SXMusic Debut Leaves A Promising Footprint On The Beaches Of Saint Martin

In the ever growing industry of music festivals, a new event has been brought to the surface with the perfect balance of culture, climate, and company. A fresh fit for a musical nomads getaway, the debut of SXMusic Festival, left a promising footprint along the beaches of St. Martin, for the future of destination festivals. A trendy concept, the fusion of a vacation hotspot with world class acts, hosting private beach, jungle, or villa parties, has many professional globe trotters and party enthusiasts, like myself, packing their bags to venture, contribute and connect. Simply stated, I (we), just can’t get enough of experiencing these intimate settings, that blend the right music and people together.

Not knowing much about the duel divided island, besides it having countless beaches to explore on both the French and Dutch sides, I saw the heavy techno and house fueled line up a couple months shy of the five day event and decided I had to go to the first ever edition of something sure to flourish. With very limited days off from work, I flew to the Caribbean to taste paradise for only two days. That’s right. Two days. An appetizing little nibble, that provided quite the introduction to what island life and this festival will deliver forthcoming.

Swimming under the path of landing jets.

Swimming under the path of landing jets.

I got to admit, flying standby has uprooted my inner dare-devil to the next level of crazy and with the friendly skies now at my finger tips, it makes it possible to make these short-lived adventures a more frequent, almost outlandish reality. I boarded my plane at the last minute, destined to sit in the middle of a husband and wife duo, who quickly opted out of that awkward scenario by handing over their window seat to me. Lucky for me I got to gaze at the crystal clear waters as we were approaching the island, with hundreds of tourists lifting their hands in the air as we landed right over them. I couldn’t help but creepily watch as the wife talked about getting her “techno fix” on social media and immediately struck up a conversation with her about our brand new festival haven we were all about to ensue.

I’m sure my conservative flight attendant uniform through them off guard a bit, just as much as it did the girls greeting festival goers at the will call table at SXM airport. An extremely convenient will call set up (for most attendees), to stroll outside of customs and grab your wristbands. I wish I could have done the same only having day tickets purchased for Wednesday and Thursday, but it didn’t matter once I felt the warm air, island breeze and heard DJ Koze’s remix of  “Bad Kingdom” blaring from their little stereo. That’s when I knew I made the right choice to check this place out. Yes. Yes, I did.

“A trendy concept, the fusion of a vacation hotspot with world-class acts, hosting private beach, jungle, or villa parties, has many professional globe trotters and party enthusiasts, packing their bags to venture, contribute and connect.”

I couldn’t snag my day bands from this particular will call, but did pick up the festival brochure that outlined the festival line-up, venues, and parties, in addition to extra curriculars, restaurants and “must sees” recommended by the SXMusic team. An additional nice touch to their suggestions, was an opening welcome letter and the simplistic graphics of swaying palms and jet airliners carried through out their art work. The theme of the festival along with the island’s beauty and simplicity was evident in their branding, on the web, print and merchandise.

SXMusic Festival Line Up

SXMusic Festival Line Up

So here I was, surrounded by a community of blended diversity, with one thing in common, everyone had ear to ear smiles. From the SXMusic staff sporting their bohemian wire framed glasses, to the Jamaican men renting out my whip, they were all extremely hospitable and made sure I felt welcomed to their island bliss they call home. It was immediately noticeable why this place is in fact called “The Friendly Island!”

SXMusic Shuttle & Venue Map

SXMusic Shuttle & Venue Map

 

Due to my extremely limited time on the island, I opted out of the shuttle pass offered by the festival and rented a tiny car to whirl around in. Although a decent deal the shuttle option was €55, roughly $62 for 5 days, and complementary for VIP ticket holders. I wasn’t located near any of the shuttle stops or venues, and felt having my own freedom would be worth the down payment vs. taxi and shuttles services.

TRAVEL TIP!!  Don’t convert your $ to €! Most places on the island accept USD and this saves you money!

I was right. Much like Ibiza, with single-lane roads of traffic winding through the island, it quickly became noticeable how this might have been my best investment of the trip. The best investment a banged up car with no working blinkers possibly could be, it aided tremendously in getting around to explore everything to my greatest potential.  My concerns of proper signaling quickly faded as I headed towards my apartment in Philipsburg, driving through the exotic mountains covered in green foliage, gazing at the different bays of aqua seas, I instantly learned that honking was a courtesy of the locals and blinkers we’re nowhere near a necessity, not even a little bit. The “friendly island” indeed, to me it was an island of “no worries” considerably an island of no rules.

My host met me at a shopping center after unsuccessfully finding my residence hidden amongst the local shops. I followed him back down the road and arrived at my apartment building, The International Guest House, owned by his lovely parents, who were more than accommodating and wanted to make sure I was comfortable and everything worked properly.

Favorably a center location on the Dutch side of the island, sitting on top of a convenience store to grab snacks and booze from, it was nestled next to a cafe on one side and a fresh authentic Jamaican BBQ grill on the other, serving jerk chicken or ribs, with sides of rice or potato fresh daily. Yes, I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner here for $3 to $5, something my stomach and wallet both appreciated.

 

$3 homemade jerk chicken!

$3 homemade jerk chicken!

 

As night time fell upon everyone, I freshened up and with a full tummy, I was ready to venture north to Orient Bay beach, a popular spot within the French territory, where the festival’s day venue of Palm Beach was located. The sounds of M.A.N.D.Y, Audiofly and more were on the opening party line-up, and I was looking forward to picking up my wristband, and grooving in the sand to some music. Unfortunately, rumors spread to me that there were protests being held by local vendors who were blocking the road near Orient Bay and my car wouldn’t get through. This left me in a predicament considering it was my only way to get my wristband prior to 9:00PM and wanted to make the most of my wristband purchase and music experience.

I drove over anyway and was directed by law enforcement to park my car on the side of the road and walk. The thought of walking on an unlit main road by myself, as the sun started to slip behind the mountains wasn’t sitting with me well, so, with not many advantages, I ditched my car and started  to walk with a bunch of Canadian guys tugging their luggage through the road block, and over the border. For me this short-lived friendship aided in getting a ride as they spoke French to some random guy that was willing to drop me off at some resort down by the beach.

As I walked past various restaurants that typically would have been full of tourists dining with an ocean view, I found everything was completely abandoned, and it was clear due to the protests no one could get to these locations. I knew undoubtably it was hurting the turn out of house music ambassadors meant to be at this first day party but I followed the sounds of bass in the distance and walked the beach, finally making it to the event.

Ditching my car, due to local protests.

Ditching my car, due to local protests.

A gorgeous art sculpture found at the entrance of Palm Beach Club Venue.

A gorgeous art sculpture found at the entrance of Palm Beach Club Venue.

I enjoyed some conversation and tunes, swung back some Heinies and waited for some friends to arrive to the party. This venue I could tell was all about location and chilled out vibes. The ultimate beach venue, tucked in the corner with the ocean waves as a backdrop, a hut covered in tropical plants with LED lights protruding dangling flowers and vines, was the home for the artists.

The weather that evening was unusually chilly with strong ocean winds, even the locals we’re saying they were cold, and the lingering concern of my rental car abandoned on a road in the middle of no where was stuck in the back of my mind, so I left with the intentions of going to another party later on.

I walked out of the venue with some guys to the main road, which was shut down this time for a mangled car that was in an accident. Something I learned about island life quickly, the roads get shut down for everything, which doesn’t help with the traffic or getting anywhere, especially when an expected two-thousand extra travelers are here for a festival. The officers on the scene said I could maybe call a taxi to bring me to my car, but with the long line of cars about to pass once the accident was cleared, I opted to stick my thumb out. Luckily, small islands are the best for hitch hiking because you usually don’t have far to go.

Happily to find my car still in one piece, I drove back to my place to power nap with the intentions of hitting up the Get Physical label party at Tantra. That never happened, for me, at least. I think the exhaustion of getting to and from the venue with the combination of a long day of travel had me beat, but my body was content to sleep and my heart was happy to have a new day in paradise to follow.

Plotting my day 2 adventure in SXM!

Plotting my day 2 adventure in SXM!

Waking up to the view of cruise liners docked in the distant harbor, I once again was faced with the problem of getting my wrist band only at the Palm Beach will call, which meant ditching my car, among angry protesters and staying at the venue all day. An unfortunate, yet completely uncontrollable situation for the festival, I sat at my place weighing my options. I looked through maps to plot my day two of adventure, while enjoying an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich on a homemade baguette. An island favorite, when I asked if I could have my sandwich on a croissant, she said the baguette was the only way to go, so I took her word.

Suns out, buns out at Kokomo Beach!

Suns out, buns out at Kokomo Beach! INSTAGRAM: @jess_aka_poots

I decided to take the recommendations written in the guide by staff members to enjoy the many other pleasures the island has to offer. Although a little disappointed I wasn’t getting my money’s worth of music, I spent my day beach hoping, getting sun kissed on practically private beaches of Kokomo and sipping on mojiotos at Sunset Bar & Grill, watching airplanes land and take off near Maho Beach.

Watching planes come and go at Sunset Bar & Grill.

Watching planes come and go at Sunset Bar & Grill.

Next task on the agenda, I headed over to the nearby airport to scoop up my friend and his girl and take them to their place. Another unique feature this festival offers is the options of living accommodations. You can choose from five star resorts, to renting your own condo or apartment on Airbnb. The island truly caters to all walks of life.

Kicking it with some brews, watching the sun sets over Simpson Bay on a private beach front patio!

Kicking it with some brews as the sun sets over Simpson Bay!

“The ultimate beach venue, tucked in the corner with the ocean waves as a backdrop, a hut covered in tropical plants with LED lights protruding dangling flowers and vines, was the home for the artists.”

With the day of self-reflection and alone time being a complete success, it was time to get ready for music to my ears. I wanted to make sure I saw Thugfucker who was throwing down from 6 to 9pm at Palm Beach followed by a closing set by DJ Tennis. It was announced that the French side was open and a direct flow of traffic to Palm Beach was possible. This is one of many things I got to hand this team of people credit for. The SXMusic staff did a wonderful job communicating with everyone daily about set times, traffic issues and shuttle concerns that they were aware of. They were always keeping up with current issues and doing their best with communicating with their customers, which is something so many businesses, not just in this industry, but anywhere fail to do.

Regrettably, for my sake at least, not all the information was accurate. Turns out, from the side of the island I was coming from, the protests and road blocks got even worse. Let’s just say being guided by locals to drive around, a barricade of burning cars disintegrated to wire framed metal, creating craters in the roadways, with hundreds of irate radicals gathering around the chaos, was not on my agenda for the evening. It certainly added a lot of frustration, sadness, and fear into my journey. By the time I got through that disaster and realized that the French side was only open from the north-west route, I pulled up to Palm Beach and sat in my car listening to the end of Thugfucker’s set.

Trying not to be disappointed, I thought of all the other great musical talent lined up for the remainder of the night and morning, trying to be as optimistic as I possibly could be. I strolled up to the entrance to get my wristband, and once again was greeted by the friendly SXMusic staff who really made it near impossible for me to feel vanquished any more by these subtle inconveniences. The night turned in my favor when Thugfucker took over for DJ Tennis, another unexpected situation in the series of perplexed moments for the evening. Let’s just say you had to be there to understand.

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DJ Tennis at Palm Beach

 

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Acting as our personal moon, this amazing visual art depicted trippy graphic patterns, the cheshire cat, and more!

 

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A night to remember with Thugfucker

With the night turning around for the better, I headed over to where Sky Beach and Tantra were conveniently located across from one another, amidst a crowded bar street filled with casinos, restaurants and tourists. Sky Beach was the option of choice with Francesca Lombardo closing out at this gorgeous roof top party.

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Francesca Lombardo at Sky Beach

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Sky Beach Lounge area.

Probably one of the most underrated venues, this was my favorite that I experienced. An intimate outdoor lounge on the roof, it hosted several areas for people to enjoy themselves.

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A bar area with high-top tables, a modest dance floor and a separate lounge area of couches decorated by illuminated LED prisms, glowing balls and fire pits, this type of ambiance created an environment that fit everyone’s needs, and was very much to my liking. The set up was small, yet no one was crammed, everyone had their space amongst the different areas.

The theme of stage decoration was consistent here along with all the venues that SXMusic Fest chose to host at, with floral draping vegetation, along with stained glass lanterns adding to the charming atmosphere. Under the tents, the various lights of the venue reflected what seemed like a cross of a tie-dye pattern or northern lights experience, either way, it was another nice thing to look at.

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Enjoying the atmosphere at Sky Beach Rooftop Lounge.

Tantra seemed like a promising venue for the larger acts that were on the line-up in the following days to come, but for this particular evening my friends and I decided to pop over to Le Shore, where a stellar line up including H.O.SH. and Adriatique, was sure to deliver an epic morning for us all. When we arrived around 3:00AM the club was at capacity and a long line had developed. It had been mentioned by the staff when picking up wrist bands that the two night time venues had a capacity limit, and they warned us to arrive early, but I truly wasn’t expecting this sort of wait half way through the morning. My friends and a few aggravated VIP holders ended up going home, and I waited out in the line.

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Adriatique closes out at Le Shore.

Once I finally got inside, it was evident why the club filled up so fast; it was a very small place for a prominent line up. Luckily for me, once the club astonishingly sold out of water, lots of people left, leaving myself and the remaining sunrise criminals room to dance out to the sounds of Adriatique, probably my most memorable set. The Diynamic label has truly been showcasing some great music this year in the festival world, and I’ve become extremely in tune with the artists representing it. I’m happy I patiently waited to experience this morning with the beautiful souls inside.

JessAKApoots

6:30AM not wanting to leave!

Ending my ephemeral trip, I only wished I could have stayed for more! My time spent here clearly wasn’t enough to fully engage in everything the festival and island had to offer, but I tried my hardest. I missed some amazing parties they had planned, including the jungle party hosted at Loterie Farm, a secluded nature reserve, where, from what I could see, was an absolutely stunning location with a private pool to dance and float in amongst the jungle palms. Sadly, I also missed so many class acts, sunrise sessions, and private villa parties, but writing about my experience and reading about others only has me more excited to come back next year!

I can confidently say this is for sure springs new festival hot spot, and for a first year festival, it brought together a plethora of beautiful people, nature, and music. With a few minor tweaks, I’m positive next year will be close to perfection. I’ll be making sure I am a part of the full five day extravaganza (if not more) in the years to come, encouraging all my friends to come along for the ride. See you in 2017 SXM!

For more information and to sign up for 2017 details you can visit www.SXMusicFestival.com!

My full album of photos can be found on my facebook page by clicking here!

Always Room For Love & Improvement

As in all my festival reviews, I’m constantly trying to provide information and advice, from a fans perspective, for festival throwers to improve their festival for themselves and their attendees. I want to make it a point that for a first year festival I was very impressed and I’m really looking forward to next years event! Here are my thoughts and suggestions:

LOVE

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You couldn’t have picked a better place to throw a festival! It was evident that you have spent your time here and truly love this place, researched what would be best for attendees, artists, and locals and provided places to explore and enjoy.
Well done. Honestly some of the best communication I’ve seen for an event, especially while in a foreign country. Communication is such a large part of any type of service provided to people. The SXMusic staff was absolutely on point with communicating on facebook groups, posts, and replying to messages relatively quickly when people stressed concerns.
You did a wonderful job with this. I loved your suggestions, guidance, and knowledge of the island. Very rarely do you see festivals suggesting things to do that might take away from their event, but you did a nice deed providing your attendees with activities, restaurants and more to use the islands resources to the best of their ability. Awesome! My only suggestion for your guide is to have the addresses of your venues listed somewhere, as you did for the restaurants.
Extremely friendly, always smiling, even with the local issues going on with the island. If they didn’t have an answer, they found one. A really great group of people you have on your team!
Everything was extremely affordable!! Anyone on a budget (such as myself) could still enjoy themselves. Local food was extremely cheap, my smaller apartment had a great price, as well as my car rental. I thought the festival prices were fair and I appreciated that you didn’t over charge for beer and water!

IMPROVEMENT

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Suggestion for next year is to have all wristbands (VIP, GA, and INDIVIDUAL DAYS) available at your airport will call (which was a great location).
If you can add into your budget to have some signs/posters with artists and their set times at your venues, I think that would be a nice touch and helpful for attendees to plan. (I know you posted on social media which was helpful too).
This is something I hope you work on for next year. While I understand the island is small, which means smaller venues, I don’t agree with hosting a festival at venues that can not accommodate everyone in attendance. Both VIP and GA holders, as paying customers, should be able to experience what they paid for.
I personally didn’t take your shuttles, but I know a few people had some issues regardless of you adding more. Not sure if it’s possible, too expensive or a liability, but a thought I had, for at least the venues that are closer together, is to set up water taxis? This might alleviate road traffic and will be able to transport many more people.
Le Shore ran out of water. Probably the actual venues lack of preparation but a huge shock to a lot of attendees and honestly one of my biggest concerns when it comes to events. I would just ditch this venue all together next year.

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