Electronic dance

The Sunset Music Festival returns to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

If the Sunset Music Festival this Memorial Day weekend is anything like last year’s, it’ll be a win in John Santoro’s book.

Festival co-producer and founder of Sunset Events, Santoro said everything went well on the production side in 2021, especially after returning for the first time since the pandemic. But he still wants to make sure guests have a good time, so he scrolls through social media to find out.

“It was really heartwarming,” he said. “We saw all the positive vibes that were emerging. So what we saw on the back-end really translated into the consumer experience on the front-end. It was great.”

Last year’s festival, the first music festival to return to Tampa during the pandemic, was a financial boon for the city. We then reported that 32,231 tickets had been sold and the festival likely generated over 9,000 hotel stays, which the festival said was about $16 million in direct economic impact. More than 20,000 out-of-town guests came to town, according to a postcode sales report.

Related: Tampa’s Sunset Music Festival generated $16 million in spending

The festival has been held in the front parking lot of Raymond James Stadium since 2012, but its first iteration was in 2006 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. This year, it goes from two days to three days.

Santoro, who is co-producing the event with Disco Donnie Presents, said the event has grown over time in its footprint and coordination with the city of Tampa. They’ve come to recognize barriers they can mitigate for a better customer experience, like keeping lines short and having plenty of free water.

“I don’t think they’re buying for a specific production,” Santoro said. “I think what they buy and what we sell is an experience. … We are selling this escape from their life.

The safety of festival-goers is a top priority. It will probably be a hot weekend and dehydration is a dangerous factor. In addition to numerous free water stations, festival ‘ambassadors’ will roam the event distributing water and monitoring those in distress.

There will be several medical tents and a relaxation area with noise canceling headphones and a therapist on site. A zero tolerance drug policy including medical marijuana will be enforced. Pro tip: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen.

On the music side, the program is eclectic. There are big names like Alesso, but the lineup includes artists from many genres – a big misconception of the electronic dance music moniker.

Santoro encourages fans to go through the different stages to discover the different acts. He said a popular genre is bass, so one of the stages is dedicated to styles that are bass-heavy, like dubstep.

Zeds Dead (Dylan Mamid and Zachary Rapp-Rovan) is a Canadian duo playing at the festival on Saturday. They have played the festival in the past and remember the energy and fun vibes from the audience.

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“We have a lot of new music and we’re excited to play some of the stuff we’ve been working on,” Rapp-Rovan said. “And I expect it to be a really rowdy set again, because it always stuck in my head as being really, really crazy.”

The Sunset Music Festival takes place May 27-29 on the grounds in front of Raymond James Stadium at 4201 Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. Single-day tickets range from $99 to $174.95. Multi-day packages are available and range from $169.95 to $374.95. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit smftampa.com.