What started as a lineup announcement shared in a group chat resulted in my first ever trip to Miami to attend III Points Festival 2019 last weekend. In the weeks leading up to the festival, I realized that the event’s deceptively understated significance was really just that; the big names were first to catch my attention, but as I continued to research the lesser known sections of the lineup I became more excited about what I didn’t know than about what I did.
Walking South on Northwest 5th Ave. on Friday evening, I was excited, slightly tipsy, and wildly over ambitious. I wanted to see everyone, how could I risk missing even the most obscure but potentially mind blowing performance on my first trip to the city? Alas, after running back and forth between 7 different stages for the first few hours of the festival, my thick midwestern winter blood screaming in agony at the jarringly pleasant weather, I was forced to accept my limits. Tough decisions were made, last minute sprints were plentiful, and some regrets continue to linger, but what follows is a recap of my experience at iiiPoints 2019.
(Artist list, for reference: http://iiipoints.com/artists/)
While most attendees were casually arriving and taking in the scenery, I was running around like a mad man asking random strangers where each stage was (no one knew of course, and some were still unsure on the last day). After barely catching pieces of Ackdaddy, Pirate Stereo, True Vine, Gran Moxy, and Karina, who all started off their respective stages, I begrudgingly accepted that my methods were not sustainable. (top: Ackdaddy / btm: Karina)
One thing I noticed very early on was how unique each stage was. The overall curation was very deliberate, each stage inhabiting a space that insinuated the type of music that would be played there. A quick list:
Mind Melt: Your typical main stage, predictable except for the festival that surrounded it; Main Frame: Miami’s analogue to the Russell in Detroit, huge industrial room with high ceilings and steel beams; Skate Space: Similar to Main Frame but smaller, with a skating rink rather than a dance floor; Sector 3: Tucked into the back corner, full stage with a decent crowd area that hosted some of the festival’s most eclectic acts; Boiler Room: Stand alone building, acting as a medium sized dance / after hours club; Isotropic: An opportunistic botanical display that had northern visitors like myself feeling like they’d entered a tropical paradise; and lastly Door IV: The buried treasure of the fest, hosting some impressive acts at a very small side stage.
Channel Tres was one of the best artists that I discovered in my preparation for the festival, and his blend of dance music aesthetics and trap thematics proved infectious for a crowd that eagerly embraced his presence at Main Frame. The Internet was stellar as always, with crisp musicianship and a modestly genuine appreciation for their current place in music. I saw them perform during the Space Migration Tour several years ago, which made their heartfelt tribute to Mac Miller that much more significant. I was assigned to cover the Skate Space later in the evening, which worked out because I already wanted to catch Suzi Analogue and DJ Earl, and the rest of the stage’s lineup ended up being very solid as well, including Sel.6, Virgo, and December Beaches.
One of the most unexpectedly brilliant sets that I saw on Day 1 was Otto Von Schirach. As I was walking around between sets, I heard some driving bass coming from the Sector 3 stage, which I didn’t expect given the other acts that I’d seen there earlier. Upon walking up I was met with a barrage of sensory stimulation; flashing lights, exciting sounds, and a cast of performers that could’ve easily fit in at the theatre. Leading the charge was Schirach, decked out in a futuristic viking uniform, flanked on all sides by people in jagged mirror body suits, male strippers, and people in animal costumed alternately dancing and taking reigns of the mic. I can’t fully put the performance into words here, but I can say with certainty that if you ever get a chance to see them perform live, you simply cannot miss it.
Beach House‘s set on the main stage was one of the most visceral for me that night. The subtly powerful presence with which they inhabit any venue they play is consistently captivating, and as I stood alone at the back of the crowd shaking my head in the palm of my hand as they played “Space Song,” I couldn’t help but fully immerse myself in that special moment. DJ Seinfeld provided a break of sorts at Isotropic, lending a disciplined and moving set to an oasis of a space that left me feeling rejuvenated for the rest of the long night ahead. After a few more glimpses of the concurrent acts around 11pm, I headed to Main Stage for the last time that night.
Tyler the Creator‘s musical progression rivals most anyone in his genre and beyond. From the days of OFWGKTA, to his current manifestation with Flower Boy along with his one-offs with A$AP Rocky, Tyler has seemingly abandoned the shock value of his emergence in exchange for the commitment to musicality that drew him to music in the first place. Hearing tracks both old and new while he transitioned seamlessly between the sentimental and the downright outrageous was a sight to behold.
Poorgrrrl‘s theatrical and thoughtfully provocative set at Sector 3 was the perfect preface to the next act, Pussy Riot. I had never seen the group perform, and while I was expecting something completely different from the Russian activist group turned music project (or vice versa, or neither), what I witnessed was a visceral and soul-shaking performance that used abrasive lighting and noise coupled with pop and dark trap sonic landscapes to convey messages that touched on the hopeful and ruminated on the troubling. It was a truly incredible performance that made me want to know more about the group’s work outside of music more than the music itself, and the intersection of art and real world impact is a line they toy with grace and conviction.
I once again retreated to Isotropic for a moment of reprieve, relishing in the chance to see Peggy Gou perform in a moment where she has become one of the most promising new names in electronic music; Her comfort behind the decks is evident, and her prowess reaffirms her reputation, making for a set that confirmed all of my expectations and heightened my aspirations for her musical progression in years to come. As I stumbled away from the dance floor, I found myself surprisingly exhausted *relatively* early. Knowing that I had a long weekend ahead, I was almost ready to retire for the night, but some friends dragged me to once last set at Main Frame that they assured me was something that could not be missed. I have to admit, they were right.
I’m not huge into EDM (by that I mean the type that you would usually find at EDC), and for one reason or another I’ve always lumped Porter Robinson into that group in my head. I had never heard of Virtual Self, and to be honest while I was making my way to the back of the dance floor I was sluggish and fairly unenthusiastic. I stood mostly still watching the set, which at first was because I was tired, but eventually I realized that I was still because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Electronic music isn’t terribly performative, at least not in the sam way that Schirach was earlier, but the technology at their disposal and the seemingly infinite palette of sounds creates an almost incomprehensible amount of potential. I feel like I was seeing several shows at once; dark, technical dance music at some points, delicate pop infusions at others, throbbing D&B and much more beyond that. The lights were masterfully choreographed, the animations were disorienting and powerfully evocative, and overall it was one of the most memorable music sets I’ve ever seen in my life.
As full and satisfying as the first day was, I left knowing that most of the weekend still laid ahead. Look out for the Day 2 recap coming tomorrow, along with a full gallery of unused photos from all three days of III Points Festival 2019.