Written by Theo Stamatiou
Photos by Geoffrey Hubbel (@geoh.photo), Bryon Kwon (@bryon.kwon), Matt Eachus (@matteachus), James Bridle (@jamesbridlephoto)
SXM Festival has evolved to become a whimsical getaway experience wrapped in the rich blended heritage and calming seduction of sunny Saint Martin, a truly Caribbean paradise. As soon as you arrive on the island you are mesmerized. It has gorgeous white sand beaches with stunning views out to the sea, and plenty of jungle hideaways to explore and get amazed by.
The festival started on Wednesday and we found ourselves at Arc Stage dancing under the sounds of Black Coffee. He has a unique technique of incorporating traditional African and East Asian instruments into his sound, but somehow it is done in a way that just makes him sound current throughout this set. While looking at the audience ride the wave of his fantastic music we escaped for a bit into more funky notes from Astra Club. On the Ocean Stage, Astra Club (DJ Tennis and Carlita) were rocking their audience in a variety of fun styles.
As Wednesday came to an end, we thought this year’s festival might be their best one. Fortunately, Happy Bay never got busier than Wednesday. Which makes this boutique festival intimate and even more enjoyable and unique. Our Thursday started in Boho Beach with Archie Hamilton leaving us no option but to start dancing early under his underground minimal house and techno sounds. After a few hours we are back to Happy Bay where Loco Dice was offering a deep combination of a drum n bass, techno and house hybrid with an intriguing, beat for a more complex groove. Before we know its was time for the “Maestro”, Marco Carola, behind the decks. A powerful set full of retro techno vibe and great remixes to elevated BPMs induced the fans to be yelling lyrics like “freaky motherf*cker” and “it’s better than yours”.
As Friday approached it felt like we had had so much fun already and the weekend hadn’t even quite started yet. Unfortunately Friday I couldn’t attend the festival and the famous panorama party due to stomach illness but talking to numerous people I heard that Camelphat’s set was even beyond the great expectations. Oxia, Nicolas Masseyeff and Layla Benitez also made Friday another great night for the attendees.
Day 4 was another beautiful, sunny day on the island. Fans split between boat parties, Boho Beach and of course, the infamous villa party. We walked into the villa party to find Ms Mada bringing the sounds of a fun Miami tropical vibe and we got to watch the performers while they were executing aqua aerobics in retro bathing suits and swim hats. Slowly but surely the villa got full of VIP bracelet holders with Demi Riquisimo and Doc Martin making sure that every bathing suit and body is shaking under the sunset and into the night. From there it was back to Happy Bay for a marathon night of music. Raresh raised the bar with his lively, amiable personality in his music, a set of rhythmic whirlwind with a surprisingly eclectic choice of music and impressive technical skills. Meanwhile on the Ocean Stage, Blue Shadow with Chaim & Jenia Tarsol was probably the biggest surprise of talent. They created a rich, varied range, organic, melodic and earthy set that felt like they managed to effortlessly weave listeners between familiar jacking gems to off-kilter techno. It seemed it couldn’t get better, but over at Arc Stage, Sonja Moonear was in total control of her tech house set, resulting in a steady groove that sparked with every track.
As the night was ending and the sky was becoming brighter, more than half of the crowd refused to stop partying and before we knew it Boho Beach was swamped for the sunrise set. The visuals of dancers with flames on the sand and the sun rising while Catori and Anthony Middleton capped off everyone’s musical trip and at that moment it felt again like this festival is simply a must do. After such a day/night it was necessary for everyone to take a break and recoup so Sunday was a less busy day around the stages. Nonetheless Happy Bay got busy again during the night and listeners were captivated by Maga’s set and incredible talent in addition to Konstantin Sibold, who incorporated techno, house, acid and modern indie to close Ocean Stage. From there, everyone moved to the Arc Stage to celebrate with Dubfire as the last hour of a boundless musical weekend.
They were so many very special moments that made SXM an impossibly perfect way to soak up culture, sun, and sand with world class sounds. We can’t wait to do it again next year!