Writer: Madeline Rosene
Photographers: Tracy Kahn and Michael Drummond
A mini paradise on the water, Sundream Festival in Tulum, Mexico, 2022 boasted major headliners in the electronic dance music scene. Rufus Du Sol, who subsequently won a grammy for best electronic recording just a few weeks later, spearheaded the event in tandem with hotel property, Papaya Playa Project (@papayaplayaproject). There were more than 20 other performances by established and up and coming artists (including Bob Moses, Cassian, Magdalena, Adam Port, Monolink, and more) over the course of this intimate festival that took place over two weekends in March. With a lineup like that, it is no wonder it is hard to obtain a ticket to what hass been described as a bucket list festival.
LEFAIR Magazine interviewed several festival goers (Sundreamers) to learn about what they experienced and how Sundream Festival sets itself apart from other music festivals.
Music on a beautiful beach location
A gentle breeze, waves crashing on the beach: even for experienced festival goers who have traveled all over the world to hear music, this setting is particularly magical. Hosted by Papaya Playa Project, most attendees expressed that they had never been to a venue like this before: on the beach, with a raised area where one can watch the musicians perform, plenty of places to eat and drink, and another area reserved for vendors and artists. The venue is separated from the ocean by just a single rope, providing an unbeatable view of the water and (if you stand close enough) the chance for waves to hit your feet during the show.
As a brand new, fairly small festival, one goer noted some initial shyness among the crowd. Maybe it was the feeling that we were all experiencing something unique together or maybe it was the fact that there are so many farmacias that deliver (almost anything) in close proximity, but that shyness dissipated and soon everyone was interested in getting to know each other and having a good time, and by the end we almost felt like a family. With everyones positive vibes and vibrant energies, it would be a shock to learn that anyone left Sundream without making at least one new friend.
We met a fellow named Hamilton who has been traveling the world this past year and convinced multiple people along the way to come to Sundream with him. Go figure! I also met a large group of Canadians who live in Toronto (my current location) that I am now friends with, said Sundreamer, doctor and DJ, Sean Cruise.
It is no secret that many Sundreamers were initially attracted to this festival based on the promise of seeing EDM darlings, Rufus Du Sol. Festival attendee, Dustin Krause, is a keynote speaker and performance coach who said, Heading to the festival, I was most excited about Rufus du Sols club sets. Leading up to the festival, I was working out at Rodeo Athletic in West Hollywood and one of the owners, Ben, also trains the band and goes on tour with them. He had been hyping up their club sets and it was a totally different experience!
The caliber of the supporting acts was also something to write home about. Believe it or not I have never had the chance to see Rufus, said Sean Cruise. After the lineup was released with so many other amazing artists, I felt like this was a festival I did not want to miss.
Sundream Festival is a place of discovery. It offers the chance to meet new people and hear music you may have never heard. Before the festival, Dustin Krause had one Cassian song in his liked songs on Spotify. Cassian is a live electronic Los Angeles based musician. He is an accomplished producer, DJ, and mixing engineer, and is sometimes referred to as one of the most versatile musicians from Sydney, Australias electronic scene. Cassian, Dustin Krause said, turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival experience for him. Bob Moses was probably one of the sets I was most excited for, Krause said. I really fell in love with their entire catalogue on a much deeper level, and I immediately bought a ticket to go see them in Seattle in May!
Sean Cruise said he had not heard very much of Adam Ports music before Sundream, but he was absolutely blown away by him, Carlita (during week two), and Magdalena, who he declares all played amazing sets. Sean was not the only attendee who was introduced to and blown away by Adam Ports music. Sundreamers and Tulum frequenters, Celia Flores and her husband, Eric Barnes are co-founders of Dont Trip Campout music festival. When asked if they were introduced to any new music while at Sundream, Celia replied, Adam Port, where did he come from and how come I am just now hearing about him? He blew me away, from song selection to smooth transitions. Start to finish he made a fan out of us! He was the perfect surprise, and his B2B set with Rufus was the sweetest ending to such a magical journey.
The unexpected collaboration of Jon and James of Rufus du Sol and Adam Port at the end of the festival was a huge crowd pleaser. Sean Cruise said watching them mix together into the sunrise on the last night was an incredible way to end things!
In many ways attending a music festival like Sundream can be a spiritual experience. It is a time to let go, be present, get in touch with yourself, bond with old friends and new friends, try new things (again, not just from the farmacia), and heal through the power of music. Celia Flores said, We strongly believe music is an energetic force. Experiencing the magic and message through music is an ancient form of healing that this world needs more of today.
Letting oneself become completely immersed in the here and now is a freeing feeling, and music facilitates this so beautifully. At one point during one of the Rufus sets, I looked around and did not see one cell phone, Dustin Krause said. I thought that was so beautiful that everyone at that moment was so engulfed by the music. I did my best to capture a few photos and videos for keepsakes, but tried to stay as present as possible.
MIND AND BODY
Another aspect of Sundream that sets it apart is its focus on wellness and making sure attendees are feeling fresh, energized and enlightened. The MIND AND BODY activities at Sundream could be described as group recreational self-care with sound baths, yoga, and something called an authenticity journey, similar to a group meditation or reiki session, but differentiated in the way that the group lies down together and is cleansed by smoke or incense, while the leader talks them through a journey that helps facilitate out of body experiences and getting in touch with ones inner child. Dustin Krause said, I took some of the best yoga classes of my life with the most incredible views. On Sunday of weekend one, I stayed for yoga, the authenticity journey, and the sound bath meditation. I had never done anything like that before in my life! I had a bit of an out of body experience as we traveled through some of the different dimensions.
Outside the festival
Tulum has quickly become one of the most popular vacation destinations in Mexico over the last few years much thanks to the travel influencer community. With so many places to eat, drink, and sleep, we wanted to know about some of the areas hot spots. Celia Flores describes Tulum as her and her husbands second home. Their stay in Tulum extended after the festival and they rented the same little bungalow on the beach that they rent every time they visit. It is kind of our place at this point, she said. There is no shortage of rental properties available in the Tulum area as long as you book in advance. There are over 300 Airbnb listings in Tulum all within a very affordable $30 to $115 per night range. VRBO offers some of the more luxurious options with some properties ranging from $200 to $600 per night.
For convenience and proximitys sake (and because it is an outstanding hotel), Celia and Eric chose to stay at the eco-friendly boutique hotel La Posada del Sol during the festival. During the first week, Dustin Krause stayed at Habitas, the adjacent property to Papaya Playa Project. This afforded him the ease and tranquility of walking through a forest walkway to get to and from the festival. The lanterns were so breathtaking and they had some forest sounds playing; I truly felt like I was caught in a dream, Dustin said. What an absolutely stunning place to stay…For the remaining 7 days, I was about a mile up the road at Mi Amor. The service there was outstanding!
As far as dining goes, Kitchen Table, Celia said, is our favorite dinner place, hands down! We also love Mateo’s Mexican Grill for a quick bite. We must have eaten there at least three times this trip. But basically anywhere you go in Tulum you will be greeted with fresh organic food and well-curated music. The mayan people have a way of always making you feel welcome.
Of course, lunch on the beach is always a delight, and for that we recommend the open terrace at Restaurant Molcajete attached to hotel Piedra Escondida. After a night of dancing, a few carbs can not hurt, right? Try the Fettuccine with Lobster and their traditional Tuna Nachos.
Sad to go but looking forward to next year
On the final night of the festival, Celia Flores and Eric Barnes stayed up until dawn watching the colors of the clouds change as we effortlessly danced with the music until sunrise, it was surreal, said Celia.
No one wanted to wake up from their Sundream. Everyone we spoke to agreed that they would absolutely like to attend the festival next year. Bring back Adam Port! Celia said. If we could choose, we would like to see Odesza, Ben Bohmer, Satori, Nicola Cruz, and andhim, in this type of setting as well.
Sean Cruise was so inspired by the music and vibes from Sundream that he decided to put together his first mix of his DJing career. Now LEFAIR readers can have a little Sundream of their own, since all of the songs on the mix were heard during the second weekend of the festival.
What is your name?
Dustin Kraus, but most people call me Coach!
Where do you live?
I live in Downtown Los Angeles
Why did you decide to go to Sundream?
I discovered Rufus shortly after moving to LA just months before the pandemic. They quickly grew on me and when live music opened back up I was able to catch them at Austin City Limits in 2021. A couple of months later, I snagged a seat in the front row at Banc of California here in LA. LIFE CHANGING! With regard to Sundream, I actually had never been out of the country and was turning 30 this year and made it a mission to take at least one trip abroad. When the guys announced the festival, even though I was unable to snag a ticket originally, I quickly began manifesting an ultimate 30th birthday solo trip down to Tulum. Within a few weeks, I had secured a ticket and was then able to grab the additional weekend on the adjacent property: Habitas. I thought about selling one weekend for a couple of weeks, but quickly decided this needed to be a full 10 day experience. I am so glad I did both weekends!
What was the most unique thing about Sundream that sets it apart from other music festivals?
I thought the energy was completely different because it was so intimate and I felt like everyone who was there was like-minded. You knew going in you were going to be surrounded by some of the bands biggest fans who embody everything their music stands for and feels like.
Did you make any new friends? How did you meet them?
This was one of the best parts! So I went down solo not knowing anyone. Leading up to the festival, a solo travelers group broke out of one of the Sundream Facebook groups that turned into a WhatsApp chat. I shared a shuttle from the CUN airport to Tulum with 2 of them! Then at the shows, I discover that two friends I had made in the front row at Banc of California here in LA were down, for both weekends as well, and somehow they knew many of the folks from the solo travelers group! It seemed like a crazy dejavu experience of sorts.
Do you feel that Sundream was as much about the people connecting as it was about the music?
Absolutely. Everyone is still chatting: many are meeting up at other festivals, or heading to see them at the Gorge later this year (me!)
What did you wear at the event? Do you feel that the fashion worn at the event was influenced by any of the artists who were performing?
I did find myself wearing long shirts that were much more free-flowing than what I would usually wear!
Did you dine, drink and or dance anywhere in Tulum that you would recommend?
One the highlights of the trip for me was Granito Beach right next to the Amor. The most incredible vibe, drinks and live music/tap dancing. I had stopped in for a drink on the way to the festival the 2nd weekend and ended up just staying there all night because it was so amazing!