Sherpa Land

REVIEW: SXM Festival Cemented Itself As A House And Techno Destination!

With the backdrop of beautiful St. Martin Island, SXM Festival cemented its place as a premier destination for house and techno music with all the amenities of a paradise vacation!

Catering to an international audience of music lovers, SXM Festival provided a lineup of some of the world’s best known underground DJ’s such as Lee Burridge, Richie Hawtin, Nina Kraviz, and Jamie Jones. This year’s iteration of SXM was only the second in its history and hoped to fill the void left by the BPM Festival in Playa Del Carmen.

SXM Festival does not use a traditional festival layout as it combines 6 venues spread throughout the western part of the island to create a low-key vibe. The result? A five day excursion through music with a diverse and educated crowd that fostered an environment suited for the Caribbean, one of acceptance, love, and playfulness.

LAYOUT

Similar to the formulas used by Amsterdam Dance Event and BPM Festival, SXM utilizes different venues to host record label and crew sponsored parties. Not plagued by problems of long entrance and bathroom lines, attendees did have to arrange transportation to each venue but with an optional shuttle service, SXM offered a way for people to reach each location smoothly from their hotel rooms. With starting times ranging from 5 am to 10 pm at night, each venue served a unique purpose to either greet the day or continue the party through the night.

Tasked with sunrise duties, Layla’s is a picturesque beach bar and restaurant that served as the festival’s wakeup call. The setting could not be more perfect for breakfast with notable sets from Behrouz and Chaim on Thursday and Friday respectively. Unfortunately this sentiment was not shared by the bar’s neighbors, as the location for sunrise sermons had to be relocated to Happy Bay’s beach stage resulting from noise complaints.

What served as SXM’s main stage for the week was located at the island’s Happy Bay beach park with the ‘Ocean Stage’ right on the beach and the other ‘Main Stage’ with its large jungle structure a few yards inland. Many of the biggest names on the lineup found themselves playing on the ‘Main Stage’ where the largest crowds of the week could be seen. Happy Bay’s parties were also the longest each day at 10 hours from noon to midnight.

For a more traditional club set-up, SXM provided three options this year with The Refuge, Tantra Nightclub, and Skybar. All nightclubs are within five minutes walking from each other near Maho Beachand served as the festival’s after hours spots with parties ending at 5 am. As outdoor venues located Oceanside, The Refuge and Skybarcomplimented the temperate weather of the island perfectly with breezes cooling the dancefloor nightly.  While the outdoor venues bring the joy of dancing under the stars, Tantra Nightclub served as the sweaty, techno cave festival goers looked to get lost in.

Lastly, the Hotel Mercure served double duties during SXM. As a hotel accommodating many of the artists and attendees, the daily afternoon party was a convenient way to socialize with industry and festival goers alike. The laidback property sits in the middle of Simpson Bay Lagoon with views of boat docks and small yachts. Classy to say the least, the Hotel Mercure prepared festival goers for a full night of partying.

MUSIC

2017 brought SXM’s longest list of DJ’s to date with over 100 set to play through its five day span. With sandy beaches and sunsets in mind, SXM was careful to pick a cohesive yet diverse mix of artists covering 5 continents. SXM Festival was conscious of the fact that six distinct locations let each cultivate different vibes taking into account specific DJ styles and times of day. From labels, music publications, and party crews hosting their own club nights, this allowed for attendees to choose their journey.

The festival started off with Behrouz’s renowned party Do Not Sit on the Furniture taking the helm at the Happy Bay main stage with Nico Stojan and Atish as support. As suspected, the party introduced the crowd to a welcoming vibe complete with middle-eastern flair and ethnic rhythms. The first night ended with the Get Physical crew headed by M.A.N.D.Y at the Refuge where the tempo continued on its ascending pace.

Not to be outdone, online magazine Deep House Amsterdam hosted one the biggest celebrations of the festival with Bedouin and Âme (live)next day at Happy Bay. A noticeably large crowd were seemingly dancing in unison to the hypnotic energy of South Africa’s finest Black Coffee. Those looking for a more hard-hitting techno kick looked no further than Tokyo’s Womb party headlined by the beloved Nina Kraviz. She brought an infectious display of high-tempo techno mixed with acid and even the rave classic “Meet Her at the Loveparade” by Da Hool.

One of the most anticipated parties of the festival would have to be the TOS night with RPR Soundsystem. The Romanian collective of Rhadoo, Petreinspirescu, and Raresh did not disappoint as their signature low-end heavy, deep house propelled the crowd of artists and fans well into the early hours of Saturday morning.

As sunrise parties go, it would be tough to top Lee Burridge’s set on the festival’s closing day. Being relocated to the Happy Bay’s beach stage was truly a blessing in disguise. The beach’s sandy shores acted as a makeshift dancefloor and the surrounding hills only complimented the scenic view of the ocean. Even a little rain couldn’t dampen the mood, the oasis of community and music had already been established.

FINAL THOUGHTS

St. Martin was already a buck-list travel location and tourist destination in its own right so for many SXM Festival only provided an additional excuse for music lovers to make the trek. Two years in and SXM has seemed to find its stride and position in the crowded festival season. With the BPM Festival in Mexico seeing its last year for the foreseeable future, SXM Festival is poised to take over as the paradise techno haven. Let’s hope that with the increased notoriety and popularity from the success of 2017, SXM Festival will look to continue an organic growth with next year’s edition.

(All images courtesy: SXM Festival | Ded Pixel Agency)