Sunset Music Festival cancellation sends DJs, fans scrambling to clubs across Tampa

Some fans were outraged; others got to see headliners in an intimate setting.
The scene outside the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2018. (Luis Santana | Times)
The scene outside the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2018. (Luis Santana | Times)
Published May 28, 2018|Updated May 28, 2018

When the threat of Subtropical Storm Alberto led Tampa officials to pull the plug on the 2018 Sunset Music Festival on Sunday, it was less an implosion than an explosion.

Some 20,000 pass-holding fans and DJs who'd flown in from around the world were suddenly left with a gaping hole on their Memorial Day weekend calendar. But none of them wanted to cancel the party outright — especially not when the expected high wind and rains never materialized, leaving blue skies across Tampa for most of what would've been the festival's second day.

MORE: Sunday's Sunset Music Festival, Tampa Bay Margarita Festival canceled due to Subtropical Storm Alberto

So festival organizers Sunset Events and Disco Donnie Presents made hay while the sun literally shone, booking around 20 DJs into four clubs and potentially some late-night after-parties across Tampa.

But that wasn't enough to satisfy many irate fans.

Plenty of SMF-goers tweeted at festival organizers including James "Disco Donnie" Estopinal Jr., who said of the city's decision: "Sorry guys we tried to make it happen. It was out of our hands."

It was a decision that looked more and more egregious as the day went on, and the sky seemed to get bluer and bluer, especially by the time Tampa Bay's Tropical Storm Warning was lifted at 5 p.m.

The biggest make-good show took place at the Ritz Ybor, which was already slated to host an after-party late Sunday. Instead of planned party headliner Zomboy, the festival crammed in several of SMF's Sunday headliners, including Excision, Illenium, Alan Walker, Ekali, 3LAU, Bonnie x Clyde, Zaxx and Warez — a festival-worthy lineup of EDM stars on a much more intimate stage.

Unfortunately, because that show had already sold out before Sunday's festival cancellation, those who couldn't get in were livid on Twitter.

Down the street at the cramped and jam-packed Orpheum, Boombox Cartel, YehMe2, Party Pupils and Hex Cougar were on the bill, with surprise guests slated to join them. (Ekali and Illenium both tweeted they would pop in.)

Riot Ten, Barely Alive, Virtual Riot and Parker packed into AJA Channelside. And at Drynk in South Tampa, Walker and Royce and Sacha Robotti were slated to perform with more guests.

On social media, DJs reacted with surprise, frustration and exhaustion. Some asked fans if they knew of any good house parties they could play until the wee hours. Others offered to simply meet up and snap photos.

Others, like Bonnie x Clyde, found some humor in the whole fiasco.

Sunday's cancellation will leave a lot of industry-watchers questioning what'll happen to the Sunset Music Festival in 2019. Either way, it's a day EDM fans in Florida will remember for years to come — even if not for the best reasons.

— Jay Cridlin