Published by Josh Mills
I just returned with 30+ of my closest friends from Tampa and here are my thoughts on the Sunset Music Festival that occurred over this past Memorial Day Weekend.
Lineup - Day 1:This was definitely the strong suit of this festival assuming you are into EDM. They didn't have much outside of the electronic genre but what they had was impressive. I started my day off with CID and Lost Kings on Saturday and they were solid sets but I was still getting my bearings. The first welcome surprise was Rezz. I had heard of her before and now I know why she is signed by both Mau5trap and Owsla. Her releases are mainly industrial and hard but her live set was incredible. She had many people going to NGHTMRE shocked at who was playing the stage closest to the main entrance. She got many of those who just walked in to stop for her set while meeting up to enter the crowd for NGHTMRE at the main stage. When I reviewed the show with our hotel upon leaving everyone seemed happy. Those who were into mainstream or bigger names enjoyed Hardwell and Galantis at the mainstage to end the night. I saw the opening to Galantis which was much more unique than their normal radio fare. It really displayed their talent as more than mainstream DJs, they are true artists. Those who were into trance or maybe the lighter side of EDM enjoyed Tritonal, Ferry Corsten and Seven Lions on the Eclipse stage. I spent my night over at Horizon tent because I am more of a house purist. This was one of the best back to back sets I have seen. J. Phlip is a newcomer compared to the last two gents on Dirtybird but played an impressive set that got me excited for what was to come. Mija was the only non-Dirtybird to be wedged in between sets but she held her own and played some really out there tunes that set her apart from the Dirtybird crew. As soon as Justin Martin got on the decks I knew I was in for something special. He honestly might have been better than Claude Vonstroke and we argued in the Uber the entire way home about who was the best but its apples and oranges at that point. Justin Martin definitely had more energy in his set and Claude was a little more spacey but oh those samples, those beautiful samples. Where do they come up with those wonderful samples? Nothing sounds better to me than these two live and you realize no recording out there can quite capture what they do to the crowd.
Day 2:I started out the day with the end of the Jai Wolf set and I wish I had heard more, he was amazing at Shaky Beats a week ago. My squad got its orders to go to Marshmello and even though I had seen him a week ago this was much better. He played the main stage and the volume was turned up this time. At this point of the day I begged my crew to come to the bass stage to see what is a pretty epic bass lineup. Back to back sets were played by Bro Safari, Snails, Zomboy and Borgore. This did cause a temporary rift in the group and even I needed a break from the bass stage as it broke out into a pretty large mosh pit. I went and caught Jauz as the group united. I must say the front of the main stage was no longer accessible as people gathered in anticipation of the Chainsmokers and Jack U. Both of them were crazy but predictable sets and the crowd responded favorably nonetheless.
Venue - The venue was somewhat underwhelming with the exception of the stages themselves. The main stage had the largest setup but the other two stages impressed with their overhead canopies and lighting. This created a more engulfing experience and I preferred their design although I understand this was not possible for the main stage due to its sheer size. The food was adequate but nothing special. Water stations were present but it was dangerously hot during the day and lines had formed at peak hours. Rain stayed away despite the forecast although a little may have been welcome due to the dust. Overall the venue was not the reason I came and did not detract from the experience. It was very convenient to get to and from the many nearby hotels which brings me to my second reason why I would return to SMF, the hotel after-parties.
Hotel After-parties - Having many good hotel options only a mile or two away from the venue led to Tampa hotels being booked up with festival goers. This translated into hotel pools and floors being turned into pre and post festival party venues and really increased the experience. We booked at the Hilton and had the entire 8th floor turned into a hallway party. There were also lobby yoga sessions and pool parties during the day before the show. It was easy to orchestrate meetups before and after shows either just by exchanging numbers or the Radiate app.
Radiate - So this is the first festival where I have seen this app successfully used and now I understand why it has grown in popularity in such a short time. Only a few months ago at Okeechobee I tried to use it but there were only a few early adopters. People like myself saw that this can be such an enhancement to one of the main reasons to go to festivals, to meet people and have a sense of community through dance music. Radiate provides that by allowing you to select what festivals you are going to and providing a discussion forum, tinder-like swiping to find people you are interested in meeting and even festival scheduling all in one place. Now that the community has grown to the point where it is useful I suggest giving it a shot. On the day before the festival I had 30 matches and organized a pre-party at our hotel with 20 strangers that was only thwarted by hotel security. I still met and made many friends just through the app so I highly recommend. It is great to pass time en route to a festival.