As most of you now know, there was a tragic shooting at the 2017 BPM Festival a week ago Sunday night. Ostensibly related to the drug cartels possibly not getting their extortion or “dues” paid, a gunman who attempted to enter the Blue Parrot nightclub and denied entry then began shooting. Three security guards were hit and killed. One of the security guards that was shot accidentally shot several clubgoers as they were falling to the floor. Also a young lady attending the event was tragically killed apparently in the stampede for individuals rushing to leave the nightclub.
Violence continued the next day when the Quintana Roo state’s attorney-general, (and their chief prosecutor) Miguel Angel Peche who is in charge of the investigation into the shooting at the BPM, himself became the target of assassins when a group of gunmen on motorcycles attacked his office. Before the attempt on his life Peche said regarding the BPM shooting “Either they didn’t reach an agreement over protection payments, directly extortion, or it may be that somebody did not allow them to sell drugs inside [the club]. Perhaps the strongest hypothesis is that this person had gone there to demand they comply with protection payments.”
Two hand painted ‘bedsheets’ were hung in Playa del Carmen after the shooting last week claiming responsibility for the shooting by the Zetas cartel. The note also went to to apparently blame BPM co-founder Philip Pulitano for the shooting but to not playing along with the cartel’s demands. As noted earlier one theory was that the shooting was for BPM not paying the Zetas their dues. A 2nd theory is that the shooting was due to a dispute over who had the rights to sell at the club. Reportedly surveillance video taken at the club seems to indicate that one individual inside was specifically targeted in the shooting. Local business owners have stated off the record that the cartels collect ‘dues’ from most businesses there and they take it as a cost of doing business. Typically when dues are paid, business owners and event promoters are left alone. Fox News quoted a longtime resident (who remain anonymous for safety reasons) “What is behind all this is a turf war. This group [Zetas] tried to charge a fee to the organizers of the BPM Festival and they refused saying that they had already paid quotas to other organizations.” According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the BPM founders have been in hiding since the shooting and other that a statement this past Monday morning no official statements have been forthcoming.
[Translation of the banner: “This is a sign that we are already here because you didn’t align PHILLIP -BPM, it is the beginning we are going to cut the heads of Golfos, PELONES and chapulines, Atte [Sincerely] el FAYO Z from the old SCHOOL]
We at EDM Life ourselves attended the BPM Festival and did note the very open sale of drugs in every venue we attended for the festival. It has been a well-discussed rumor that the drug cartels have effectively forced the clubs to allow their drug dealers to enter and sell drugs at the events – our in person observations seem to lend credence to that. However outside of that issue, we did not feel unsafe in Playa del Carmen nor have in other years. Of course there are always the stories of being overcharged such as when we were charged 400 Pesos for a taxi ride back from the ‘Jungle’ venue Friday morning compared to the stated 200 Pesos rate. However unfortunately stories such as that are commonplace across Mexico and have been so for years – effectively its expected and comes with the territory.
The day after the shooting the mayor of PDC, Cristina Torres Gómez stated that the general idea is for the BPM Festival not to return in the future. She also noted apparent lack of permits for events and the effect on the environment. In our opinion this sounds as though the mayor is just deflecting blame from the culprit to BPM, possibly to keep the government in the cartel’s good graces.
Maria Helena Mata Pineda, president of the Business Coordinating Council in the Riviera Maya told El Universal after an emergency meeting in Playa del Carmen last Monday,“We’re asking for these kinds of events to go away. Don’t let in anymore. We don’t want BPM here anymore, or any other similar event. We don’t want it and we thank the authorities who are listening.” It appears as though the initial statements by local officials may just be knee jerk reactions as the ‘Arena’ festival in PDC set to take place in a few weeks has announced this past weekend that they will continue the festival as planned contradicting earlier statements it was to be cancelled.
Mexico security expert (and former police officer) Walter McKay also stated the shooting appears to be the work of the Zetas. McKay has worked as a security consultant in Mexico for several years and says business in Playa del Carmen has long come with a price and that anyone operating there has to play by the unofficial rules. “It’s a necessary evil. If they do not want to have somebody or a couple of people to come into event and shoot it up, they have to pay. It’s extortion, is what it is. This is traditional Zeta territory and has been for a long time. So clearly what had happened was that they were supposed to be paying a fee — a bribe — in order to operate.” Even Jet Set” Tulum is not immune from cartel pressure as a local hotel owner has noted they also must pay the same extortion fee or allow the cartel dealers to sell their goods on site. The NY Times last August wrote several articles discussing the surprising issues in Tulum: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/19/insider/a-foreign-correspondents-day-at-the-beach.html?_r=4
According to Reuters, the organizer of a different electronic music event near Playa Del Carmen recently stated that armed men who claimed to be part of a drug cartel turned up recently at one of his parties, demanding access to sell drugs. The event’s security team decided to let them enter so as to avoid conflict, the organizer said.
What will the future bring for BPM in Mexico? It is unclear at this point. It may turn out that the shooting was due to something completely unrelated to what had been written in this article and affect its future in a different manner. During this year’s event, the festival’s creators announced an international expansion to Brazil and Portugal later in 2017. While the mayor of Playa del Carmen’s statement that it is their general position that BPM will not return, will the people behind BPM even want to return in 2018 after the tragic shooting? Attendees would understandably be worried about their safety and may opt out of going. How does one prove there will not be a repeat of the recent events? It is not as though BPM can provide guarantees on this. As we have attended the festival for several years now and it is one of our favorites, we truly hope it will return. It does appear as though there are several hurdles to overcome for it to return in 2018 and continue on the great tradition it has established as one of the world’s premier music festivals.
Updated note from the BPM Festival as of January 24, 2017:
Lastly, Billboard reached out to several djs that regularly play BPM and industry professionals for their take on the possible end of its run in Playa del Carmen:
“I’m deeply saddened and horrified by the tragic event that took place at blue parrot on the very last night of the festival. My night ran til 8am that Sunday morning at Blue Parrot – I can still feel the energy of that place. My heart goes out to the families and friends who lost their loved ones in the name of freedom, love, dance and compassion. But what is really disturbing here is the local council blaming the promoters of BPM for what happened. This is not fair, they are the ones who put Playa Del Carmen on the map, promoting tourism, boosting their economy. To blame them is like slapping the hand that fed you. They brought joy, culture, art and people from all over the world to celebrate life under one sound. It’s a shame and very sad.”
“The BPM Festival and the organizers are like family to me, one of the reasons why is because i was the first dj from Detroit to play at the Festival. I’ve been attending since the second year and seen it grow dramatically over the 10 year period in beautiful Playa Del Carmen with very minimal negative issues. Most importantly i have a personal relationship with all of them and that was the unique thing about this festival because most festivals are that you play the gig and you leave but that wasn’t the case here”.
“It’s a shame that the actions of a few have put a negative ending to what has become, in the last 10 years, one of the most important festivals of the year due to the fact that it promotes underground music in a very beautiful setting. Like the Winter Music conference and Ibiza, BPM is the stage in which it is imperative to have a presence and a place where artists have the ability to break records. I hope it long lives as it is a crucial part of our industry.”
“By the time of the inaugural BPM event, I’d known Craig Pettigrew since the 90’s, having worked with him on various tours as Deep Dish around Canada. We became fast friends so when I got the pitch for BPM I was on board immediately. That first year it really felt like an intimate Canadian event; one in which we all were a part of to escape the brutally cold January winter. Throughout the years I proudly watched it blossom into one of the most revered and essential music events in the world; one in which I simply HAD to take part in every year. The memories I have are countless and very, very special. From epic nights to Blue Parrot and Kool Beach, special after parties that stretched into the afternoon, to the TechnoTacos pop ups I did with Richie Hawtin and more recently the opportunity to have brought the HYBRID show on a specially built stage at The Jungle.”
“We were all shocked and saddened to hear the news coming out of Mexico this week. Our musical community has never been a place where violence rears it’s ugly head very often. Especially in such an extreme way. BPM festival has always been a place for us to celebrate life. To spend time with friends, make new friends, dance and escaping the cold of winter.
The festival themselves were celebrating their tenth year this year. Ten years of delivering a safe, well run, high quality destination dance music event. In those ten years they’ve supported a wonderful and diverse mix of DJs, live acts and well known event brands for us to experience. We went to clubs, beaches and even danced in the jungle. I know the organizers very well. They are kind souls. They work extremely hard each and every year to bring us a consistent and fun festival to attend. The actions of a lone individual shouldn’t be allowed to represent the example set year after year both by those who organize and those that attend a festival full of happiness and positivity.”
“I think it’s obviously a shame that this type of behaviour and mentality has ended a great run for an amazing music festival of course. But the more severe issue here is the presence of the cartels and their disregard for human life in certain areas of the world, particularly in Mexico. The fact that this happened at BPM is an issue of time and place and obviously has nothing to do with the music or “our community” as people like to put it. This isn’t an issue brought on by the arrival of a festival or techno and it’s completely foolish to use language that tie a massive tragedy like this to this culture, especially following a political issue like we just faced in the UK with the closure of Fabric Nightclub due to misplaced blame and responsibility. It’s so important to make that distinction right now while the world is watching.
Regardless of the efforts made by Playa officials to cast blame on the festival – the one factor that can be most easily and swiftly removed – in hopes of quickly restoring a feeling of security there, they’re fully aware that the fault here does not lay with festival organizers. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that regardless of the “ban” the organizers would not consider risking another life to hold the festival there again. BPM is still BPM and can easily relocate, and we will all be there to support and perform when it does.
It’s been a great ten years in PDC and I’m thankful to have been involved there from day one. I’m just very sorry that it has ended with a political finger pointed at the organization when the issue is still very much alive and well there with BPM over. Thoughts are with Kirk Wilson’s family and all of the other people who suffered a loss this week.”
“It’s unbelievable that during on the last day of it’s 10th anniversary, BPM comes to such a tragic end. Even though I’ve been at BPM only a few times, it felt like being at home amongst my peers and music lovers from around the globe. I am certain this won’t be the end, the people behind BPM will find a way to unite us again, at a different time and place. Our thoughts remain with the victims.”
“I’ve had some amazing times at BPM over the years, and the owners are good friends of mine. I think the first time i played was around 2010, so 7 years ago! I’ve seen it grow from a small gathering of friends to a global powerhouse in the short space of 10 years. Traditionally it was our version of Miami Music Week, where we could go and see all of our friends and listen to good music. My top three moments are probably; our Saved showcase in 2013 at Kool Beach (the first time we brought Carl Cox to BPM), La Familia at Blue Parrot in 2015 with Joris Voorn, and this year my We Are The Night party at Blue Parrot playing with Carl. Hopefully they can come to an agreement with the government there and keep this festival alive; it’s always a shame to see the spirit of music affected like this”
“We’re extremely heartbroken at the events that took place on Jan. 15. We had just hosted our own party at Blue Parrot the week before, and have spent many nights in the club over the last few years, we always felt so safe there. We’re truly shocked by what happened. Our thoughts go out to the BPM security team and all those affected.”
Ben Turner (co-founder, International Music Summit)
“BPM has emerged as one of the leading celebrations of global electronic music culture in the annual calendar and, in its tenth year, had attracted interest from global media platforms and holidaymakers from all corners of the planet. It is probably the biggest winter celebration to mirror the summer season in Ibiza, and had recently replaced Winter Music Conference in Miami for the industry’s get-together in the darker months. BPM’s founders and curatorial team are music lovers who have contributed to global dance culture with a unique ten-day format albeit clearly with local challenges in a tough part of the world.”
Jazz Spinder (agent, CAA)
“I am one of the lucky ones who have had the privilege of watching BPM grow into one of the most important events in the yearly festival calendar. This is a festival that is truly about the music. A place where artists go to see other artists play and end up combining sets or extending their own sets in a unique atmosphere. Not a place to get in and out of, but a place to stay for days at a time to catch up, let your guard down and and take in the magic from the beaches to the jungles.”
Ed Hill (operations director, Be-At.TV)
“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this senseless tragedy, particularly the families and loved ones of the deceased and injured. It’s incredibly sad that this should happen after an incredible 10 years of the BPM Festival. We have loved working with the BPM family over the last five years and are deeply saddened that a joyful and life-enhancing festival should be tarnished by violence. Absolutely nobody wins here.”