The BPM Festival Portugal – Trip With Us Across The Atlantic
For as long as we’ve been attending The BPM Festival, like clockwork each January would roll around and rumors would begin to surface about the “new” location of BPM in the subsequent year. From semi-believable, to downright laughable, it was always fun debating with friends, and mentally planning a journey we knew was never going to take place. Finally, in 2017, the rampant speculation came to an end. We learned (from the festival itself) – it’s actually happening! In September, The BPM Festival would produce it’s second 2017 installment, in Portimão and Lagoa, Portugal. As evidenced by history though, recreating an environment and vibe is no mundane task. Successfully expanding The BPM Festival isn’t as simple as throwing up a few stages in a parking lot – BPM customers expect more. We never had doubts that BPM would deliver, but our interest was in how they would do so.
This question was partially answered before we even touched down in Faro, Portugal – en route to the festival. Maneuvering into position for landing, our plane provided us with a quick aerial tour of the area surrounding what we would call home for the next week. Picturesque cliffs overlooking pristine water and exquisite properties dotting the coast aren’t the perfect recipe for a successful festival, but from the air it was easy to tell that BPM had selected a host location with the ideal characteristics to carry the torch.
Once our feet were on the ground, these initial thoughts were immediately confirmed. Our first few hours in Portugal were consumed with eating (of course), and a journey to examine the nearby venues. In-line with previous installments of The BPM Festival, many of the day venues are open to the general public in the BPM off-season. Even a few days before the festival started, normies were enjoying drinks on the sand while speaker stacks were being assembled next to them, and stages were being built just down the beach within the same venue. The enticing beachfront scene at No Solo Agua was hard to ignore, so we decided to settle down on the sand and join them. Without the need for convincing, just confirming that BPM was going to be exceptional, we were satisfied and our pre-festival venue exploration very quickly turned into stage 1 of inebriation.
Throughout our careers as Techno Tourists, we’ve had the privilege of attending a variety of events spanning all fathoms of the electronic music spectrum. Like all products and services that we consume in life, some events are a straight up cash grab, while others rely on event quality and production value to generate recurring visitors. Newcomers are always welcome, without them no festival would survive. But newcomers who become lifers due to the production quality and vibe generated by a festival are one of the building blocks that compose the foundation that The BPM Festival was built on. With an ever-expanding customer base that includes an extensive number of repeat attendees, BPM has shown that slow and steady organic growth is not only the path to success, but also provides customers with a refreshing experience year after year.
One challenge facing any decentralized urban festival is the seamless distribution of bracelets. As The BPM Festival began to grow in Playa, the ticket booth under Aldea Thai (and then in the parking lot across the street) lacked the adequate space to house eager festivalgoers. BPM adjusted to accommodate increasing demand as years passed, but in Portugal future growth is already on the menu. Approaching the traffic circle at the end of Estrada da Rocha, the parking lot that BPM had commandeered for their wristband distribution operation displayed that the festival was ready for any future growth. There were plenty of signs of party, even before the festival began, with empty Super Bock bottles lining the metal barricades approaching the bracelet booth.
After being banded, festivalgoers head past the hilltop Fort of Santa Catarina attempting to decipher the source of low frequency audio emission nearby. As if the sound waves are a magnet, that hollow thud that all of us can recognize from a distance is nothing short of taunting. Within minutes, attendees face a fork in the road (not a literal fork, actually a traffic circle) – stay left and head to NoSoloAgua (where we enjoyed a 16 hour Paradise party, or bear right to Blanco Beach (elrow’s Portugal debut was spectacular). Each venue occupies a large swath of beach, adjacent to the facilities from which they garner their respective names. This flexible setup ensures that future growth of BPM can be accommodated effortlessly. In typical BPM fashion, these weren’t the only two day venues – just the largest. A short but stunningly beautiful walk up the beach, landed partygoers at the entrance to three of the smaller venues, Katedral, Oceans Club and then a more distant Cloque. While all venues were beefed up with more than ample sound + lighting and venue decor was on point as always – the view and sunset from Cloque were a particularly special treat.
Deviating from the traditional BPM norm, the night parties were centered around one large, multi-room venue. Memories that will last a lifetime were created nightly, but those from The BPM Festival’s signature event – YA’AH MUUL still make our hair stand on end. A five-minute cab ride from the center of Portimão, Centro de Congressos do Arde in neighboring municipality Lagoa acted like a beacon in the night, with the roof of the structure glowing purple under the stars. Complete with food trucks, an abundance of bars and three massive rooms featuring the world’s top talent, this festival within a festival was The Jungle on steroids. Frolicking in the actual jungle was fun for the last two years, but having a large multi-room venue with modern amenities and a roof providing protection from bad weather (luckily there was none during the weekend) allows for an even wider variety of events to be produced. With The BPM Festival attracting over 12,000 attendees traveling from 90 countries, Centro de Congressos provided a little bit of everything and plenty of space for future growth, leaving all partygoers satisfied.
As previous installments of The BPM Festival have shown, the dynamic nature of the event itself means that nothing is ever set in stone for future years. Venues are added, removed, expanded, re-located and treats such as pop up parties or surprise afterhours are introduced. BPM veterans remember sweaty nights in the Alux Cave and interesting sunrise walks on the beach to Bang afterhours – there are too many to name. Portimão and the surrounding area provide numerous opportunities for growth moving forward, consistent with BPM’s theme of future proofing via planning.
Creating a successful festival that generates sustained interest over time, while simultaneously providing attendees with new and interesting experiences on a yearly basis is no easy task in itself. Completely uprooting a festival that satisfies these criteria, and transplanting it on another continent without disrupting the perfect balance that has been curated over a period of years, is even more difficult. The BPM Festival made the transition flawlessly, without backpedalling or missing a beat. We are looking forward to the years and memories to come, as we continue to trip to The BPM Festival Portugal.