The most prolific of music genres this year has undeniably been electronic. From fields to arenas, fans sold out festivals and shows, flocking to see mainstream DJ’s and producers as though they were the Rolling Stones. Jennifer Lyon and her partner Katie Longmyer, the founders of MeanRed Productions and producers of the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival (BEMF), know this all too well. Earlier this month, Lyon and Longmyer marked the fifth year of the BEMF, which unlike its big-box counterparts (Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra, Electric Zoo, etc.), serves as a showcase of underground talent and alternative electronic music. This is the festival for the movers, the shakers, and the never-forgotten tastemakers of the underground electronic music scene.
Crowds of electronic music savants and enthusiasts showed up to the two-day festival that spanned across six different venues, filled with artists generally organized by crew or collective, all conveniently located within a few blocks’ distance of each other in Williamsburg. Headliners included the 22-year-old boy wonder Nicolas Jaar, who packed the Music Hall of Williamsburg to a sardine-like capacity, a live performance from Gold Panda, Fabric-favorite and Numbers founder Jackmaster, and Detroit house DJ and producer Omar S. Local favorites like Drop the Lime, Falty DL, and Brenmar all hit the decks, while Mykki Blanco calculatedly rapped with his inspiring passion and intensity. The LA-based collective Friends of Friends’ stage featured the likes of Groudislava and Salva, while Fade to Mind’s MikeQ, Kingdom, and Fatima al Qadiri all brought out the best of what they had to get the crowd moving. “The music speaks first,” says Lyon, in respect to how participating artists, crews, and labels were picked. “They are making good music—it’s pretty straightforward.” The success of this festival comes from the unmistakably original take on dance music. “We’re just booking what’s good and what’s relevant,” says Lyon.
In creating the feel of the festival, Lyon strived to produce an environment fitting of the culture. “We wanted to separate ourselves and engage with an audience that is connecting with the music,” says Lyon, in reference to the move of the festival from the former outdoor space at BKLYN Yard to its current iteration as a multi-venue Williamsburg club crawl. The indoor spaces allowed for an “intimate dance floor experience,” says Lyon. The overall atmosphere was not the rave environment so closely associated with popular electronic music, but instead a maturely morphed space that carried the breadth and depth of the artists performing in the venues.
This developed environment thankfully came to fruition despite one major challenge, among others. As the biggest curve ball thrown at not just Brooklyn, but the entire New York City region this year, the arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy threatened the existence of this year’s festival. Both Lyon and Longmyer were displaced due to the storm and questioned whether it was appropriate to continue to put on the festival. “We both really asked one another, sort of quietly and honestly, if we should really try to take this on amongst all this crisis and difficulty in our city,” says Lyon. Ultimately the decision to put the festival on was the only answer. “We believe in the artists and couldn’t have done anything but put on the festival,” she says.
The best descriptor for the BEMF is in the name itself—Brooklyn. The festival continues to develop the essence of the borough through organized and well-orchestrated chaos, producing a product and experience that are unmistakably original. It is this fundamental essence that radiates through all of the artists and producers, weaving throughout the event. With the ever-changing culture of Brooklyn, it’s hard to predict how the festival will be affected next year. But the essentials are as always to be expected from the BEMF, says Lyon—“More dance floors, more DJ’s, more bands, more Brooklyn.”
For more information, please visit BrooklynEMF.com. Photography by Oliver Correa and Amanda Rohowsky.