Amid the humid yet breezy bay of Tampa just beside the Buccaneer’s stadium, emerges thumping bass, throbbing lights, and colorful people. This year’s festival is dutifully named as the stages create a triangle gathering all angles of Earth’s biggest supporter slowly setting in the west.
Festivities promptly begin at 15:00, just enough time to collect one's bearings, take a walk through the water spray tents and settle in for an evening of electronic dance music. First Aid stations, refillable water stations, rest areas, and F&B are all accessible and within reach of all three stages. Wristbands were not only one's admission but your payment for merch and food. This cashless system eliminates long lines at an ATM and gets you back the music, although tips are thoughtful. The Sunset Music Festival app is the perfect replacement to hand-held maps that typically end up scattered. Reminders pop up for staying hydrated, where to cool down, who's up next, and lost and found. Attendees can even create their own schedule so they don't miss their favorite performers. Kia sponsored a human car wash where one walks through a water sprayer, bubble blowers, and splashed with glitter leaving one feeling refreshed. SMF also partnered with Lyft to encourage responsible drinking and driving. Moreover, stadium and festival staff adorned smiles and even sported candy, the terminology for colorful beaded bracelets that typically produce positive messages of P.L.U.R. (peace, love, unity, and respect).
Unlike most festivals, colorful people is an understatement here. Modesty is left at home and the free-spirited is full force. Everything from dancing unicorns to LED hula-hoopers. Think Pride Festival for everyone. It can be overwhelming for a first timer and despite the negative reputation, most people were generally considerate, communicative, and just simply want to enjoy themselves. Mexico, Switzerland, and Japan, in addition to various U.S. state flags, were just a few foreign flags flying high but unsurprising given the blend of local college campuses.
Dombresky, an underground artist, made a splashing display of thumbing energy, hyping up the crowd's every desire. Dubstep artist Gammer was greeted by the more hardcore individuals yet showcased a lovely tribute to The Cranberries with his rendition of “Zombie". Liquid Stranger is no stranger to production equaling performance. His ability to blend sound, period, is favorite for getting one's feet wet from the progressive deep house to the dubby trap tactics. He is the perfect place to start to welcome to one to the dark side. As the sun settled, Tchami was a hidden surprise. He is well versed in the early 90's house days to today's acceptance of electro headbangers (not an exaggeration from the audience). His stage presence and mixing were absolutely flawless, which can future encourage more music appreciation and ability.
The crowd became more compact as global electronic/pop sensation Illenium. His collaborations of today's rising singers have helped break down music barriers with very relatable lyrics of love and loss for everyone. He's a roller coaster of melodic choruses dropping down to extreme waaaahhhs of dub. Although dropping from a BMP range of 140 to 100 without fluidity can be too exciting for some. As a producer I applaud him; however, his mixing level was subpar which created some very interesting improv dances. Nevertheless, he was a crowd favorite and an individual giving it his all…certainly an A-plus for personality. One of the most impressive performances was that of Dabin, a phenomenal electric guitar player, from Toronto, Canada. Props to the sound engineers for bringing his mic to life. It's quite unusual for an instrumentalist to be heard in depth at any bassy performance over two other stages. Dabin was oozing from a background rich of rock and blues guitar. This beautiful collaboration with Illenium truly proves music has no boundaries. Even more elaborate were the visuals transporting attendees from the heart of the forest to fantasy worlds beyond our existence.