Political protests, piña coladas, iguanas, abandoned fortresses, picturesque white sandy beaches, yacht parties, and spring breaker mentality are a few descriptive pointers of SXMusic Festival, the poster child festival of the Ibiza-style party experience which took place last week in the heart of the Caribbean. SXMusic Festival’s Montreal-based founder Julian Prince found sunny solace on the small island, bringing with him a horde of French-Canadian attendees with no regard for tomorrow, yesterday, or time for that matter.
Day and night, five full days of tech house music blared from both ends of Saint Martin out into the teal expanse of Atlantic surroundings and echoed into the lush green flora propelling out from the bottom of Mother Nature’s toes. Between March 9 and 13, I experienced the chaos of true weather: 40 mph winds, horizontal rain, and beating sun rays through tufts of clouds amidst the initial scramble to find each venue and explore Saint Martin’s local offerings.
6AM lives to tell the tale of a wild weekend warrior’s quest into the first edition of SXMusic Festival.
SXMusic Festival took place across five venues on the quaint island of Saint Martin in the Dutch Antilles, an hour flight east out of Puerto Rico’s International Airport. The island is divided into two sides: the French and Dutch sides, which subsequently meant two completely different worlds. The French side mirrored the charming character of South of France with tourist-friendly spots to hit up, beachside wining and dining, and barefoot dancing. A majority of the day venues were on the French side, whilst the night venues found themselves on the wilder more blantantly hedonist leaning Dutch side.
Renting a car was seriously the greatest idea ever. Zipping around on narrow curvy roads in a Kia Picanto with plates that said “The Friendly Island” was an essential part of the festival week’s experience. In fact, the car took up a majority of adventuring around town, definitely something I preferred over taking the festival’s shuttle.
Palm Beach took center stage as the main day party venue right on the sandy beach. Tantra was the go-to afterhours spot, and rooftop open-air lounge Sky Beach was chill if the weather permitted. Le Shore was another night venue, and Layla’s was a sunrise venue close to the Mercure Hotel, which is owned by Julian’s father.
The massive lineup called for a tribe of internationally renowned DJs. Each day was a different label showcase. We eased into the Get Physical label showcase with M.A.N.D.Y. and Audiofly on Wednesday only to face road closures due to political protests on the road to Palm Beach. So we made a roundabout on foot through pitch blackness stumbling across sand and coconuts scattered on the ground.
Thursday was the Mixmag party, probably the more fun party of the week. We played tennis to DJ Tennis and Thugfucker’s brooding playa tech set on the beach. Afterwards we made the drive to the night venues, Tantra and Sky Beach, for some gypsy tunes from Shaun Reeves, Ryan Crosson, and Adriatique.
Trooping into Friday, we spent the day with Maceo Plex’s Ellum showcase with Shall Ocin and Gardens of God, only for Palm Beach to experience gusty rain. Thank goodness the afterhours venue is indoors! Showered by musky Caribbean rain, everyone piled into Tantra that night and desperately tried to dry out with Maceo, Danny Daze, and the rest of the crew.
The rain continued in patches throughout Saturday, kind of improper weather for the heated Paradise showcase with Jamie Jones and friends. At 5pm, the secret jungle party took place up the street of my airbnb at Loterie Farm on Pic Paradise. Talk about treehouse and poolside grooving.
In conclusion, we rounded out the week’s festivities on Techno Sunday with a sunrise set with All Day I Dream boss Lee Burridge and Yokoo, and evening shenanigans with Dubfire, John Acquaviva, and Creatures of Habit.
I give credit for SXMusic running for its first time, but there is room for a lot of improvement regarding logistics. I feel that most of the visitors to the festival avoided exploring the island because of travel limitations. I didn’t go to Saint Martin just to party. I would highly recommend sightseeing and doing recreational activities during the day.
Void sound system is an A+. Music variety was okay. Personally I got pretty bored, and some DJs just didn’t cut it for me with their lousy mixing. But don’t get me wrong, there were some really good DJs in the mix. Consistency in quality was lacking considering how top-notch the sound system was.
The real MVP though is my airbnb host Angèle. Her home was fabulous, and her pet turtles and chihuahua named Fukushima were the homies. There was this amazing French bakery on the other side of the house that served fresh squeezed mango, starfruit, and beet juice and some godsend carb-filled treats. Also shouts to Nicholas and his trippy pizza. That stuff was the stuff of dreams.
Photo credits Ded Pixel & Alec Donnell Luna