Live: Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival Quakes Over Williamsburg

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Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival
Various Venues
Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10

Better Than:The EDM debate

It's hard to believe the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival started five years ago in what used to be BKLYN Yard, now known as Gowanus Grove, and to those in the know (a/k/a everyone) as where Mister Sunday's afternoon dance parties go down. The first and second iterations were so successful that MeanRed Productions masterminds Jen Lyon and Katie Longmyer expanded the third BEMF into multiple venues, taking over the spaces in and around Williamsburg's N. Sixth Avenue a la Austin's South by Southwest, whose artists cluster around the bars and concert halls lining that city's own Sixth Street. This year's edition was the biggest yet (as these things tend to go), with over 40 artists and six venues -- Glasslands, Cameo, Public Assembly, 285 Kent, Brooklyn Bowl, and Music Hall of Williamsburg -- involved. Despite the continued expansion, BEMF still fulfills Longmyer's original mission statement "to show off Brooklyn, because people don't even realize what's in it."

All evidence to the contrary as I navigated a morass of very, very drunk people pinwheeling like bumper cars outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday night. In my preview of the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival I billed it off-the-cuff as the "anti-Ultra," but I was at least partially wrong. "Whoa, dude, did you hear that bass sound?" someone next to me asked, wide-eyed at Nicolas Jaar's subtly body-rockin' drops as another girl announced, impatient with the producer's slow builds, that she was done here. I suppose I couldn't blame her; like everyone else, she was hungry for beats, which until that moment had been amply provided by openers Lauren Flax and Dave P, not to mention the hazy memory of Friday's nail-biting choices between noteworthy DJs from across the country and pond.

In the interest of avoiding streetside revelers as much as possible, on Friday night I stuck with dance/electronic label Fade to Mind's showcase at Glasslands. Mike Q, who's just one of the growing number of DJs being recognized for their presence in the East Coast vogue and ballroom-house scene, opened the night with a self-referential (i.e. a pre-recorded "Big shout out to my man Mike Q!") set of vogue standards, including "The Ha Dance" and Moi Renee's "Miss Honey." When he finished, Fatima al-Qadiri took the stage. The Kuwait-born producer's work is heavily influenced by her experience growing up during the first Gulf War, from the religious a cappella religious songs of both Sunnis and Shiites to juke. Though she seemed more nervous than Mike Q -- no shout-outs, and she focused with unmoving intensity on her laptop -- her set flowed with hard, entrancing meticulousness.

But I came to see Kingdom, and I wasn't disappointed. As opposed to his on-stage predecessors, he knows how to take his time. Equal parts DJ and songwriter, the Brooklyn-based producer mixed samples like Frank Ocean's "Cleopatra," Missy Elliott's contribution to J. Cole's "Nobody's Perfect," and "Where Have You Been All My Life" by Rihanna, mitigating the last's Calvin Harris-via-Dr. Luke industrial drop with his own. It was the perfect balance of viscerally satisfying and esoteric, the perfect way to kick off a weekend of 4 a.m. nights, a lot of loud music, and crowds moving together like schools of stylish fish.

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