Festival report: The 13th edition of Sunburn in Goa was all about the politics of dance music
RESPECT FEW. FEAR none. Those four words kept popping up in conversations as party-goers made their way out of Sunburn Festival on day one. As they trudged downhill from Vagator—towards beachside shacks and slick afterparties— everyone kept talking about how the French hitmaker William Grigahcine aka DJ Snake lived up to the words emblazoned on his black t-shirt.
The Grammy-nominated composer, who was headlining the event, had stopped his performance midway to speak to the thousands gathered at the colossal carnival-themed mainstage. “I love you India…the whole world is watching you. No matter where are you are from…whether you are from the East or South…no matter what your religion is…just be together and stay united. Do not listen to TV, radio or what any politician is saying. Just spread love and peace,” stated the artiste, as he hoisted the Indian National flag.
Proper power trip
Truth be told, a large portion of the festival attendees did not hear DJ Snake cleverly urge people amid the ongoing nationwide unrest over the Citizenship Amendment Act. Neither did they see him play trap/future-bass bangers like Magenta Riddim atop the 350 ft large stage—even though it was lit up by over 50,000 sqft of LEDs complete with pyro FX, and confetti. They were off discovering various forms of dance music booming from five other stages, intelligently spread across the hilly landscape.
Some clubbers were moving to the hypnotic rhythms of Laughing Buddha and Belik Boom at the Psychedelic Circus overlooking the Arabian Sea. Others shimmied to Bollywood-infused commercial electro churned out by Progressive Brothers and Blackout at the ZEE5 stage. During all three days, the festival’s lineup had a tentacle in every corner of the dance music chart.
That, according to us, was the real highlight of the gathering: the ease of access to every major electronic sub-genre and the fact that the biggest names who champion those soundscapes helmed the stages. A brief glimpse at day two’s billboard revealed the same—from lesser-known vinyl phenoms like IggyTheBastard and Berlin’s techno mainstay Oliver Huntemann to young homegrown superstars like RitViz and Sequ3l.
As for those few who couldn’t find what they liked sonically they ended up taking a Ferris Wheel ride; snapping selfies beneath the huge neon ‘Live. Love. Dance’ board; grabbing a cold brew at the plush VIP lounge or zip-lining across the venue.
Despite being touted as the largest Asian music festival, with attendees from over 52 countries, Sunburn was not without its hiccups. And we’re not talking about the overpriced beer, poor network connectivity, cornucopia of corporate branding kiosks, and two-hour-long post-gig traffic jams!
Programming a lineup that suits the various stages is of paramount importance to maintain the ‘party vibe’. Yet for some reason, the organisers slotted in underground behemoths like five-time DJ award winner Luciano and Cuban-American DJ Maceo Plex right before mainstream superstar Martin Garrix closed the event. Regardless, the artistes gave it their all to ensure that fans had a great time.
House music legend Luciano, who also hosted a tent titled Luciano & Friends, summarised it best. During a backstage post-gig interview on day three, the Chilean-Swiss artiste explained, “Half the people who saw me perform today on the mainstage, didn’t even know who I was! But, I could see their smiles as they grooved to my blend of house and techno. They won’t hear these sounds on the TV or the radio. These tracks have no lyrics or language, yet we all connected on a higher plane during those moments. If someone attends a music festival for the ‘experience’ and walks away after discovering at least one new artiste or song—it counts as a win.”