With Sandance at Atlantis The Palm now a distant memory, having hung up its microphones a year ago, it’s hard not to compare the all-day beach music festival DXBeach at Zero Gravity with the fun-in-the-sand brand that started it all.
Firstly, the organisers who launched Sandance – music scene veterans Greg Dufton and Tim Derry – run DXBeach, the line-ups have been pretty similar (Idris Elba played at Sandance back in 2013, while Clean Bandit took to the stage in October last year) and then there’s the scenic beachside locations. So has DXBeach managed to trump Sandance? Or is it just a smaller-scale version with lesser-known acts? The answer: a bit of both.
Sandance was known for attracting some big names over the years, including Florence + The Machine, Fatboy Slim, The Killers, Jamiroquai and Noel Gallagher, who all took to the stage playing for a crowd of anywhere up to 15,000 people. So far, in DXBeach’s two editions, the line-up hasn’t caused as much excitement. While Sandance attracted both young and old, the most noticeable difference between it and DXBeach is the crowd. No-one at this event seemed older than 40, which we reckon is partly down to the youthful line-up. Apart from 43-year-old Idris Elba on the bill, the rest of the acts were young up-and-comers including Brit pack Clean Bandit (although not in its original form – weirdly the three guys and one girl in the group became four girls on stage), French house producer Klingande and Dutch producer Mike Mago.
All in all, the music was decent and the venue busy, but the acts just weren’t as impressive. Considering the capacity at Zero Gravity’s beach is 5,000 people, around half the size of Atlantis Beach, you’d expect the event to sell out in advance, which Sandance often did.
Elba’s two-hour house and electro set was good in parts, but failed to excite the audience, which made us wonder how many of the people in the crowd actually turned up to listen to his music as opposed to catching a glimpse of the handsome Hollywood actor.
After Elba, came an interval – leaving the stage empty and only low background music to keep the crowd going, which resulted in many leaving the sand and heading over to the entertainment village to lounge on the grass and beanbags. It was inevitable that the atmosphere would dip, with the music barely audible and a largely post-brunch crowd looking less than enthused.
From then on, things peaked (Klingande’s set got people moving as did Mike Mago), but the noise and energy levels dipped throughout the evening, with early arrivals calling it a night by the time these later headliners took to the stage.
While the atmosphere at DXBeach may not be on a par with Sandance, which was able to retain a lively level throughout, there were a few bonuses to this new festival. The set-up was ideal – there were plenty of bars and toilets, which meant you could avoid long queues, while quirky stalls were dotted around the village area – Redbull had a flight simulator that you could try, while ladies took advantage of the free glitter face jewels on offer. Traffic was pretty slow getting into the venue, mainly due to the Dubai Comedy Festival happening just next door, but it was nothing like the horrendous traffic Sandance was known for.
While DXBeach proved successful in numbers, bigger acts are needed to get us dancing in the sand all night.
October 23, noon-3am. Zero Gravity, next to Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina.
The bottom line
It could be some time before this newcomer builds a solid reputation. Fingers crossed.