Over Memorial Day Weekend, fellow Music Contributor Dylan Polacek and I attended Sunset Music Festival in Tampa, FL. The two-day festival included incredible heat, an insanely large spectrum of EDM artists, mediocre food trucks, copious amounts of arrests and an overall festival experience for the books. With that, the 48 hours taught Dylan and I a lot. SMF didn’t just teach us about how to PLUR correctly or how to master the art of shuffling — we also left with five critical pieces of advice for any upcoming festival.
Lineup is More Important than Location
Well, not always but definitely 98.5% of the time. Whether you’re in the middle of the desert, the forest, the beach, or a big city, if 10 artists you’re obsessed with seeing are coming to one place for 48 hours, you better be giving #zerofux about where you’re headed. Sunset Music Festival was conveniently tucked in the parking lot of Raymond James Stadium. Luckily the 3/10 location was quickly compensated by the 9/10 lineup combined an affordable price tag, making the trek to Tampa 11/10 worth it. Obviously, a primo location is a plus but definitely should not be a deal breaker. Stay open-minded and ready to rage, you might just find yourself a new favorite place.
Dress for the Weather
Check the weather a week ahead of time, a day ahead of time, two hours before you leave. Dylan learned the hard way when he only brought boots and pants in an effort to stay true to the fashion-over-function mantra. Luckily he compensated with his dashing looks. Florida’s summer heat made it nearly unbearable to survive the sweaty crowd for two days. This ended up becoming a serious issue thanks to the help of sporadic water stations, and may have played a heavy role in the particularly high number of hospitalizations this year.
The “sunshine” state is also known for its infrequent, yet ridiculously heavy thunderstorms. We found ourselves worried about four times whenever the nimbus clouds made their way over to the North parking lot. Fortunately, the PLUR gods were in our favor with zero rain delays unlike the three years before where SMF was put on pause several times.
Maybe consider packing a poncho if there’s a chance of rain. Seriously, who doesn’t want a rave poncho?
VIP is worth the extra money
Looking for that lost friend but find your way squeezing to the front to rub up against sweaty rave bros or accidentally grazing the nipple tassel of that rave baby to your left? Staying together becomes a nonissue. Lines for beverages are nowhere near as long as the general ones, drinks are cheaper and what’s better than looking down on the kandi-exchanging peasants and feeling important? The SMF VIP sections were located conveniently at each stage, providing a turf dance floor, shade, fans and a bird’s eye view for the vertically challenged. This especially came in handy when waves of people flocked to Hardwell and JackÜ for both closing sets. It’s safe to say that it was definitely worth the extra hundo.
Avoid the Mainstage Unless Absolutely Necessary
Festivals are for dancing and discovery. If you’re a sardine at a show you’ve already seen 6+ times and know the basic artist’s repeat set by heart, get out of there and hop around. Particularly for Dylan’s enjoyment, we caught Dirtybird crew members, Claude Vonstroke, Justin Martin and J. Phlip at one of the smaller stages. There’s a particular satisfaction of being able to walk to the front of the crowd with no problems, an exchange of body fluid, or the extra push and squeeze. On the “Phlip” side per my request, we were able to catch the Lost Kings set on another small stage which provided perfect ratio of spinning around in circle of happiness and head banging. Mixed into those long hours of bouncing bass was a surprising heavy Mija set that gave us our fix of crazy house beats. But rly, she didn’t even play Better feat. Vindata?!
Expand Your Horizons
Go see to a small stage and get up front. If you hate it, AWESOME. Leave immediately and head to another stage. If you love it, then you have new music to show your friends. For me, it was Anna Lunoe. For Dyl, it was Andrew Bayer. Build that arsenal of seen artists so one day you will be the elitist music snob you’ve always dreamed of becoming. That’s a common dream right?
Making the most out of any festival is intimidating. With the anxiety of plans falling through, combined with unexpected speed bumps in your fun can be daunting. If you can manage to dispose of any preconceived expectations, the art of dancing, meeting new people and frankly, just people watching, will lead to a successful adventure. And if you happen to score some free Bud Light Limes and a neon rave poncho along the way, consider yourself a festival professional. Happy raging.