It was about 4pm on Friday afternoon the first time we made the pilgrimage up to the venue of Mui Ne Music and Arts Festival. The 700m uphill walk was slow, but we were happy to take in the views, the low December sun, and the gradual building of the bass drum as we got closer to the stages.
Sat atop Mui Ne with views of the entire bay, that first afternoon was an eruption of rhythm and drums from the three stages, overwhelming to the ears as the sound engineers found the perfect balance.
Friday I was in love already with where I found myself; one of 700 people who wanted nothing more than to dance until they couldn’t stop smiling, and escape the real world even if only for three days.
The venue was surrounded by 100 metres of white canvas, though they didn’t stay plain for long. The Waves of Mui Ne gave artistic space for the resident artists and amateurs amongst us to pick up a spray can and draw, write, or express whatever we wanted. The entire place was filled with art from the stage lights, to the 3D mapping and live art constructed by the main stage, there was also space to get your body striped and dotted with neon body paint.
Saturday was the busiest day of the weekend with 1,400 attendees and a diverse audience of people who flocked together; from backpackers passing through to young families and an abundance of people from Ho Chi Minh City, to the Mui Ne and Phan Thiet locals looking for something different.
“This is a dream project that we have been planning for well over 10 years,” said festival organiser, Rod Quinton. “It is great to at last get it up and running. I believe Mui Ne is a very special place.”
The varied line up offered everyone a space to enjoy the atmosphere with musicians playing mellow, intimate indie rock sets, and the rowdy EDM sets of the DJs at the dance stage. No matter what mood the weekend found you in, the venue offered a space for you to feel comfortable.
The main stage offered a vast variety of genres and styles, with a mellow acoustic set from Phil Holmes, upbeat tunes of Masia One and The Irietones that got the entire audience dancing, to Perfume Genius’s intimate performance where he bore his soul for the Sunday night crowd.
The festival was no stranger to amazing artists and musicians — the Friday night headliners Hinds found out while they were in Mui Ne that NME Awards had nominated them for Best New Artist.
The reggae stage welcomed a staggering 38 different sets over the three days, with a lot of them merging into the next as artists jammed with each other to create different sounds. KCM, the percussionist, maintained a three-night spectacle of drumming throughout a variety of sets on the reggae stage with an abundance of smiles and stamina.
The three-man band Mekong Delta Force brought their fusion of rhythm and groove to the Saturday night main stage with the per
fect blend of dub and rock reggae, which contrasted with the Irietones’ Friday night, six-person spectacle of body moving ska and reggae.
The dance stage provided longer sets, about 90 minutes per performer, that allowed for the crowd to really settle into the mood. Jimmy Ladd, organiser and DJ, brought his signature mellow beats to the stage on Friday and Saturday night, and lived up to his mission of creating a temporary community of dancers and revellers. Another mentionable act was Noches who graced the dance stage Sunday night with his synth-heavy set and dreamy female vocals.
Phil, owner of the Bacardi Bus, commented: “You never know what to expect, but it’s been amazingly successful. [The organisers] found a killer location with sea breeze, an amazing view, as well as a high level of performers.”
By Sunday the Saigon crowd had started to disperse, and the 800 of us who were lucky enough to have a Monday off to recover, enjoyed the closing atmosphere; the smooth music, remnants of glitter and body paint, the inevitable sand in every imaginable place, and the company of friends who were soon to become strangers again.
For one weekend, we were the loudest and brightest source of noise and light pollution for this sprawling beach town, but it was all for something magical. Together we’d created a community, and it was universally understood that there would be no trouble, no hassle among this gathering of likeminded spirits. All we wanted to do was drink, dance and make friends. And that’s exactly what we did.