Despite unexpected snowstorms along the East coast creating chaos and backlogged flights, hundreds of house fans still made the pilgrimage to Saint Martin for the second year of the island’s only major music festival. Dubbed “SXM,” after the code for Princess Juliana International Airport on the island’s Dutch side, the five day fiesta was conceived by Montreal-based DJ Julian Prince as part of an effort to attract a younger, more diverse group of tourists to the oft-overlooked Caribbean destination.
“Having the sun and beaches isn’t enough to compete so I think it’s nice to have a little bit of an edge,” explained Prince. “The point of this festival is to pump some tourism here, but the same time, the idea is that we want to share the music we love and promote it as much as we can. Being surrounded by these artists is like a blessing because they’re so pure and kind-hearted. I just feel really privileged to be able to share this with so many people.”
Despite accessible tourism being his bottom line, Prince still kept the attendance numbers well below the rates of mega festivals like Coachella or Governor’s Ball, specifically to create a more intimate and curated experience. Festival organizers also provided dedicated shuttle buses that ran on a 20-minute schedule between the French and Dutch sides of the island. The service was available virtually from sun-up to sunrise and shuffled guests between Happy Bay – where the majority of the larger DJ sets took place – to various clubs and after-parties, including the 5 AM sunrise party which saw guests shaking off grogginess induced by dark, neon-lit clubs and returning straight to sunny beachfronts.
Festival organizers also offered a mixture of emerging talents and established headlining acts including Berlin-based American selector Honey Dijon, electronic music luminary Ricardo Villalobos, DJ duo Thugfucker, South African house champion Black Coffee and many more. The latter, who spun just days before his feature on Drake’s More Life dropped, received thunderous applause for a tropically-inflected set that included selects from deceased icons like Prince and George Michael. And, unlike other festivals where less-known acts are relegated to smaller stages and given less time to ply the audience, SXM gives every artist equal time in the spot light.
“We have every act play two to three hours minimum. We feel like it’s really important to give them that time to express themselves. The scene is rich in culture and different musical styles and inspirations. Everyone has a story and it’s beautifully told through music so we let them do that,” said Prince. Compared to typical festival set times it might seem like a lot, but time does tend to fly when there’s sand between your toes and cerulean skies overhead.
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