After a solid night’s rest (and sleeping in much later than planned), I felt good about how I’d spent my first day. I was a bit slow moving throughout the afternoon, which resulted in a last-minute LYFT towards the festival grounds, followed by a ½ mile sprint from car, through security, and into the fest, all in an effort to catch an act that I was assigned that apparently never showed up (I won’t name names).
This further reaffirmed my thoughts from the day before, realizing that it was better to do fewer things and do them well than it was to overestimate my capacity to transcend the limitations of time and space. I did my best to absorb the less explicit aspects of the festival; the people, the art, the overall atmosphere, in an attempt to further inform my writing by understanding the context within which the music was happening. Here is my attempt to do so, in the form of a Day 2 recap.
(Artist list, for reference: http://iiipoints.com/artists/)
Despite my unexpected intensive cardio session to start the night, being early is never a bad thing, and I was able to catch a good amount of the early sets at Sector 3 and Isotropic, including Ascendants, SMERZ, INVT (whose use of live instrumentation and real-time vocal effects peaked my attention), and Acoqui, who were another one of my go-to’s after listening to the lineup before my trip to Miami. Haute Tension and Ghostflower were two of my favorites from the early half of Saturday night’s music, the former bringing a high-energy “surf-noir” presence, and the latter transitioning between tenderness and driving, contained assertion.
I am not at all qualified to speak on such an esteemed artist, in a genre that I greatly appreciate though I haven’t studied it in detail, but it will suffice to say that I was honored to have witnessed the great Herbie Hancock on that Saturday night. I then caught the very end of eveava’s set at Door IV (which came highly recommended to me) before returning to Mind Melt for the elusive and extraordinary James Blake. I had seen Blake perform years ago in Ann Arbor to a much smaller crowd, but the performance style was quite similar. Blake, perhaps solo years ago but now backed by a band, boldly laid his vocal and musical talents to bare, because that’s all he really needs to do. The music is intimately composed, and the performance reflects a focused dedication to craft. In my highly subjective experience, seeing him perform “Mile High” was truly a sight to behold (even without an appearance from his esteemed co-author, Travis Scott).
With a bit more time to meander on Day 2, I did my best to take myself out of coverage mode to imagine what the festival must be like for most people. The aesthetic of the logo and overall design made me imagine a refined, specific atmosphere, which could be taken as negative, but not as I understood it. I think I underestimated the mass appeal of such an event, but of course there were those that came just for the headliners, people that attended because it was the “thing to do,” but unlike most festivals I’ve been to the offerings were not catering to such a crowd. This fact reminds me of a more extreme version of what I might be hinting at; in Little Havana on the Monday after the festival, at a place called Los Piñarenos Fruteria, the man who served us asserted proudly, “we are not a tourist trap; we serve patience.”
Specific booking choices really cemented my appreciated for how deliberately curated the lineup was. It’s easy to throw a bunch of big names together, with no rhyme or reason to their mutual inclusion, and festivals that feature a wide range of genres risk presenting a lot of different styles, without doing proper justice to most of them. However, III Points was able to defy this trend. Dance music was the most prevalent by far, with 3 stages fully dedicated to different subgenres including house, techno, soul, disco, and beyond. Alternative and experimental music found its home at Sector 3, presenting acoustic instrumentation and light duos / trios alongside hyper-stimulating chaos in the form of full troops of performance artists, blinding light shows, and boundary-pushing musical offerings. And last but certainly not least, R&B, hip hop, and jazz sets were major highlights of both Mind Melt and Main Frame.
That longwinded thought first came to me when I was thinking about the Ghostface Killah x Raekwon set. These are two hip hop legends, performing material from a project that is over 20 years old, to a crowd of people that likely didn’t know about them until much more recently than that. The romanticization of music royalty is all too familiar, with reunion tours running rampant and festivals clamoring to host anyone of note, but this performance felt oddly well-placed for a festival that was not centered around hip hop, or at least old school hip hop. With artists such as Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky, JPEGMAFIA, and others, instead it felt like a significant inclusion among a group of artists that provided an impressive range of styles that far outweighed their numbers.
SZA‘s set on Saturday night was mesmerizing, in part because I was just so excited to see her live. I attended the Championship tour in Detroit right after she had injured her vocal chords, and after the noticeable uncertainty hanging in the air at that time regarding the future of her career, I felt lucky to witness such a candid and heartfelt performance from an artist only beginning to build her legacy.
With my III Points experience over half completed, I spent the rest of my time that night taking every opportunity to drink, dance, and enjoy the incredible opportunity I was given. The days are long covering festivals, but it’s important to not let the magic get lost in the work, which was a point that laid fresh in my mind as I prepared for my third and final day at III Points 2019.