With open-air festivals season reaching an end due to the increasingly less pleasant weather in this hemisphere, the last days of a smoother autumn brought us the closing session of Brunch In The Park — a series of one-day electronica events taking place in Madrid during September and October. A part of the bigger, Barcelona-based Brunch-In family — even though the festival has now extended to the cities of Valencia and Portuguese capital Lisbon as well — Madrid’s Brunch In The Park belongs to that new category of urban electronica events that try to create a new reputation for the genre by replacing its ’90s association to drug culture with a daytime, family-friendly one.
However, Brunch in the Park is not just another electronica event; besides obviously focusing on a carefully curated line-up, it also prides itself of having a strong connection to the community in which it is integrated, which means that the location hosting it should always benefit from the festival in some way — this goes from working with local groups and promoting several environmental initiatives to raising social awareness in the areas of poverty and LGBTQ+ rights, especially at the Barcelona and Madrid events. Under the motto “Alegría y Compromiso” (“Happiness and Engagement”), Brunch in the Park intends not only to reduce its impact environmental-wise to the minimum, but also provide entertainment of quality for everyone — which is why tickets are kept low-cost so that families and people with lower incomes can attend, contributing to a reduction of the social inequality often observed at such events.
Since another main element of the festival is its connection to local gastronomy while maintaining an optimal approach to the impact it can have in the community, and with the multiple onsite food vendors offering a fine selection of street food (vegetarian options included), it comes as no surprise that the organisation works closely with social food programmes in order to try and reduce hunger poverty — this season alone they have given away about five thousand kilos of food. But the consciousness-raising activities food-wise extend beyond direct action in the community: all food vendors present at each event must commit to a “zero-kilometer” policy, which means that only local produce can be used in order to support the local economy and reduce the carbon footprint normally associated with food imports. These initiatives add to the recycle-to-the-max philosophy that sees them making glasses into sand to bolster speakers and turning cigarette butts into stage structures.
For the closing session of 2018 Madrid Brunch in the Park, the organisers put together a special line-up comprised of four acts, featuring a male/female parity that directly reflects the social consciousness of the event: “I think we have a responsibility to support the female talent and I have no problem saying that when I have to choose between two artists, if one is a girl and one is a guy, I will tend to go more towards the girl, because I think it’s my responsibility to do this,” director and co-founder Loic Le Joliff says in an interview, explaining that it’s their way of trying to balance the overall preference by default towards male DJs felt in the industry. Brunch In the Park also prides itself of standing strongly against sexual harassment: “No Callem” (“we won’t shut up” in Catalan) is an in-house initiative to stop sexual harassment at festivals, translating not only into professionally trained staff that people can go to if they suffer some type of harassment or feel unsafe in any way, but also a stand at each show where people, mostly women and the LGBTQ+ community, can go and seek support and advice from professionals.
I arrived at the closing session of Brunch in the Park in the mid-afternoon, as IVA’s warmup sounds were beginning to extend throughout Tierno Galván park’s semi-natural amphitheatre. An uncanny mix of smooth electronica and children’s laughter filled the air, and for a millisecond you got the impression of it being just another ordinary sunny day in the park. With most of the crowd yet to arrive, the early birds lounged languidly on the many available deck chairs and poufs, enjoying the weather that the weekly forecast had many a time menaced not to be so pleasant (it rained a bit during Nastia’s set but it was so light and impromptu that the crowd actually cheered — I just covered my pizza and enjoyed the unexpected rainbow).
Being more French-oriented when it comes to electronica, I was definitely not amongst the top connoisseurs attending the event; I do have a pulsing passion for techno though, so I knew that I was in for a major treat with the selection for this closing day — something that became instantly clear when Ukrainian Nastia took control of the decks. Priding herself of being multidisciplinary beat-wise, the Kiev-born DJ brought out a refined mix of industrial beats without going too deep too early. Funnily enough, her set saw loads of kids that had been playing in the numerous inflatables available (sadly for children only — I asked) and enjoying themselves with the arts and crafts ateliers at their disposal migrating to the main floor and manifesting all that marvellous late Sunday afternoon energy through dancing and jumping around.
I remember turning my back for a second to go get a drink and when I looked again the park had suddenly become a huge dance party as people started to pour in like crazy. Dubfire was about to begin his set so I got closer to get a proper feel of the set take-off — an amazing vibe flew throughout as people cheered and danced carelessly, each one doing their own thing and feeling the music in their own way. I don’t remember seeing anyone feeling unwell, being disturbed/harassed, or even looking sad or unhappy; this may seem an irrelevant remark, but I do believe you can only truly enjoy an event if everyone else around you is enjoying themselves as well, otherwise the atmosphere becomes heavy and tainted with bad vibes. So extra kudos for the transversal feel-good ambience that added to the jubilant party scene, it really made you feel safe and surrounded by friends.
Before the end of Dubfire’s set (which extended an extra half-hour) I went exploring the two information stands on the side of the stage: one was dedicated to providing advice and support to victims of sexual harassment and discrimination (the Madrid version of “No Callem”), with loads of flyers proclaiming “Madrid libre de violencias machistas” (“Madrid free from chauvinist violence”), “no es no” (“no means no”), and explaining how to recognise a sexual harasser and what to do in such case. The other was from Energy Control, a 30-year old association (one of the oldest of the kind in Europe) that provides judgment-free information on drugs, notably on their effects and what to do if something goes wrong. Talking to the guys present at the stand (and looking at the impressive amount of flyers dedicated to every type of drug you might think of) I learned that they also have a lab where people can go and ask for free analysis of any psychotropic substance — a procedure that intends to keep users safe by informing them of what they’re taking, since many drug-related incidents are usually related to tainted substances. They also do regular alerts on their website regarding harmful stuff they know is circulating — updating the section regularly with test results. You can learn more about their work on the international website.
One calzone and some patatas bravas later, I tried to find myself a nice spot to see Derrick May from; not only is he one of the most legendary figures of his genre (one of Detroit Techno’s Belleville Three), he also tends to have a more melodic side with which I immediately connect to. I wasn’t mistaken: I felt so euphoric throughout his hour-and-a-half set that it seemed like ten minutes. Everybody wanted more (including me) but the event had a scheduled time to end — after all, Brunch In the Park’s integration in the community also means reaching a compromise with the neighbourhood sound-wise, which results in not only controlling the volume but also being very strict with schedules. A huge “muchas gracias!” came from the organisers at the end, closing this year’s edition by thanking the audience for being there and making everything as wonderful as it could be.
There’s a huge difference between events that brag about being family and environment-friendly and those that actually are; in spite of the promises Brunch In The Park make, the festival actually delivers — the concept of a feel-good, relaxing electronica party where everybody feels welcome and safe to properly enjoy the whole ride is rare, but Brunch In The Park is proof that such things exist. The closing day of this year’s Madrid event ended up being the perfect way of saying goodbye to summer in general and festival season in particular: key factors such as good food, great music, and the ideal spot to enjoy the whole thing combined under the rising hunter’s moon to remind us that perfection does exist. And as people began to head out you could already spot the rubbish being collected to ensure that everything was left exactly as it had been found.
Originally published at https://www.thefourohfive.com.