Columbia Live: Sunset Music Festival Review

Cole Rojahn visits Tampa to check out one of the biggest EDM festivals in Florida


As one of the biggest events in the Tampa area every year, Sunset Music Festival brings the electronic dance scene to a completely new level for fans of the genre from all around the country. With multiple stages highlighting some of the biggest names in EDM every day, this festival brought names like Marshmello, San Holo, Borgore, Slander, and Nghtmre to put on their absolute best for a crowd full of electronic veterans and new fans to the scene. Even through a questionable day of weather in the Tampa area, Sunset Music Festival kept the gates open for Day 1 of ravers all around the Southeast to enjoy themselves with an environment filled with non-stop music.

With an amazing start to our night, we got to see one of my favorite duos based out of Los Angeles, California. Bass duo Slander brought the heavy dubstep and trap to Tampa with an absolutely stacked mixed. Even if you are not interested in Dubstep, the duo has a large list of future bass songs and remixes including a remix for Post Malone’s “Fall Apart.” Die-hard Slander fans in the crowd recited the duo's biggest hits  word for word. If Slander ever comes to a venue near you, I highly recommend attending.

Taking the main stage next was a familiar act in the Columbia Live blog. Dutch Trap and Future Bass producer San Holo, armed with his guitar, took the stage with one of EDM’s most widely known anthems, “Light.” With an array of original hits, San Holo’s unique performance changed the mood and tempo for fans at the main stage. Even through the light rain, not a single person left their spot  to see one of the most one-of-a-kind performances in the EDM scene. His stage presence with the guitar added such a unique layer to his set and brought an entirely new atmosphere to the festival.

After a small walk from main stage, Yo Gotti was warming up the crowd at the AMF Takeover Stage. Dedicated rap fans piled in as Yo Gotti took the stage to perform an intimate set with a rowdy crowd. Cheers were heard across the festival as he opened up with one of his best-known songs “Yayo.” Although our time at the AMF stage was cut short due to the rush to get to our next act, our impromptu visit to the AMF stage was well worth it. As the sun set on Raymond James Stadium, one of the biggest names in trap music took the stage and brought the heat. Opening with one of the heaviest tracks of 2018 “Rumble,” NGHTMRE brought the party with a mixture of hip hop, hard dubstep, and trap to an eager crowd. Right when everyone thought they have seen the last of Slander for the weekend, the song “Gud Vibrations” was queued up and Slander took the stage with NGHTMRE to play one of their biggest tracks to a roaring crowd. With the announcement of Gud Vibrations shows and festival stages across the US, Slander and NGHTMRE are a force to be reckoned with in the EDM scene.

Chants soon began for Rezz as her visual testing overlay took over the screens. “Space Mom” brought the low tempo bass music to Main Stage. My absolute favorite part of her set was her rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name.” The track is already one of the most recognizable punk rock anthems, but the bass twist added another dimension to the song, giving it a unique sound. It was my first time listening to her music, and I do not regret seeing her one bit. It was one of the most trippy and unique sets amongst other bass music sets. I will without a doubt be visiting her again at future shows.

With yet another familiar act to the Columbia Live blog, bass veteran Borgore took the Eclipse Stage by storm. Within seconds of stepping behind the decks, he made sure everyone knew, “This is going to be the hardest set of the weekend. Let’s do this.” He was absolutely not wrong. Heavy track after heavy track played, including hits of his own featuring artists like Nick Colletti and Bella Thorne. Mosh pits soon took over the stage, bringing a smile to his face and another excuse to go even harder for the high energy crowd.

Playing an overlapping set we managed to catch the second half of the legend himself, Marshmello. Walking up to the main stage, his EDM and Pop Punk track, and also one of my personal favorites, “You & Me,” was blasting through the speakers. Diehard Mello Gang members and new fans alike were singing along to his EDM anthems. Although I have seen him in the past, the goosebumps I get when the entire crowd sings A Capella to his hit track “Alone” never gets old. The expansion of dubstep into his set also brought another tempo that fans may not have  heard on these tracks, offering producers like Krimer and FuntCase exposure like they have never received before. He is truly doing everything he can to promote producers he believes deserve all the fame they can get. Ending the night with fireworks, SMF Day 1 came to a close and fans piled out of Raymond James for what they soon found out would be the last time of the weekend.

Although Day 2 was cancelled due to weather related issues, after parties all across Tampa became the move and kept fans in the festival spirit. The majority of the Day 2 acts planned some surprise shows and special appearances at clubs like The Ritz in Ybor City and The Orpheum. However, no one brought the party like Bonnie x Clyde, playing three sets throughout the night. After playing a house party that was soon busted by the police, their exposure only grew when the local news covered their impromptu show.

For news on next year’s festival, be sure to stay in touch with Sunset Music Festival on all social media platforms at @SMFTampa!

Photos courtesy of SMF, provided by Rukes.

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