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Club Review

Reviewed: SXM Festival


Given the devastation that Hurricane Irma wrought on the Caribbean island of St Martin, despite international fundraising and support initiatives, it’s astonishing that just a couple of years later it is fit to host a festival. There are still areas that need work, but the natural beauty of the island and huge names playing this festival meant thousands of people flocked to it this March. Like a defiant phoenix rising from the flames, once again SXM proved to be the most beautiful festival of them all with the sort of dream-like beaches, tropical pools and magic stage design all brought to life with art installations and some of the best DJs in the world.

Credit: OffBrandProject

Clear blue waters, lush greenery, white sandy beaches and endless amounts of fresh culinary options are available across Saint Martin and make it a real paradise. The whole island brims with tropical class and exotic allure. There are plenty of natural pools, waterfalls, jungle clearings, beaches, areas to relax on, hammocks and art installations scattered about to explore between dances.

Credit: GeoffreyHubbel

But those dances carry on pretty much 24/7, with beach and pool parties, parties at the beautifully designed stages and even parties back at the villas that draw an older crowd. Those villas are surely some of the best accommodation at any festival in the world – they are comfy and deluxe and really help you relax.

The crowd comes from all over Europe, America and even further afield. They are music lovers first, but also like to party and come dressed in style. So are the stages, which include the Happy Bay festival village which bustles with dancers through the afternoon and beyond sunset. The iconic main stage, the Arc, is bigger this year, complemented by a huge stone head, embellished with trippy visuals adding to the sensory overload.

Credit: Alec Donnell Luna @cptvibes

Each venue was adorned with organic production elements that appear as though they grow from the very island environment in which the event is hosted. Following the devastation of caused by IRMA in 2017, aesthetic curation was reimagined to incorporate the debris created by the storm in order to minimise the importing of materials. By using recycled and reclaimed wood sourced from the area, the event continued its legacy of producing stages and art in harmony with the local habitat.

Musically, there are so many highlights; the smaller Ocean Stage down by the beach has a tasty back to back from Molly and Francesca Lombardo that really goes deep, while minimal masterclasses also come from Maher Daniel, Gescu, Sepp, Dana Ruh and Lamache at nightclub Lotus. One stage that has grown for this year is Arc, which is a huge thing that grows out of the ground with wood, grasses and reeds all piled up on top of each other to look like a srt of sail on a pirate ship. Blondi:Ish and Audiofly both play here and take us on a whirlwind trip through tech house that is futuristic, sleek and packed with darker drums and more vibey synths and vocals that really get the crowd in a lather.

Credit: jeremymphoto

The Loterie Farm venue is a real favourite – it is a secluded jungle hideout with places to swim, play with large inflatables and a killer sound system that pumps to the dub tech sound of FUSE and residents Enzo, Seb and Archie Hamilton to a packed out crowd on the Friday.  Big names like Dubfire, Apollonia, Zip and Ricardo Villalobos all come correct with exactly the sort of heady and essential sounds you would expect, the latter of which plays at sunrise and matches his sounds perfectly. Even a small bit of rain didn’t dampen the spirits.

But also smaller names like festival founder Julian Prince also paces his warm up at Villa Sandline perfectly on the Saturday, with another special sunset set from Ali + Bettina, their deployment of Erol Alkan’s Connan Mockasin edit long sticking in the memory. It was one of many very special moments that make SXM an impossibly perfect way to soak up some culture, sun, sand and world class sounds.

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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