It would be a cliché to call The BPM Festival Tel Aviv a walk in a park, if that wasn’t exactly what it was. Taking place Monday (Sept. 30) evening in a cordoned off area of Tel Aviv’s 865-acre HaYarkon Park, the latest incarnation of the venerable electronic music event was a distilled and condensed version of BPM’s flagship show, which went down two weeks ago and a continent away in Portimão, Portugal.
While the European iteration of this festival spread more than 100 artists over four days, BPM Tel Aviv delivered its lineup in just nine hours — stacking legends and up-and-comers including DJ Koze, Honey Dijon, Acid Pauli, Danny Tenaglia, Âme and Sasha across four stages, from 3:00 p.m. to midnight. This was BPM’s first outing in Tel Aviv, and the show fell on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, giving the evening an extra sense of holiday excitement.
While the 10,000 people in attendance certainly turned up to celebrate, the size of the festival was eminently manageable, requiring minimal walking between stages — two of which carried over the naturalistic stage design that’s been a BPM signature since the festival got started years ago in Mexico.
Despite the area’s size, there was little sound bleed between stages, with the acoustics sounding high-level and hi-fi throughout the lush site. Whether one was there in pursuit of techno, house minimal or melodic, there was something on the small but mighty lineup for all tastes.
These were the five best elements of the festival.
The Pirate Ship
While there were locals playing across all four stages, nowhere did the vibe feel more close to home than at the “Spiritual Stage,” which was actually a stationary pirate ship blasting minimal and melodic techno all night. This area was hosted by one of BPMs local partners, The Pirates, who do a larger pirate ship art car on wheels for the country’s annual regional Burning Man event in the Negev Desert. This strong connection to the local electronic community was evident in the crowd, which spanned from the young (permitted attendees were 22 years and older), to slightly grayer veterans of the scene.
At the ship the night’s highlight came via Acid Pauli, who went deeply minimal before ramping up the crowd into moments of collective joy that became even more obvious when the fog from the smoke machines lifted and the lights flashed over the sizable crowd jumping up and down underneath the trees.
The Palm Tree Lounge
The festival’s Fusion stage was set amidst rows and rows of stately palm trees, under which one could either dance or just grab a spot to sit and watch the set unfold. Given that BPM typically happens near the beach, with the festival moving from Playa del Carmen, Mexico to coastal Portugal and launching in Costa Rica this January, this verdant area gave the Tel Aviv edition some of that signature beachside ambience.
Dance fans can be divided into two factions: those who’ve seen Sasha, and those who haven’t yet. Last night, the iconic Welsh DJ and producer converted a new group of fans with a spacious, sprawling set that packed moments of depth and high emotion into a tight two hours. His set was the last of the night on the Legacy Stage, which also hosted Danny Tenaglia and Honey Dijon, legends for which the crowd also went appropriately crazy.
The Minimal Stage
Programed by iconic Tel Aviv nightclub The Block — a venue consistently voted to have one of the world’s best sound systems — the minimal stage hosted a fleet of artists playing exactly that. The Block owner Yaron Trax claimed listening to this type of music would do nothing less than “reprogram your mind,” and while that didn’t quite seem to be the effect of time spent at the stage, the area was still was a demonstration of boundary-pushing artists (including Petre Inspirescu and Tal Cohen) playing music both challenging and deeply satisfying.
The Scene at Large
While Israel has a historically robust electronic scene, particularly as it relates to trance, the past few days have been especially prolific for the country, with Damian Lazarus’ Day Zero happening just a few hours south at Masada on September 27 and Tale of Us playing a massive show three hours north of Tel Aviv last night. With Tel Aviv becoming an increasingly trendy destination for tourists and these shows being received so well by Israeli party people, there’s reason to believe that such draws to the country will only become more abundant.