The first edition of the enigmatic SXMusic Festival was an experience like no other. Taking place in Sint Maarten, one of the smaller Caribbean islands that is divided between the French and Dutch territories, proved to be the perfect setting for the inaugural event. Over the last six months prior to the festival's launch we were graced with enticing videos of the island's clear turquoise water and white sand beaches with lush green plant life, but the actual event blew all of that away. Did I also mention their all-star underground techno/house line up?
Currently living in New England and having survived some serious schizo weather, I was in much need of the proposed island getaway. With festivals such as BPM and MMW/WMC happening in the same season, SXMusic Fest was a pretty ballsy attempt. However, a small boutique festival could only attract the truest of underground music lovers and so Magnetic rolled the dice. Imagine some of your favorite underground DJs/producers all heading out for one week on a small island with less than 3,000 attendees. Intimate doesn't even begin to describe it.
SXMusic was five days long and had about two to five events going on each day. It was organized to have a day party every day from 12pm to 12am, while simultaneously having at least two night parties from 9pm to 5am. This of course, was all leading up to the unforgettable sunrise party on Sunday (more details further in) as well as a fun and intimate VIP Jungle Party on Saturday. Such a feat attained during their very first attempt was pretty impressive in my opinion. The festival itself was very small in comparison to BMP and WMC, with a majority of attendees coming from Canada (where the founder is based), but with significant representation from members of the underground community from Boston, NYC and Los Angeles (quite the surprise).
The day parties all week were at the Palm Beach club which was a pretty sweet bar/lounge located on the Orient Bay beachside. The stage was remarkably designed with an obvious tropical/Caribbean aesthetic and amazing production design. There were three venues offered for the night parties, Tantra and Le Shore were your average nightclubs, but Sky Beach Bar was a pretty awesome rooftop lounge. Mixmag, Ellum, Get Physical and Paradise were some labels hosting the parties, so the music was flowing fierce all week throughout the island. The Mercure Hotel acted as a media lounge, but also hosted some smaller parties by their giant pool and steps away from the docks. Not to mention all the artists were staying there, so it's a pretty sweet deal when you can be poolside hanging with the likes of Blond:ish and Lee Burridge, no biggie, right?
The first day of SXMusic was brought by the Get Physical label led by Phillip Jung of M.A.N.D.Y. and Audiofly! Due to some unforeseen obstacles that day, the day party crowd was left on the light side, however that didn't stop the top tier of artists from giving those dancing before them an incredible time. That very night, M.A.N.D.Y. and Audiofly put their talent together and birthed M.A.N.F.L.Y., who closed off the first day of what would be an unforgettable week! Day two bled nothing but grooves with Mixmag's showcase of talent that included Thugfucker, DJ Tennis, Bedouin, Behrouz and Shaun Reeves. Alongside that lineup, Adriatique and H.O.S.H., closed off the evening with cosmic melodies.
Ellum took over Palm Beach and Tantra showcasing, Maceo Plex, Rebolledo, Odd Parents, Gardens of God, Shall Ocin and Danny Daze. Competing against them at night was a trio comprised of Chaim, My Favorite Robot and Guy Gerber. Practically unfair to pack such sound all in one night! Saturday was hosted by Paradise Miami and their artists marked a deep grooved line up at Palm Beach with Jamie Jones, Kenny Glasglow, Patrick Topping, DJ W!ld and Greg Pidcock. Le Shore housed Apollonia with Djebali and Amir Javasoul whilst, XLR8 ran Tantra with Priku, Shaun Reeves, Ostrich, Maher Daniel and Roam.
For those who shelled out some extra dough and got VIP were rewarded with a VIP only event, The VIP Jungle party. Located at the Loterie Farm, a zip-line adventure area which was north of Marigot on the western side of the island, the party was smack in the middle of lush green mountains and valleys. Boy, did it feel like VIP with their hillside cabanas and giant pool etched into the green mountain side. Propped at the decks in a treetop the surprise performers were, The Doctor, Chaim & Behrouz!
If you ask anyone who attended the festival, in unison they would all agree that the entire trip would be worth it to have just attended Sunday's sunrise party. From 5am to 12pm, Lee Burridge and YokOo took everyone on a spiritual journey that left us all with a deep sense of vitality and adventure. We were all meant to be there at that very moment. The venue was another beach bar that had an incredible view and despite it being filled with people, there was plenty of room for everyone. Some danced while others relaxed on the beach, absorbing the moments slowly drifting by. More than once I would find myself wandering away from the dancefloor to soak my feet in the clear blue ocean and dance with strangers donning bright wings (and I definitely didn't hallucinate that).
That's not to say the festival didn't have any hiccups. As every first edition goes, there were plenty of things that could have been done better and some unforeseen situations that hopefully will be avoided next year. The first day of the festival was met with an unexpected protest from locals in the Orient Bay beach area that had either stalled attendees for hours in their attempt to get to the day party or in my case, completely blocked me in a 20 mile radius with no way of getting out of my area. Luckily, I stayed a five minute walk from the Palm Beach club! Phew! The weather was also slightly disappointing, having had the weather sites promise sunshine all week. However, quick showers and freak monsoon rain didn't stop anybody during Jamie Jones' set when the crowd partied under a giant tarp.
The event managed to create something far more magnanimous than simply being a music festival. It facilitated a reason for all these people from all walks of life to come together and experience something new and filled with potential. The entire week was a journey for the sake of music that became an adventure, commemorating itself in our lives as an annual destination getaway. I had the chance to travel south of the border for the first time, whereas my friend had never left the US before the trip. Two friends and myself, took the opportunity to meet another trio over Facebook from the opposite side of the country with whom we rented a villa together without ever meeting prior. We rented a car and ended up exploring the entire island with ease and no GPS (we're pretty much experts now).
The most remarkable part of SXMusic Festival, was the people we met. Everyone on the island was friendly and more than eager to help in any way (we got a flat tire one night). All the attendees at the festival were beyond friendly and were open to getting to know one another. We entered as a trio and left aa a group of over twenty people (still Whatsapp'in this very minute!). The festival brought all of us to one place, but it was the island and experience that bonded a group of strangers and has us planning our trip back next year.
SXMusic Festival Official Photos
SXMusic Festival is offered as a music festival destination getaway, but what it actually is, is an adventure through music that develops a strong community! I very much look forward to attending it again next year, you can count on that.