If the Sunset Music Festival this Memorial Day weekend turns out anything like last year’s, it’ll be a win in John Santoro’s book.
The festival’s co-producer and founder of Sunset Events, Santoro said everything went smoothly on the production side in 2021, especially after returning for the first time since the pandemic. But he always wants to make sure guests are having a good time, so he scrolls social media to find out.
“It was just really heartwarming,“ he said. “We saw all of the positive vibes that were coming out. So what we saw on the back end really translated to the consumer experience on the front end. It was great.”
Last year’s festival, the first music festival to return in Tampa during the pandemic, was a financial boon for the city. We reported then that the festival likely generated more than 9,000 hotel stays, yielding what the festival said was about $16 million in direct economic impact. That figure grows to $32 million when factoring in indirect impact, we reported, which includes business-to-business and ripple-effect spending. More than 20,000 out-of-town guests came to town, according to a ZIP code sales report.
The festival has been held in the front parking lot of Raymond James Stadium since 2012, but its earliest iteration was in 2006 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. This year, it’s expanding from two days to three days.
Santoro, who co-produces the event with Disco Donnie Presents, said the event has grown over time in its footprint and its coordination with the City of Tampa. They have come to recognize hurdles they can mitigate for a better guest experience, like keeping lines short and having plenty of free water.
“I don’t think they’re buying for any specific production,” Santoro said. “I think what they’re buying and what we’re selling is an experience. ... We’re selling that escape from their lives.”
The safety of festivalgoers is a major priority. It will likely be a hot weekend, and dehydration is a dangerous factor. In addition to numerous free water stations, festival “ambassadors” will roam the event handing out water and keeping an eye out for people who might be in distress.
There will be multiple medical tents and a chill out area with noise-canceling headphones. A zero-tolerance drug policy that includes medical marijuana will be enforced. Pro tip: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen.
As for the music, the lineup is eclectic. There are big names like Alesso, but the lineup includes artists of many genres — a big misconception of the blanket electronic dance music moniker.
Santoro encourages fans to check out the different stages to discover the various 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) are a genre-bending duo from Canada who are playing the festival on Saturday. They’ve played the festival in the past and remember the audience’s energy and fun vibes.
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“We have a lot of new music and are excited to play some tracks that we’ve been working on,” Rapp-Rovan said. “And I’m expecting it to just be a really rowdy set again, because that always stuck in my head as being like really, really crazy.”
The Sunset Music Festival happens May 27-29 at Raymond James Stadium’s front lot at 4201 Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. Single-day tickets range $99-$174.95. Multiple-day packages are available and range from $169.95-$374.95. To buy tickets and for more information, visit smftampa.com.