with their tantalizing beats. As the day grew hot the mob thinned out, and we were thankful for our pre-party naps, which enabled us to stay fixed to the scene and take over the front of the dance floor with plenty of room. The DJs never lost momentum and kept the remaining partygoers firmly within their trance. They finally ended their set sometime around 8AM and we decided to wander over to Ben and Ralph’s condo and crash, as to avoid the long walk back to our hostel on the other side of town. When nobody opened the door, we accepted defeat and began the journey home… But walking past Coco Maya on the way back, we heard music still playing and went back in, relieved to find that a new party had blossomed upstairs with DJs we didn’t recognize. We danced up there for a while more before officially calling it a night. Or rather, a day.

agallA couple days later, we were ready for our grand finale. The Lovelife crew of San Diego was sponsoring a party at La Santanera. Jon Dadon was spinning and had added us to the list for free entry. Now seasoned, we had our sequence down: dinner, nap, shower and show up around 1AM. It was at this party that we ran into another familiar face: Ashley Gall! She had decided to fly to Mexico and attend the festival on a whim the day before—we were so glad to find each other and play! La Santanera was much more laid back than any of the other parties we’d attended, and we were actually able to dance around, sit and talk to one another.

I’m not sure what time we left La Santanera, but we wandered back to Ashley’s villa for a little air-conditioned downtime and rested our tired feet in the hot tub there. As the sun came up, we walked half a block down to the beach for a morning swim and happened to see some friends dancing on daybeds in the back of Coco Maya. The party was still going strong and it only seemed natural to participate… It was our final hurrah, after all!

clubAfter the party finally ended, Kyle, Megs and I walked all the way back to our hostel, where we went through the motions of packing our gear, checking out, and going all the way back to the condo. By 2PM we were hanging on by a thread, and Ben and Ralph let us sleep in their cool and dark bedroom for the next few hours before getting on the overnight bus for Guatemala.

When we woke up, still groggy and feeling like we’d aged 100 years, we went to the bus station only to find it completely sold out and learned we wouldn’t be able to leave until the next night at 11:40PM. None of us had enough energy to get upset or come up with a new plan, so we calmly trudged back to the condo and informed the boys of an extended slumber party. Ben and Ralph were planning on going out again that night—we couldn’t even fathom their resilience—and were kind enough to let us pass out again in the big bed for THIRTEEN HOURS.

yrThe next day, as we lazed around and started compiling the video footage from the past week, we could not get one of the MartinezBrothers’ tracks out of our heads. We scoured the internet for clues and even tried using Shazam to identify the song, but our efforts were fruitless. After the boys left for another day party there was a knock at the door… Kyle went to open it and who was standing there? Steve Martinez!! He was looking for his friend Pat’s room, but Kyle just ushered him inside and said “Oh good, you’re here. We’ve been meaning to ask you something…” We played him the sample from one of our videos and though he couldn’t remember the title, he went and got his laptop and loaded the track onto Kyle’s USB key. He sat and chatted with us for a bit and was sweet about letting us take a couple photos with him. After he left, we sat there just staring at each other and then burst out laughing about the randomness.

As everyone else starting winding down and preparing for the cruel reality of returning to work on Monday, we took extreme pride in the fact that once we sufficiently nursed our hangovers and endured 20 long hours on 3 separate buses, we could go back to reading, hiking, swimming, exploring, and comfortably enjoying this existence we’ve created. We delighted in the fact that we saw three sunrises, had several chance run-ins with unexpected friends, danced to incredible music and finally left Playa del Carmen with a feeling of glowing accomplishment..

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Mexico

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