The Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival (BEMF), obviously inspired by Detroit’s legendary DEMF, returned for its second year Saturday night: The 12-hour event at the Old American Can Factory consisted of a band/DJ setup outdoors, a smaller DJ platform indoors, five port-o-potties, and a modest food stand for those who chose electro over dinner.
The lineup featured 40 performers, including the Juan Maclean, Shy Child, 33Hz, Bell, and a slew of hip DJs. Around 11 p.m., a crowd of tight-jean revelers (and a few glow-stick-bearing ravers) were head-banging in a rage to a bass-heavy electro-house DJ set by JDH & Dave P of FIXED/Making Time fame. Up next, fans of the keytar-laden dance outfit Shy Child sang along to hits like “Drop the Phone” while the rest of the audience semi-enthusiastically bopped along. It came as no surprise that the wildly exaggerated theramin and echoing vocals of the Juan Maclean ultimately stole the night: The DFA headliners held 400-some onlookers captive with a high-energy set that climaxed with a beautiful, seemingly never-ending rendition of “Happy House.”
Unfortunately for the other acts, the majority of the audience disappeared immediately thereafter, with almost three hours of the festival to go. It’s hard to say whether this was motivated by exhaustion, the short-lived rain, or simply a lack of interest in the r&b-meets-’80s-synth-pop of 33Hz or the American Dream Team’s audio-video DJ set (complete with colorfully trippy screen projections). Several hopefuls lurked for the advertised “secret guest” (apparently Berlin’s Boys Noize), but, to little surprise, he never showed. Instead, the night’s end was salvaged by party-duo Udachi and Jubilee, as they held fast to what was left of the rave cave (ahem, “indoor stage”) until the shirtless/inebriated dancers were finally sent home.
While it was surely an improvement over last year’s debut event, BEMF has a long way to go to live up to its name. The annual Detroit festival, originally helmed by techno legend Carl Craig, showcases some of the most innovative dance DJs in the world; by comparison, this was really just an extended party, not so different from the average Bushwick warehouse rave. With few exceptions, DJs took a backseat throughout, disappointingly forced to act as intermission music between live bands. Hopefully BEMF will consider that some of the nation’s most celebrated electronic-music producers and DJs stem from NY–Shelter NYC’s Timmy Regisford and Quentin Harris, deep-house innovator Kerri Chandler, even the newer club-electro DJ/production crew Trouble & Bass–and take a more focused approach to booking when it’s time for round three.