Almost a year ago to the day, in October last year, the “multi-award-winning” beach festival Sandance proudly rang in a third birthday with one of its most memorable (and presumably expensive) bills to date.
A reported 15,000 punters packed Nasimi Beach to see, among others, The Killers – who had played to 80,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium just a few months earlier and presumably could have filled the Palm Jumeirah venue on their own, without the other acts, The Wailers and Of Monsters and Men.
Whichever way you look at it, there’s no denying that tomorrow’s line-up is a markedly more muted affair. It takes place 364 days after that firework-popping celebration, during which there have been three more Sandance festivals – one brilliant, one lukewarm and one described by many as a disaster.
Despite the date, this time there’s not a mention of the fourth anniversary in sight.
It’s no secret the brand’s reputation was tarnished by the New Year’s Eve debacle last December, when poor organisation saw thousands of revellers stuck in traffic for hours trying to reach the Palm, with many missing out on the much-hyped world record-breaking fireworks at midnight.
May’s scaled down, but notably trouble-free, event featuring the Pet Shop Boys went some way to restoring faith in the event.
Insiders have told me that a previously announced November 14 follow-up is now off the cards, something Atlantis has not denied. This means the future of the UAE institution could rest on the fortunes of tomorrow’s event, by my count the 17th Sandance.
All the signs are positive. Promoters are reportedly expecting about 10,000 music lovers. And while lacking a Killers-esque A-list headliner, the bill is a strong one, carefully mixing the tried and tested – Rudimental, the surprise hit of last November’s spectacular bill, and Axwell, a veteran of the ill-fated NYE gig, this time back with his former Swedish House Mafia cohort Ingresso – with on-the-money first-timers, the indie-electro duo Empire of the Sun and the overnight-success story Clean Bandit.
The more mature crowd, meanwhile, will be sated with a dose of old-school sundown hip-hop from the UAE regulars De La Soul.
One thing all these acts have in common? They’re deeply (sand)danceable, something the festival organisers may have forgotten somewhere along the line in their haste to book guitar-wielding household names. In recent weeks we’ve noticed among fans a wave of nostalgia for the calendar-defining event, and bringing a long outdoor gig lull to a close, we can see this one kicking off.