To me, electronic music and a beautiful beach are two things that definitely go hand in hand. Throw in a few stages, some carnival rides, make it 21+ and you have definitely got a weekend full of fun right there in front of you. When I first heard of Sundown Music Festival it was after the 2015 edition. My friend Elena had danced as a go-go there and afterward had nothing but great reviews about the venue and vibe. Sure, there were definitely some hiccups along the way, but what can you expect from a festival that is in its first few years of existence? So when I saw that it would be returning in 2016, and that Activated Events was bringing a solid lineup along with it…I marked my calendar and hit “going” on Facebook.
Attending a festival for the first time is always something interesting…
Usually based on your history with a company, their past events, or whatever else factors in, you tend have a decent idea for what’s in store. When you have none of that and you come in fresh, it’s an entirely different experience. So Angel and I drove up to Huntington Beach to explore a new festival, a new venue, and see what all the fuss was about. The hotel we booked was only about fifteen minutes away from the venue, which wasn’t all too bad honestly. After getting dropped off the trek began through the sand to the Will Call/Box Office area. Something that was clearly an oversight on the part of front was the lack of computers that could check in guests, media, or artists. I’m not talking about there being two or three computers either, there was one. So while there was a massive line for Will Call, the Box Office line had two systems running yet they were unable to help anyone. I’m not really sure how else they could resolve that beyond adding more systems to the line, but it really shouldn’t be a massive wait for something like that. There was plenty of members of the staff ready to help, but only having one system just limited the speed and hopefully that is fixed next year.
Once inside, I had totally forgotten about the problems at the front as we began to explore the festival grounds. Looking around, the venue was surely large and the sound was booming. Right when you entered was the Shipwreck Stage, which ended up really being my favorite of the entire festival because it fit the beach vibe so well and actually was cool to look at during the day. The main stage was more of a traditional scaffolding type stage, with LED panels that appeared later in the evening as the sun set. The two other stages, one placed by the Swing Ride and the other placed in a tent in the other corner, were honestly a bit too far out-of-the-way for me to explore initially. For those of you who have never walked on sand before, it isn’t exactly the easiest surface to walk on, so I ended up sticking mainly to the other two stages where most of the action was anyways. The VIP area at the Shipwreck Stage was full of beanbag chairs and hammocks for the special guests to relax in while they enjoyed some beats, I definitely lounged there for a bit during the warmer hours of the day to relax. Cabanas were present at both stages as well, although much more prevalent at the main stage in which the two viewing decks acted as the boundaries of the inner pit area.
There really never seemed to be a “packed house” feel to this event, which I actually really enjoyed.
I couldn’t tell if that was because of the laid back atmosphere, expansive venue, or me just being in the right place at the right time. Something that did catch me off guard was that after entering and heading to grab a drink, I wasn’t asked for my ID. I actually didn’t even think about it twice until walking away, before remembering that this event was 21+ so it didn’t matter. It was actually insanely convenient to never be carded, and I really do hope that smaller festivals look at this as an alternative way to market their events going forward. The signature drink that was being poured involved lemonade and Fireball Whisky in some capacity, and apparently people seemed to enjoy it. I tasted one and decided it would be better to grab a different drink instead, but there were plenty of people who were swearing by it that I spoke with. The vendor area was pretty small, but full of really cool companies like LazyPak which fit the beach vibe. I did notice that the vendors were a bit far from the action, although they did have a great spot to check out the main stage.
I don’t really have many complaints about this event. The parking was a breeze to access, there was little to no delay to get an Uber afterwards either, and on the second day entry was a breeze. There was shade available to relax in for everyone, and the food options really weren’t all to bad either. Drink prices were slightly higher than what I would expect, but the bartenders seemed to have a heavy pour to make up for that. I feel like there could have been a slightly better job done with security, as I did witness a few people jump the fences to get inside. The sound levels coming off the main stage were so high that they did bleed into the rest of the venue, and it was definitely loud when you were at the stage, but it was easy to find spots where it wasn’t bad. Finally, the biggest complaint was really something I doubt they can do much to change, which was extended the end time of the event. It was seriously unfortunate that all the cool lighting effects were diminished by the fact that this festival runs mainly during hours in which the sun is out. Having an end time so early was a downer, but it does open the doors for potential after-parties and more in the future.
The lineups between the first and second day were definitely different in terms of vibe and genre.
The first day’s stages consisted of artists who are rising stars in the electronic music scene, or well-known in their own right. Arriving a bit later on Saturday, we caught the end of Wiwek‘s set and chilled out to Cedric Gervais and R3hab who both got the party started. I’ll be honest, I probably hadn’t listened to a full set from either of them in nearly two years, so it was fun to hear some classics and see them kill it. From my conversations with other attendees, I was told that Gina Turner and Lupe Fuentes both had awesome sets earlier in the day. Deciding to stick around for NGHTMRE‘s set, I passed on seeing Shaun Frank, who had also played earlier that day due to Ashley Wallbridge canceling. NGHTMRE blew the crowd away and played a massive, bass heavy set that really got the crowd going. That led into a set from Tommy Trash that was just as fun, as his high-energy attitude was perfect to close out the evening.
The second day was much more relaxed from a musical standpoint. The main stage had shifted its focus from electronic acts to a more live feel with artists like AWOLNATION and Robert Delong taking the stage. I found my home at the Shipwreck Stage, which completely stole the entire show for me. With amazing music and some seriously great vibes, the lineup there on day two was hard to beat. Shmitty to Chris Garcia, then Saeed Younan to Harry Romero, with Chus + Ceballos and Erick Morillo to close out the night, How can you beat that if you love house and techno? The crowd, at times, amassed a larger size than at the main stage…so perhaps Activated Events will take note and gear the next edition of the fest to feature more artists like them.
Overall, the entire festival was a fun experience for me. I enjoyed the beach setting and general vibe from the crowd. Never were there problems with staff or attendees that I noticed to be seriously problematic, and I definitely will want to attend this event again in 2017.