Sunset Music Festival shows that community still exists in a sold-out crowd [Review]
The so-called “EDM Bubble” may be bursting; but, you would never know that looking at the candy-colored attendees of Sunset Music Festival this past weekend in Tampa, FL. For the first time in the festival’s history, the only remaining Memorial Day Weekend event on the east coast sold out. SMF attracted 30,000+ electronic dance music fans from all over the world per day.
Both days of the festival saw new track debuts from NGHTMRE to Lane 8, and live vocals from Delaney Jane were remixed by Shaun Frank, who also showed off his pipes during his set on the Horizon Stage. Perhaps the most surprising track debut came from Thomas Jack on Sunday night. Showing his range outside of tropical house, the new Jack track whipped attendees into a bouncing frenzy.
Every rave and festival archetype was equally represented at SMF, from the old school UFO pants warehouse kids to the EDM Bro, kandi kids to rave queens, and at every stage, they danced together, as one. With humidity indexes at 80% of high 90 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, attendees shared their camelbaks, gatorade, and water bottles with their dance floor comrades. Festival staff members roamed the crowd with cases of water each afternoon, handing complimentary bottles out to anyone who might need be in need.
Everything was thought out to the most minuscule detail, with care of the attendee in mind at every turn. Revelers took notice of this, and their joy was contagious; not a single attendee was rude, or had anything on their face but a smile, and maybe some dust, which strangers gladly offered to help wipe off of each others’ faces during sweaty dance breaks. Multiple cool down and chill spaces provided interactive art and photo booths.
Next to the Sunset Main Stage, attendees were able to walk through a chill space curated by Rainbow Symphony, Inc. The black light artists decked out the space in Alice in Wonderland style visuals, handing out free 3D glasses as you entered the space to make the art come to life even during the peak sunshine hours. There were performers handing out parasols inside, and a photo booth you could create a .gif to email to yourself while DJs live-mixed to keep the energy flowing. Even Bud Light, one of the sponsors of the event, sponsored chill spaces, complete with photo booths, and misters, to escape the Florida heat.
Staying true to their vision of community and unity, SMF had an artist meet-and-greet area set up, complete with misting fans, so that fans could mingle with their favorite artists. Each stage was designed as an open arena to incorporate the beauty of the Florida sun and bright blue skies, with artful light shows, and performers who danced through the crowds on stilts.
The energy from the crowd was infectious, leading even the biggest names in dance music, Jack U, to debut new dance moves on the booths, with new remixes of classic tracks from the duo. They even tried to play a few extra songs, but all good things must come to an end, and even Skrillex and Diplo can’t always get extra time on the decks.
As each day ended, groups exited the festival peacefully, helping each other out with transport back to local hotels and after parties, sharing ubers, or their own vehicles, with new and old friends alike. It didn’t take long to exit the festival: exits were clearly marked, and there were plenty of them, creating a seamless transition of attendees from Raymond James Stadium, to the after parties.
Next year, Sunset Music Festival will return, no doubt bigger and better than 2016, and that means it will also embrace its attendees and fans with an even bigger sonic hug.