Reviews > Shows
Mayan Holidaze (feat. Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, STS9)
Mayan Riviera, Mexico
The Mayan Riviera is a tourist corridor on the Yucatan Peninsula that stretches along the Caribbean coastline in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, from some point just south of Cancun (as in “Spring Break!!”) down to the once-walled fortress of Tulum. While the corridor itself has been a popular vacation spot for decades, it didn’t get its name until a marketing campaign in 1999 branded it with the alluring title. I didn’t know any of this, really, until I looked it up while sitting in Terminal 3 at the San Francisco International Airport, around 7:30AM, last Thursday. Twelve hours later (well, ten if you adjust for time zones), I would arrive in Cancun and hop on a shuttle headed to the Mayan Riviera’s northern gateway, Puerto Morelos.
I was a tourist alright, but for a different kind of tour — this was the location of the first Mayan Holidaze, a music festival produced by Cloud 9 that featured multiple sets by the Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee and STS9 along with support by the Album Leaf, 30db, Orchard Lounge, Bonobo and Emancipator. It’s a boutique festival, for sure — an intense experience for an intense crowd that listens to intense music. All in the most relaxed setting imaginable, of course. Like the Yin and the Yang, the one balances the other.
With just 496 rooms at the resort, Mayan Holidaze was completely sold out from the start; and, yet, undeniably intimate in every way. It didn’t matter that nobody carried their cell phones with them — finding your friends was as easy as finding the Weather Channel on a hotel room television set. A couple flips and you’re there. Besides, just about everyone on site was already your friend. Or about to be your friend. Or a friend of your friends. Don’t roll your eyes: this is solid fact (albeit with few, but real, exceptions).
The boys on the shuttle from the airport were a prime example of the reason why Holidaze works — these were kids I’d probably never talk to randomly at a bar, unless, by chance, we were all there to watch a football game and happened to be rooting for the same team. At Holidaze, we weren’t only rooting for the same team — we were actually on it. First string. Starting lineup. All stars. Game of champions. Not two minutes down the road from the airport, these boys had cracked open beers and were reviewing their playbook, looking for the right move that would get them checked in and settled without missing the first notes of Umphrey’s.
I missed the first notes of Umphrey’s. After being escorted to my room by golf cart (a service extended to all Now Sapphire guests), I changed from my city clothes into vacay-wear. That included changing the stare in my eyes from the pinpoints of a neurotic traveler — weary from a full day of flying clear across one country and into the next — to retinas modeled after glazed donuts, still warm from the oven. In other words, as soon as I checked in, I checked out. Gone were thoughts of that miss back in California that doesn’t know what she wants. Gone were concerns about whether or not I felt comfortable with where I had arrived in my career. Gone was the constant anxiousness about what my next move should be should I decide to move on to the next and leave the city that I’ve called home for the past three years. Gone were personal matters, big and small. One glance in the bathroom mirror of Room 816 and all that was gone.
Outside the room, things had suddenly gone missing too — like every preconceived notion about the ingredients of a great music festival and what to expect from a perfect vacation. Just like Jam Cruise and Caribbean Holidaze — Mayan Holidaze’s direct predecessor — Could 9 Adventures has created an unparalleled experience that seems to transcend anything else like it. The reason for this is simple: there actually is nothing else like it. All this after being on site for all of 10 minutes. I knew what my next move would be, of course. I went down to the beach to check out Umphrey’s who, it turns out, were in fine form. That part wasn’t surprising. Music is supposed to be a celebration and it is served best in the midst of one.
“It’s like we were flying coach and we just upgraded to first class,” Bayliss told the crowd, regarding Now Sapphire versus the resorts from Caribbean Holidaze. The thing is, he could’ve just as well been talking about Umphrey’s. After all, for an event like this where you and literally everyone else just traveled a few thousand miles just to enjoy the moment, making sure you brought your A Game with you was even more important than packing your swimsuits and sunscreen — those things could be bought in the gift shop. But being on top of your game, well, that was an individual responsibility that was encouraged by every single other person there, challenged by 1,000 other personal bests, all on display like a couple of blue-footed boobies at the apex of their mating ritual. And in the end, everyone brought it. Including, first and foremost, the bands.
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