Written by Zack Kostaras
Photos by SXM Festival
Widely regarded as a mecca for boutique, destination music festivals, SXM returned for its third installment to the beautiful island of Saint Martin earlier this month. Roughly 2,000 attendees flew in from across the globe for the 5-day event that spanned across multiple venues around the island. With this being my first time attending SXM, I was going in with a blank canvas to discover new and enjoy existing electronic acts, explore the majestic scenery of the island, and meet new people along the way. Unsurprisingly, I was easily able to find these and more at SXM.
Back in late 2017, Hurricane Irma ripped through various islands in the Caribbean, with St Martin winding up in its path. When it was all said and done, 95% of the island’s infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed. As a result, this ultimately forced the festival organizers to suspend the 2018 installment of SXM. The SXM team participated in massive efforts to help the locals of Saint Martin who were impacted, including setting up a GoFundMe page that raised over $38,000 that assisted in bringing basic supplies, food and water. Fast forward to 2019, and Saint Martin has bounced back to the wonderland it once was with picturesque beaches, beautiful hotels and villas, decadent restaurants, and a bustling nightlife with casinos, nightclubs and more.
Over the course of 5 days, the festival took place at its home base of Happy Bay, which hosted the Arc and Ocean stages right on the beach. In addition, the festival also took place at various beach bars and nightclubs across the island. The change of scenery between venues was a welcoming difference compared to traditional festivals that host all stages on one common ground. With most of the venues being located at different parts of the island, it allowed attendees to not only relax but explore the beauty Saint Martin has to offer.
In addition to the scenery, you never felt crammed and had plenty of space to move around and dance at any given point of the festival. As a festival goer, it’s always the icing on the cake to see big names and discover new, emerging artists in a very intimate setting like this.
The festival hosted industry heavyweights by the likes of Nicole Moudaber, Marco Carola, and Dubfire while still boasting a rather eclectic and underground lineup of house and techno artists. Jennifer Cardini closed things down with her rhythmic blend of techno, electro, and disco with the Mayan Warrior crew, who hosted the Arc stage on night one, while WhoMadeWho threw on a dazzling live set that went into the wee hours of Thursday morning at Refuge. Day two saw spellbinding journeys from Blond:ish, Audiofly and Guy Gerber, with Nicole Moudaber rounding the night out with her signature techno sound. On day three, festival goers had a tough daytime decision to make between attending a boat party with Mandy, Thugfu*ker and Julian Prince, or being welcomed to the jungle by the Fuse crew of Archie Hamilton, Enzo Siraguza, and Seb Zito.
Saturday offered a villa party to VIP ticket holders who were treated to melodic beats by Chaim and the deep vocals blended with techno from Underher while the sun set down over the ocean. Saturday evening’s installment at Happy Bay hosted Chaim once again at the Ocean Stage, who performed a 5 hour marathon set that ended with the famous “Take My Breath Away” track from the infamous film Top Gun. The party kept on going, with Ricardo Villalobos sending the grooves all the way until the sun rose Sunday morning. The final day of the marathon was hosted by Stereo & SCITEC, with Apollonia and Dubfire closing the week’s festivities properly that put fans on one last journey to end an epic week filled with incredible house and techno.
In a world where we are starting to see the music industry become saturated with more and more music festivals, SXM stands out like a fine bottle of wine that will only get better with age. This might have been my first year attending the festival, but it certainly won’t be my last.