Review: III Points Festival Miami 2016

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With hurricane Matthew spreading panic prior to the fourth edition of the III Points Festival, there was an air of uncertainty for festivalgoers. Matthew had Miami locals in a frenzied state; crowding gas stations and emptying super market supplies. Potential attendees were glued to the weather channel and the III Points Festival Facebook page for updates. There was mostly good news as Matthew failed to live up to its hype, narrowly escaping the southern tip of Miami. However, all the commotion made it impossible for LCD Soundsystem to bring their live set up in time for Friday. It hampered a lot of the festival operations but every cloud has a silver lining and after its initial scare, Matthew escaped Miami leaving breezy and paradisiacal weather in its wake.

In a few short years, Wynwood has transformed from derelict gang turf to edgy gallery district — a gentrification process that has been staggering inits  speed. Miami veterans remember how Wynwood used to be a “scary/lock-your-windows/shouldn’t-even-be-out ghost town” in the ’90s. “And now it boasts of hipster spots, streets teeming with people strolling in and out of galleries at their leisure and a brimming tech scene. Just down the road is a Vice office; the influx of new residents is pushing the artistic community further out to neighborhoods like Little Haiti. It provides a perfect alternative to the ostentatious Miami Beach/South Beach’s lavish party scene.

Wynwood has become home to the festival and blends perfectly with the III Points vision of merging art, music and technology. This being our first year at the festival, we were a mixed bag of excited and curious.

Day 1

Courtesy: III Points Fb
Courtesy: III Points Fb

Stage One was right at the entrance, featuring a peculiar pink bus that had its rooftop crammed with jubilant groups trying make their way up. There was a podium and a stack of old television sets flashing. We found it difficult to navigate through the festival with no signs for stage names or directions to follow. Overcoming all the chaos, we finally managed make our way to the info desk and got some maps.

We decided to venture around and found the layout to be a carefully planned sensory obstacle course where every corner offered something interesting. We happened to pass through an indoor stage, which looked like a scene describing a colorful LSD trip from the 60’s. This was a mural covered parking lot sprinkled with neon mannequin legs, pastel blue floor tiles and vintage cars on display as velvety RnB jams provided the backdrop. Miami-based visual artist Aileen Quintanas supposedly drew inspiration from Vaporwave, an electronic music sub genre and art movement born on the internet in 2012.

III Points had commissioned Jeffrey Barone and Bonfida Design to instill a fusion of industrial elements and nature. Stacked cargo containers, wood planked lounging areas with trees and a mixture of visually stimulating artwork formed the main theme of the venue. The Mars 2030 augmented reality experience was definitely a standout amongst other impressive tech related projects on show at the festival. The festival really came up trumps on the tech and art side of things.

Moving on to the music, the line-up definitely had many reasons to keep us busy. We kicked it off by checking out Benoit & Sergio performing live at the main outdoor stage. Their brand of uplifting house set the early tempo on a sparsely populated main outdoor stage. It got us moving and grooving towards the bars and onto our next destination where Behrouz was gracing the ‘Isotropic’ stage with his signature playa-tech sound. The highly coveted Robot Heart resident’s emotive sound selection connected perfectly with the Burner crowd. This stage was virtually like a backyard party with trippy lights and sound designed to transport you to an urbanesque Burning Man atmosphere. We immersed ourselves in the smoothly flowing set with hula-hoops and fire performers keeping us company.

Mid way through his set we decided to shuffle across to the large indoor stage. Dubbed ‘Main Frame’, the arena had the feel of an old warehouse rave. A super energized KiNK was rocking the floor with his infectious, high intensity drum beats. His acid influenced live rendition of ‘Cajmere – Percolater’ had us sweating and shuffling in the packed house. KiNK almost never disappoints with his live sets and this time was no different. Even with a massive festival crowd, he felt at home during his showboating display of synth-mastery.

Courtesy: III Points Fb
Courtesy: III Points Fb

He predictably ended the set with his personal gem ‘Cloud Generator’. The crowd continued to applaud as he ended his set. The daunting task of carrying on from his set went to Danny Daze. We tried to stay through the first 10 minutes and weren’t particularly impressed. His set start was too slow and sluggish to keep up with KiNK’s perfect show.

We walked out of the indoor stage and stumbled upon a surface imagery installation right at the stage exit. The transitional video based art collection curated by the Institute of Contemporary Art (Miami) had us intrigued for a bit till we planned our next move.

We headed back to the outdoor Isotropic stage to check out Satori do his thing. Witnessing a live act enthrall a festival crowd is always interesting and Satori’s set packed a punch. He continued to engross the crowd with his melodic breakdowns and Arabic ambient elements. Satori’s version of the overplayed and predictable playa-tech sound was fun but not enough to keep us engaged for more than an hour as the mighty Dixon was setting up on the Main Frame stage.

It was almost 2 am and even after a long Friday we had saved up bundles of energy for a closing Dixon set. He took over Danny Daze and completely transformed the atmosphere. It’s very difficult to completely describe his sound. The Innervisions head honcho played a mixture of dubby tech house with some bass-heavy thumping techno. From fresh releases like ‘Jimi Jules – Moon’ to classic tunes like ‘Denis Ferrer – Maniac 3000’, he kept us guessing and moving in perfect harmony. His track selection and progression to higher tempos had the crowd raging. One particular highlight was the moment he dropped ‘I Can Change – LCD Sound System (Tiga remix)’ towards the closing stages of his set. The crowd was almost at a standstill, whistling and cheering as he pleased the ears of the band’s disappointed fans that missed out on the headline act. Perfect end to a perfect music filled Day 1.

Day 2

Courtesy: III Points Fb
Courtesy: III Points Fb

We were slightly tired after some long afterhours from Day 1 but equally excited for Day 2.

The air of the indoor Main Frame stage was humid and growing thick with weed smoke. Wu-Tang legend Methodman appeared alongside his iconic bestie Redman, and the pair proceeded to lay waste to any and all competition. Moving swiftly across hits like ‘Blow Your Mind’ and ‘Da Rockwilder’, the Def Jam duo brought energy like an adrenaline drip. Never known to half-step, the ‘How High’ rappers had blunts delivered to the stage via drone mid-performance.

Meanwhile on the outdoor stage, Thievery Corporation displayed true musical prowess with an elated performance that went heavy on groovy reggae, dub and hip hop. Fans across age groups swayed in the breezy Miami air to smooth jazzy beats, and the band closed out with their biggest hit ‘Lebanese Blonde’, leaving the crowd bewitched.

Another highlight from Day 2 was Ta-ku. His music was sweet and dreamy, melodic and funky, sexy and clean — a cool bridge between the raucous hip-hop, experimental rock, and gritty electronic plots of the III Points spectrum. Maya Jane Coles and Dusky didn’t fail to disappoint either. Their sets were full of energy and had our tired legs moving through the night. The only minor disappointment was DJ Tennis. His set seemed good at the start but moved onto to feeling weird and directionless in terms of flow.

We ended Day 2 back on the Main Frame stage with some tribal house beats courtesy Black Coffee. His meteoric rise to stardom has seen him land a Circoloco residency and worldwide respect. It was impressive to see his command over his set and his innovative yet flawless one hand mixing. He dropped gems like ‘Mr V – Jus Dance (Culeo de Dong remix)’ to set up the atmosphere with some afrobeat. Black Coffee’s sets are always marked with a strong African elements but he manages to maintain high pace and energy all throughout which was thoroughly enjoyable. He played ‘Caiiro – Fefe (U Lost)’ towards the end of his set to close off another great night at the festival.

Day 3

Courtesy: III Points Fb
Courtesy: III Points Fb

A couple of ibuprofen pills, a tall glass of water and all the rest one could possibly fit into half a day – this was the aftermath of Day 2 and afterhours at Space Terrace that lead into the wee hours of the morning running into lunchtime. Having so much talent on one weekend, oddly enough, has its own share of negatives. Schedule conflict leads to undesirable walking, and if you’re on a festival diet (hot dogs, beer, and other greasy goodness), it can get tiring. We headed to Day 3 as wounded soldiers but were excited to cap off our weekend with some fine music.

Day 3 was low key and relaxed with nice early melodic music by French act M83, which marked one of the show-stealing performances of the weekend. Fans went wild as the French synth-pop group took to the Mind Melt stage, playing some of their most popular tracks, complemented by fog and vibrant lasers. M83 opened with ‘Reunion’ and later went on to play some crowd favorites. Flying Lotus spent his birthday with III Points on Sunday, dropping one insanely celebratory DJ set.

Later on in the night, Australian DJ-and-producer duo Flight Facilities graced Miami with their debut on the Mind Melt stage. We enjoyed their uplifting, harmonious blend of euro-pop and nu-disco. Soothing sounds on a breezy Sunday for our tired minds and legs.

We finally ended our weekend with DJ Koze. Arguably one of the sets of the weekend, he exhibited his complete repertoire of skills with carefully selected tracks. Most of it was his own stuff like his remix of ‘Mano Le Tough – Energy Flow’ which had us hypnotized. He later progressed into his trademark unique sound and dropped the hauntingly beautiful ‘DJ Sotofett & Karolin Tampere – Nondo Original Mix (feat. Maimouna Haugen)’. Only a Koze set would get a tired crowd moving with so much energy on Day 3 with Monday work looming on the horizon. Missing out on his set was almost criminal and we pushed through the final hours as he commemorated the festival with ‘Jamie xx & Kosi Kos – Come We Go’.

III Points cofounder, David Sinopoli, had earlier assured the masses that, “No matter what, it’s going to be the dopest hurricane party anyone’s ever thrown.” And indeed, it was (minus understandable issues from the storm). III Points is definitely a breath of fresh air from the other sell-out American festivals like Ultra or Coachella. It just has so much more to offer in terms of forward thinking electronic music. Miami’s upscale crowd mixing with black-attired techno heads and poi spinning hippies – there was a diverse representation in the audience.

III Points Festival
Courtesy: III Points Fb

Grimes recently described Miami as a “post-apocalyptic Barbie world: everything is pink, and there are palm trees everywhere. But then there are also… warehouses with sick parties where all the girls are covered in spikes and black leather. It’s a very weird place”. III Points definitely lived up to that description.

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