It is impossible to find fault with such an incredible location
The global festival scene seems to have been hitting peak levels for the last three or four years. Just when you think you’ve seen the best line-up in the best location, another one pops up and sets a new benchmark. So, it was in 2016 when SXM Festival burst out of nowhere and after just one edition, established itself as the very definition of a festival in paradise.
Last year, however, there was a setback: SXM Festival takes place on the Caribbean Island of Saint Martin, an area tragically destroyed by a series of hurricanes—most notably Irma—in 2017. 95% of infrastructure was raised to the ground, locals were left with nothing and there was no possibility of hosting a family of four let alone an international festival. To their credit, rather than relocate, the team behind SXM instead concentrated their efforts on creating the non-profit Two Bunch Palms Foundation, which aimed to raise funds to help those affected by Hurricane Irma, as well as “act as a future vessel to give back to causes important to the development and health of the community,” says a press release.
After a call for assistance from the local tourist board, awareness was raised, the media was rallied and word got out so donations began to pour in from all over the world. In just six days, water and electricity was restored to the island. It was the start of a long journey to recovery, but recover it must, as tourism is the main industry in the island. Since then, thanks to the support of the global electronic music community and strong will of the locals, most of the debris from the storms has been cleared. The ocean and docks clean-up and removal of destroyed boats is ongoing, while cruise ships are now starting to return to port and bring with them some much need tourism money. Restaurants and boutiques are also reopening, and hotels are in the process of deciding whether to rebuild completely to reopen for the 2018 seasons according to the results of their insurance claims. Either way, next year, SXM Festival will go ahead from March 13th to 17th.
SXM Festival founder Julian Prince says, ‘This has been an incredibly emotional time for the local community and the partners that make this event happen. But through these adversities I believe the island and our team have emerged stronger than ever with an unbreakable bond that is destined to produce something incredibly special. With this thought, we have taken more steps to ensure that our event is giving direct aid and support to the people of St Martin, without whom the event would not be possible.’
The festival itself quickly became known for its production: each stage was a thing to behold, from the rooftop venue SkyBeach, to Tantra nightclub decked out in customary SXM decor, indoor/outdoor venue The Refuge, with a pool in the centre and lasers and lights projected through the water, but particularly the main stage in Happy Bay: shaped like a vast beach hut pyramid and draped with jungle greenery as if it was a hideout for some long lost tribe, it had a giant monolithic head next to it which had 3D-mapping projected onto it, with wild lighting in all the trees and jungle huts around it. Crazy.
The view from The Ark stage
There are also parties in hidden clearings surrounded by flora and fauna, various tropical pools to swim in, goats climbing the forested hillsides, turquoise seas to enjoy, uninterrupted sun and a real cultural mixing pot that is influenced by a mixture of Dutch and French culture, so the food is out of this world. What’s more, rather than a sweaty tent, the accommodation is like nothing on earth meaning you can expect to stay in white villas with swimming pools, palm trees and private beaches whilst enjoying classic Caribbean architecture and tennis courts. This is the stuff of dreams even before you add in pool parties, rum bars, beach parties, art and light installations, stunning sunsets, natural bays straight from a postcard and plenty more.
Musically, SXM deals in big dogs only: previous years have seen Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin play back to back, Lee Burridge has hosted his own All Day I Dream party, Nina Kravitz has brought the acid, South African Black Coffee offered deep house with Innervisions pair Âme and party starter Skream also lined-up next to Bob Moses, Minilogue, Jamie Jones, Andhim, Honey Dijon, Kate Simko and plenty more.
This is not just a festival, it is the holiday of a lifetime with a world class soundtrack. Get it on your to-do list asap.