SXMusic Festival begins the moment you step off the plane. Greeted by many of the industry’s familiar faces, we instantly knew that the family vibes would be felt by all. As you bid your hellos, and pick up your wrist bands just outside the airport doors, you’re ready to begin your week in paradise. While festival-goers would travel from all corners of the world — a majority descended upon the white Isle of St. Martin from Montreal, New York, the UK, Paris and our very own, Toronto.
This would be the first year for the inaugural festival, and while we suspected that it’d be a hit, we couldn’t have imagined the thrilling week that laid ahead. Over the next 5 days we’d be graced with sets from the world’s top DJs including Lee Burridge, Dubfire, Jamie Jones, Adriatique, Maceo Plex, Guy Gerber and so many more.
Taking its name from the island’s airport code (SXM), location would be a crucial component to the festival’s overall impression. Spread out across the island, SXMusic utilized both the Dutch and French sides, ensuring that there were always new sights to see. With 5 venues on constant rotation, it was easy to make your own schedule, as the music was always in ear’s reach. Perhaps the most impressive of these venues was Palm Beach, set against crystal aqua blue waters, a white sandy beach, surrounded by wooden tiki bars and private booths for those that preferred the swanky, bottle service experience. The DJ booth was transformed into its very own jungle oasis with bright, tropical flowers that danced in the lights as day fell to night. While Palm Beach took a beating from the rains that blew in each evening, it was evident that this crowd were veteran partiers. On the evening of the Paradise party, crowds confirmed that there would be no raining on this parade. Huddled beneath a massive tarp, we continued to jack along to the notorious funky, house rhythms of Patrick Topping and Jamie Jones — a definite highlight of the festival!
On Saturday afternoon, VIP guests would make their way over to Loterie Farm to lose themselves in slice of paradise. Generally open to the public as a nature reserve and sanctuary, SXMusic would take over for the day hosting the warm, melodic sounds of Chaim, Behrouz and The Doctors. With the DJ booth situated high above in a majestic tree house, patrons would fill the grounds below, cooling off in the lagoon-esque pool that was scattered with large, white blow-up swans. Our only complaint would be the timing of this party. It could have easily lasted another 5 hours. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to make more use of this exotic hideaway.
And then of course, there were the villa parties. If you headed down with a large crew as many of us did, you probably found yourself situated in one of the many monstrous oceanside villas that litter the island. And if you didn’t stay in one of these beach homes, then you likely found yourself after-partying at one. A majority of them decked out with monitors and full DJ set-ups, the crowds here were certainly not amateurs. If there’s one thing you can bank on, it’s that there is never a shortage of music— SXMusic festival-goers know how to throw a proper afterparty!
Musically speaking, we were happily impressed. The set of the festival goes to Swiss duo, Adriatique, who brought magic to Le Shore on Thursday evening. A special energy loomed in the air, as if the room had been put under a spell by the progressive-techno that Adriatique are acclaimed for.
Another standout was Thugfucker who took over Palm Beach just hours before. Playing a mixture of funky, disco and uplifting, melodic techno, Thugfucker reminded us why they remain one of the bests at what they do. On the Saturday evening, Apollonia closed the night off at Le Shore, spinning classic, hi-hatting house that made it impossible to stand still. The french trio had the full room brimming with energy!
Last, but certainly not least, and just as we expected, the party of SXMusic has to be handed to the stunning sunrise event at Layla’s on the final morning. Beginning at 5 AM and lasting until noon, Lee Burridge and YokoO graced us with 7 hours of musical perfection. While some may have been saving themselves for this morning, many of us arrived on no sleep and yet, we would all eagerly make our way over to the secluded beach venue to give one final push. As if mother nature knew it herself, we’d be spared the rain today. With the hot Caribbean sun shining high in the sky, patrons would groove about, cooling themselves with their blue SXM fans and icy cold beverages. If you needed a sit-down, you could wander down to the beach, dipping your feet in the sparkling ocean and take in the magnificent views of St. Martin’s shoreline. It was a party that will surely stay with us forever.
It’s hard to believe that this was SXMusic Festival’s first year. Spearheaded by a team of true professionals — Julian Prince, a serial business entrepreneur from Montreal, Toronto’s music industry leaders Joel Smye and Stephan Philion, Alex Jukes of the UK-based Jukebox PR, and Nick Decosemo of MixMag, together these partners showed why they’re some of the most successful business men in the industry. As we look ahead to 2017, we’re anxious to see what SXMusic has in store!