The festival was split between two stages, indoor & outdoor, and they couldn’t really have been more different. The Outdoor Stage wasn’t that ‘outdoors-y’, being on pavement and surrounded on all four sides by the Can Factory, but electronic music isn’t that ‘outdoors-y’ either. And there was still light, first from the sun, then from lightning equipment – most unlike the very dark Indoor Stage, a warehouse where it was tough to even see the images projected on the screen behind the acts.
The acts tended to diverge, too, far wider than you’d expect, though mostly on the superior Outdoor Stage, but as the night fell, electro-dance finally came to the fore. The crowd was also a mix, of hipsters and club kids, plus people just there for the music – about the only constant was the PBR tall boys (free, if you knew where & when to look…).
(click band’s name or image for all their BEMF photos in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery)
Home Video, 5:00 PM @ Outdoor Stage – BEMF enticed people to arrive early by offering free PBR for the first two hours, but they also had some nice acts, outdoors in the sun, such as Home Video (QRO album review). The trio’s indie-meets-electronica was good without actually being ‘indietronica’, and unlike much electronic music, sounded good outdoors. The long, thin outdoor stage did separate the band (especially thanks to the set of speakers located right in the middle, but did make the drummer more visible, up front on the shallow stage.
Street Lab, 5:20 PM @ Indoor Stage – Strangely enough, it was the indoor stage that was more of a liability, early on at BEMF. Dark & rather murky (aside from the concession table to the side of the large warehouse), it was hard to see Free Blood, or the images projected above them (which did stop at one point, when the computer projecting them had to reboot). Not that there was that much to see Street Lab doing – when DJs are fiddling on computers, you can’t help but wonder (as YACHT said – QRO interview) if they’re checking their e-mail…
Bell, 5:50 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Getting the free PBR while it was still free (saw a lot fewer after that offer ended…), and back outdoors for Bell. She actually looks, and has a stage personality, like Elizabeth Powell (QRO interview) of Land of Talk (QRO spotlight on), making Bell an engaging personality up there, especially when she takes her sunglasses off. Her voice even sounds like Powell, but the rest of her music, not as much, more straight-up electronica (but at least with a drummer, though he had a computer too…).
Bell did get more love from the roving ‘Rude Bear’ than any other act (who can’t resist a pretty girl with a keytar?) – though not as much as these ladies:
Body Language, 6:40 PM @ Indoor Stage – Better than the last indoor band, Street Lab (see above), because they were an actual band, it was still very hard to see Body Language. They had a distinct Anglo-electronica feel, from eighties two-tone & pinks to their projections of people moving around a city (looked like London), reminiscent of MTV’s old AMP.
Awesome New Republic, 6:55 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Going into BEMF, one might have worried that every electronic act would sound the same, but the festival got around that, on the Outdoor Stage at least, by booking some admittedly not-that-electronic bands, like Awesome New Republic. The keyboardist did have not one, not two, but three keyboards, lined up in a tower (and was admirably playing with a broken foot & crutches), but ANR sounded relatively mainstream. Still, they did add some much needed energy on stage, something electronica often lacks.
Jupiter One, 7:40 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Another mainstream-ish alt-rock act, Jupiter One was almost emo, and certainly not very electronic. Not that this made them bad – their alt-rock as nice, if emo-ish. There was some synth, but it sort of felt added on. But they ended on a high note, covering Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Purple Rain.
Kapt10kurt, 8:00 PM @ Indoor Stage – Previously, there hadn’t been enough of a critical mass of fans at the Indoor Stage to turn the dark place into a dance party, but Kapt10kurt managed to bring ‘em in. While not that interesting to watch – still very dark, and now pretty much impossible to take non-flash photos – The Kapt10 (say it out loud) delivered the most danceable music of the night so far.
Young Love, 8:45 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Outdoor Stage got more electronic, and dance-y, with Young Love, whose emo-dance was reminiscent of blowing-up Friendly Fires (QRO album review). Young Love did a good job of engaging the crowd, even if all of their songs sounded the same.
Flashmen, 9:30 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Unless you’re doing a full-on dance party in the dark like the Indoor Stage, electronic bands need a frontman to engage the crowd. While Flashmen’s wasn’t as handsome as Young Love’s (see above), he was very energetic – and wearing a skirt – making up for the rather stand-off-ish rest of the Flashmen (and women).
Codebreaker, 10:40 PM @ Outdoor Stage – Codebreaker’s frontman had his own secret weapon as well, and it wasn’t running into the crowd or wearing a dress (though he did do the former, but not that latter), but about a billion copies of their single “Follow Me”, which he handed out at the end of their set. While many of the other bands would get jumbled together in memory after the night was over, Codebreaker left you with something wholly their own.
NROTB, 11:20 PM @ Indoor Stage – By this point, the Indoor Stage was a complete DJ-dance party, courtesy of NROTB. However, as Flight of the Conchords (QRO live review) might say, ‘Too many dicks / On the dance floor’…
Shy Child, 11:50 PM @ Outdoor Stage – If there was a place you were going to see more than one act with a keytar, it was bound to be BEMF. But Shy Child had a sense of humor about things, with singer/keytarist Pete Cafarella at one point trying to swallow his instrument (or his mike), and another time playing while seated on the lip of the stage. Plus sax!
The Juan MacLean, 12:30 AM @ Outdoor Stage – One issue going into BEMF was when, exactly, headliner The Juan MacLean was going to play. The fest was scheduled to run until bars closes, which is 4:00 AM in New York, so did that mean The Juan MacLean would take the stage at three? Thankfully, no, as BEMF scheduled the man, the duo, the band just after midnight.
While John MacLean started in the more dance-punk Six Finger Satellite, and after that left music, he was draw back in by 6FS’s sound engineer, the one-and-only James Murphy, who had gone on to found the influential electro-dance label DFA & influential electro-dance band LCD Soundsystem (QRO live review). As ‘The Juan MacLean’, MacLean’s gone fully electro-dance himself, but live, it’s actually new fellow ‘Juanite’ Nancy Whang who’s more the frontwoman.
Not that anything more was needed to get the crowd going at that point. The Indoor Stage was temporarily shutdown, ‘cause a headliner’s not a headliner if someone’s competing with them, making the pavement of the Outdoor Stage into a massive nighttime dance party. While many stayed right up until closing, many left after The Juan MacLean, because who had any energy left after that?
One fun sideshow at BEMF was the ‘Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival’ sign, just sitting on the ground between the two stages, with letters ripe for the rearranging:
This is how it ended up: