Back in 2008, Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival launched just as electronic dance music was surging into the U.S. mainstream (only a couple decades behind the rest of the world). The fest offered a much-needed alternative to the sensory-overloading, brocentric EDM raves that were popping up around the country. And while BEMF bookers indeed nabbed sought-after talent from around the globe, the focus remained on underground sounds and community building, not fist-pump–inducing partying at the biggest clubs in NYC.
This year the festival spans a whopping 10-day stretch at eight venues scattered around the borough, and for the first time, it offers activities beyond DJ sets and live performances. “There will be movie screenings and panel discussions [about] the dialogue around dance music,” says festival cofounder Katie Longmyer. In short, she says, “we want people to dive into and celebrate Brooklyn.” If you’re intrigued but still not sold, let us convince you: These are the top five reasons to check out this bangin’ venue-hopping extravaganza.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival
1. It’s a great excuse to check out the latest club destination in Gowanus.
The venues hosting BEMF events this year run the gamut, from the low-key DIY atmosphere of Trans-Pecos to Output’s high-price, clubby digs. Analog BKNY sits somewhere in the middle. Opened in March, on an industrial stretch of Gowanus, Analog is part of a wave of new clubs aiming to satisfy die-hard dance-music fans, not Meatpacking District partyers. The 5,000-square-foot warehouselike space boasts a bespoke sound system, a high-low design scheme and a calendar full of influential DJs like Detroit techno demigod Juan Atkins and ’80s club-pop hero Jellybean Benitez. During BEMF, the new hot spot plays host to fave the Black Madonna and a till-6am set on November 18 (10pm, $15) by Adam X, an OG pioneer of NYC’s ’90s techno scene. 177 Second Ave (718-757-6940, analogbkny.com)
2. The borough’s hottest party gets dark.
The Bunker launched in an unlicensed space in 2003, when the New York club scene was ground zero for the electroclash boom that transformed legions of indie-rock–loving hipsters into would-be DJs. And it’s survived 13 subsequent years of shifting trends and tastes to become one of the most trusted dance-music brands in the world. Part of the key to its success has been staying flexible enough to avoid being pinned down by even the most basic categories: An amorphous entity that includes a DJ crew and a record label on top of its regular parties, the Bunker’s never aligned itself with one particular sound or style. Over the years, it’s booked everyone from acid-house superstar Josh Wink to psych-rock weirdo Ariel Pink. The latest installment of its long-running collaboration with BEMF brings together NYC techno veteran Function and spooky, gothy conceptualist Silent Servant. Good Room, 98 Meserole Ave (718-349-2373, goodroombk.com). Sat 5 at 10pm; $20, at the door $30.
3. The official hype gal of Chicago’s house scene will be there.
The creative director of Chicago’s Smart Bar, Marea Stamper (a.k.a. the Black Madonna), explains to us lowly attendees what it’s like to be a globe-trotting hot shot DJ.
As someone who came up in the Chicago house-music scene, what does it feel like to be its most popular ambassador?
I don’t really feel worthy of it. I’m a Kentuckian by birth and Chicagoan by the grace of God. I’m, more than anything, just the No. 1 Chicago fangirl. If there’s one role I think I have now, it’s just to be a cheerleader for the folks who make Chicago so magical. It never feels like enough, though. How do you say thank you for house music?
But you have to feel like a big deal when you meet fans, right?
I was at a festival, and there was a girl there that was almost crying because she wanted to talk to me. She sent her boyfriend backstage to get me. He said she was trying to deejay, and none of the guys she knew took her seriously. And I was just trying to get out into the crowd to talk to her and listen to what she had to say, and security flipped out. They rushed around to keep me from the crowd…or the crowd from me? I don’t really know anymore.
You’ll spin again with Mike Servito, resident DJ at long-running NYC techno bash the Bunker. What makes you two such good partners?
I loved Mike the moment I met him. We are a lot alike as humans. We grew up in the special golden period of the Midwest rave scene. We share a lot of the same taste and technique, but the main thing is that if we were in middle school, I would have beat someone up on the playground for looking at him funny. Honestly, I’d still probably love to beat someone up for Mike on general principle. Just saying. The Black Madonna performs at Analog BKNY Nov 12 at 10pm. $20–$30.
4. There’s proof it’s cool to go old school.
The past few years have seen a surge of more obscure, regional dance-music styles as young fans introduced to the dance floor through EDM have grown up and started to investigate its history—not only classic house and techno but also genres like U.K. jungle and drum ’n’ bass. For a taste of some killer back-in-time dance vibes, Greenpoint’s Good Room has you covered. The Friday 4 bash boasts Jubilee, who has become one of New York’s most in-demand DJs through a style firmly rooted in her Southern Florida upbringing. Her debut LP, After Hours, adds splashes of Caribbean flavor to a blend of Miami bass and the electropop sound known as freestyle that once ruled NYC. It also promises fellow Florida native Danny Daze, who often dedicates entire sets to Miami bass but, as a producer, is best at connecting ’80s L.A. electrofunk and synth-heavy soundtracks. And finally, there’s Jimmy Edgar, who came up in the Detroit techno community and has started working more in the style of ’90s R&B and U.K. garage. Fri 4 at 10pm; $15, at the door $25.
5. You can get a taste of electro’s poppier side.
As one half of the ’90s trip-hop duo Moloko, singer Róisín Murphy was an early adopter of an enthusiastically technophilic style of pop music that’s since become the go-to sound for chart-topping heavyweights like Lady Gaga. (If her name sounds familiar, perhaps you heard one of her songs on So You Think You Can Dance? Don’t worry—your secret’s safe with us.) With Murphy’s more-than-a-decade’s worth of work as a solo artist, she’s proven to be one of the more adventurous club divas around. Her list of collaborators includes everyone from Fatboy Slim to avant-garde producer Matthew Herbert, but no matter with whom she’s working, the results are always infused with a flamboyant experimental edge that’s all her own. With roots deep in disco, it’s catchy stuff that’s easy to dance to, even if it isn’t technically “dance music.” Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North 6th St (718-486-5400, musichallofwilliamsburg.com). Fri 4 at 9pm; $30.
Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival is Fri 4–Nov 13 (brooklynemf.com). Festival passes $75.