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Review: Sunset Music Festival sizzles to a close with Dog Blood, Alison Wonderland, more

Dancers and stilt-walkers marched around as Kaskade performed on the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival in Tampa on May 26, 2019. (JAY CRIDLIN | Times)
Published May 27

On the official Sunset Music Festival schedule, it was billed as a "sunset moment" -- a 10-minute window between Kaskade and Alison Wonderland during which fans could stop dancing, exhale and take in the madness around them.

It was a moment, all right. Because it meant the sun had actually set on Sunset 2019. And on an oppressively hot Sunday afternoon, that alone was cause for celebration.

Day 2 at Tampa's electronic mega-festival once again brought 25,000 fans to Raymond James Stadium for a long day of sweaty, scantily clad hedonism, including sets by Skrillex, Boys Noize, Zeds Dead and many more.

DAY 1 REVIEW: Zedd, Illenium turn up the heat at Tampa's Sunset Music Festival

Temperatures reached the upper 90s, and it had some effect on the crowd. Twelve attendees had to be taken to local hospitals, mostly for heat-related illnesses, down from 30 on Saturday. That two-day tally is down slightly from 2017, the last time Sunset ran two days.

It would be hard to argue Sunset wasn't prepared for the heat. Fans and festival workers sprayed mist across the most crowded pits, and attendees huddled around cannon-like fans arranged in abundant shady spots around the festival grounds.

"Y'all staying cool out there? Make sure y'all hydrate," DJ and producer 4B said between blasts of bass on the main stage.

On a day when it was a wonder no stage overheated, every song felt like it fit. Bonnie X Clyde spinning Lil Nas X's Song of Summer contender Old Town Road? Expected. Kaskade throwing down the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Under the Bridge and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody? Weird flex, but okay. 4B mashing DJ Khaled's All I Do Is Win into Panic! at the Disco's High Hopes? Sure, if it keeps everyone moving, why not?

Skrillex and Boys Noize, performing under their collaborative moniker Dog Blood, transformed the main stage into a giant warehouse party, whipping up house and techno beats at a small, darkened table at the very front of the stage. The low-profile setup left the two DJ-producers reaching around and across one another like amped-up octopi as they mixed their throbbing set, but it also yielded something of an underground vibe –= a minor miracle for a headliner in the age of DJs as deities. Skrillex told the crowd they were testing out "demos" for a collection of new music that's coming next week, so be on the lookout for that.

Performing before Dog Blood was Alison Wonderland, scoring an too-rare prime-time slot for a female DJ. (Although to their credit, SMF has booked female DJs like Rezz and Krewella for similar slots). Wonderland was among the day's most engaging performers, frequently grabbing a mic and scaling the rider to connect with the crowd throughout what felt like a celebratory set. When she dropped Okay, her sing about dealing with anxiety and depression, it was like she wanted to be down there among them.

"You guys make me feel okay tonight," she said. "Thank you so much for vibing to my music. It means a lot. More than you know."

Wonderland went up against one of the lineup's most talked-about acts, Getter, who recently made headlines for quitting his spring tour because fans weren't digging his new sound. Sunday brought back-to-basics Getter, throttling the crowd with choppy, bone-breaking dubstep and trap, but mixing in alien squelches and the occasional down-to-earth slow jam. Whatever sonic spaces Getter plans to explore on his next tour won't be any easier to predict.

There weren't many surprise guests this year, although Audien did bring out his good buddy 3LAU, a former SMF main-stager who was headlining his own Memorial Day weekend gig in Clearwater Beach later Sunday night. Phantoms, who played the main stage earlier Sunday, later joined them on stage to pass around a bottle of Tito's and watch Audien spin a free-spirited, crowd-pleasing mix.

Bu the way, that "sunset moment" on the schedule? It turned out to be a misnomer, as the sun actually set during Kaskade's snappy, eclectic performance.

"Yo, the sun has gone down, Tampa!" he said, celebrating the moment by dropping the feral intro to Guns 'N Roses' Welcome to the Jungle.

Fitting choice. For the party animals who survived a sweltering Sunday at SMF, a jungle after dark beats an afternoon desert any day.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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