Ibiza is in full swing, Croatia is looking pretty pristine and summertime is the only time that DJs really want to cross the Atlantic. The rest of the world is busy but Asia not so much. This summer, however, the envy was subdued a little when we realized it was high season in Bali and Disclosure were booked to play Sunny Side Up Tropical Festival.
Now in its third year, Sunny Side Up has officially matured from infancy and blossomed into something beautiful with a unique identity of its own. A collaborative endeavor between Indonesia's Ismaya Live and the iconic Potato Head Beach Club, the festival’s hallmark feature is its stunning seaside setting and let me tell you, I forget all about my summer festival envy when I looked out over the site from a second floor vantage point and the sun was setting over the Indian Ocean, lending the stage a backdrop bar none.
But the organizers didn’t depend on just the stage and the sea for decor, and perhaps the defining feature that lends this festival its boutique flavor was the traditional Balinese ornamentation. Larger than life janur kuning, a local flower regularly used for all kinds of Balinese celebrations, hung suspended over the dance floor amid palm trees and ambient red, orange and yellow floating lanterns that lacquered the beach club and set the mood once the moon was full.
In contrast to many festivals, it was refreshing that the stage lighting wasn’t offensive in that it wasn’t at all blinding or epilepsy inducing. It was well balanced with the atmosphere on the floor and in fact, every time people splashed water into the light from the stage-front pool it created a nice kind of accidental effect by projecting vibrant colors onto the droplets of water. Yes - a stage-front pool and there are few festivals that can trumpet front row access to a festival from inside an infinity pool. Potato Head’s picturesque pool sits just between the dance floor and the stage and the party in there was in full swing until the last note.
Fortunately everyone else managed to stay dry because although it was high season, grey skies loomed over the region immediately before and after the festival. But the sun drenched the site both days making the money organizers dished out on a pawing hujan, or a rain man, money well spent. Festivals in the area, take note.
Often the issue with these all day affairs is that it can be difficult to get the music right at all times of day. Like, no one really wants to rave in the middle of the day, right? But the music was perfectly programmed, seguing seamlessly from innocuous afternoon listening to party-starting pop and evening appropriate EDM. We might have heard ‘Show Me Love’ and ‘Lean On’ a few too many times but we’ll live because music is (frustratingly) like most things in life, you can never do it the same way twice. All the artists brought their originality.
Day one kicked off with locals Phat Phil Cooper, Matty Wainwright, Dipha Barus and Kimokal before the Ta-ku takeover, who delivered a soulful and sultry performance and was accompanied by Wafia who joined him on stage for ‘American Girl’. Breakbot followed and appropriately upped the groove a bit with a live vocal-heavy and disco-influenced gig. It could have been the alcohol kicking in but it was probably Blonde who really injected some energy into the night and by the time Mark Ronson took to the stage, well by then the crowd was well inebriated and were too busy belting out the bangers to notice that Ronson is a producer first and a DJ second.
The second day of a festival is always a bit fickle, not knowing the condition festivalgoers will turn up in but regional acts Stuart McLellan, Adrian Giordano, Stevie G and Stars and Rabbit eased us smoothly into Sunday. By the time the lovely George Maple cat walked onto the stage, an enamored crowd was properly fixated on her and the moment was heightened by the epic sunset unfolding behind her. Sam Feldt and Hermitude both helped ignite a second wind into the crowd, which by that time had swelled into peak capacity – everyone was there for Disclosure. And as expected, the final set of the festival was the most supercharged of all and from up high it was the first time all weekend that the entire dance floor below was moving. Disclosure has that effect on people, the dancing effect.
Sunny Side Up Tropical Festival has earned itself some serious bragging rights for becoming a star-studded affair without losing the integrity upon which it was built. We saw firsthand why it’s become Bali’s most anticipated event of the summer and why people are scrambling to Seminyak from all over Bali and beyond. The idyllic Potato Head Beach Club, which on its own accord is already Bali’s go-to beach club, is actually such a good fit for a festival that we wouldn’t be surprised if its neighbors find inspiration in the festival’s newfound fame. We really only have one complaint but instead present it as a suggestion: more ashtrays please – we don’t want to dirty your beautiful beach club!