It felt like every meme on the internet came alive and started dancing as electronic dance music scene took over Tampa Bay on Memorial Day weekend for the fifth annual Sunset Music Festival.
The two-day festival, which routinely draws some of the top DJs in the world, did not disappoint this year, with fan favorite Hardwell dominating the main stage on opening day, in the company of DJs like Galantis, 3LAU, and Audien.
In the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre, a DJ must not only smoothly mix songs and sounds – they must also bring a level of showmanship that gets the crowd going. Each DJ brought their own signature flair to the stage, featuring pyrotechnics, dancers, and live drumming, and mixing in classic hits from artists such as Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Halen, and more.
The party didn’t stop as we wandered away from the main stage. At the impressively designed Horizon Stage (above), which arced over the crowd to create a delicate bubble of sound, DJs spun a steady stream of trance as the crowd danced far into the night. Ferry Corsten, Tritonal, and Pierce Fulton were clear audience favorites throughout the first day, with striking visual displays and compelling beats.
But the ultimate stars of the festival were the attendees.
More than 30,000 fans roamed the fields at Raymond James Stadium under the brutal Florida sun, clad in costumes that rivaled those at MegaCon in their color and visual splendor. Many carried clever signs (presumably designed to make it easy for groups of friends to find each other), featuring memes ranging from Game of Thrones’ Hodor to Donald Trump to Left Shark (from Katy Perry’s SuperBowl halftime show a few years ago).
There were clever group costumes— Jafar, Aladdin, and the Genie; Harley Quinn, the Joker, the Riddler, and Poison Ivy; and Teletubbies.
There were people dressed in tie dye and tank tops, pasties and bikinis; clever t-shirts and bandanas. This writer discovered rapidly that bandanas were not a fashion statement so much as a matter of necessity, as the dancing kicked up so much dust that you couldn’t help breathing it in.
The atmosphere, ultimately, was one of pure joy that you couldn’t help absorbing just as much as the dust. There was little of the aggression that you often see at concerts; people were mindful of those sitting on the ground around them, and apologetic about accidental collisions while dancing.
And dance they did — like nobody was watching, until the music ended and beyond.
[Photos marked with SMF logo are courtesy Sunset Music Festival/photographer Alex Perez. All others by Greg Trujillo and Carolyn Capern on assignment for CitySurfing Orlando.]