The late poet and novelist Charles Bukowski once wrote: “To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.” This has always been the prevailing ethos that follows III Points: being able to be new and daring for the sake of music and the spirit of Miami. This year, however, came with a different kind of danger. It was dangerous to schedule the festival in its usual October slot since hurricanes and Zika virus crippled the festival with canceled acts. Yet, moving the dates into February could mean a turf war with musical festival juggernauts. Despite this, III Points decided to go into uncharted waters and move the festival to Presidents’ Day weekend. With danger at hand, the sixth edition of the festival came out in a miraculous feat to make this perhaps the best III Points to date.
The festival opened on Friday at 5 pm in Mana Wynwood—a massive art compound that served numerous stages, vendors, and attraction throughout the weekend. The omnipresent III Points logo was the first thing you noticed when you stepped in. The logo was at every corner of the grounds, like some constellation in the sky to guide you home. Large cargo containers were converted into contemporary and interactive artwork that coated the entrance. The attendees took this as a chance to take a quick dancing break while also being able to sit down and observe numerous pieces. The first stage you will probably engage with is Mind Melt: a typical main stage design constructed with steel and draped in wires, lights, and LED screens. A colossal disco ball, supported by a crane, hovered over the audience and swayed with the cool Miami wind. Mind Melt would host most of the headliners like A$AP Rocky, Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, James Blake, SZA and Tyler the Creator. The first act I saw there was Tyler, the Creator. Tyler has always offered something so controversially organic. Despite being Grammy-nominated, fame has never gotten to him. He still raps about murder, dreamy fortunes, the weird, and everything in-between. Very few are able to bring out such catharsis from the crowd. The attendees looped from happiness, sadness, and anger; so much anger. Tyler flowed, screamed, jumped, all at a moments notice and kept the Odd Future OGs begging for more during the 90-minute set.
Turning left and walking past the merchandise and numerous food vendors from Miami’s best restaurants, you entered the Isotropic stage. This housed DJs under a clear-roofed pavilion where plants hung from the ceiling. It was a modern and pulsating Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Sweden’s DJ Seinfeld was spinning that Friday. Dressed as if he had just finished at the skate park, he offered a wide array of house, lo-fi, tribal, and darker tracks as well. He would quickly play something eerie and then effortfully transition to light and wholesome tracks like Robin S’ “You Got To Show Me Love.”
An appreciation for early house is always highly regarded and was welcomed throughout the night. South Korea’s Peggy Gou soon took over and smashed Isotropic to smithereens with her typical house sound and atypical techno. I have been wanting to see her for a while and she did not disappoint. Nostalgic house leaked through the speakers while she dropped gems like Digital Excitation’s “Pure Pleasure.” The crowd of hipsters, bohemians, 9-5’ers, vagabonds, and free spirits all danced with aplomb all night long in Isotropic as traffic filled the streets all night.
There was a mental battle deciding whether or not to cover punk group Pussy Riot. On one hand, this is a publication that caters to mainly electronic music, but on the other, few have sparked such international reaction than Russia’s Pussy Riot. I chose the latter and engaged in some cryptic Russian punk. Russia tends to bring delicate abstractness and forceful reality to the arts; whether it be the fast, noisy, ghoulish sounds of Nina Kravitz or Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The audience has to dissect the layers of meaning to fully understand it. Pussy Riot is no exception. Technical difficulties thwarted the first 30 minutes of the show, which I believed somehow worked for the same reason posed previously. The ski-masked group, which was reduced to three from their usual seven, brought a hip-hop and punk-infused assembly. Accompanying the set were masked back-up dancers and an LED screen depicting hazy images of surgery and skating. Texts displayed at the bottom told of human rights violations happening in Russia. Pussy Riot brought forth a collusion of sound and resistance that was combined with a witch-hunt of wilding out spectators.
For a music festival, Saturday seems to be the day where you have to put everything on the table. It’s ‘make it or break it,’ and you better not disappoint. The first thing to see was the jazz legend, Herbie Hancock. I knew from the first time viewing the lineup that this would be one of the biggest challenges on hand. Of course, Herbie is a legend and a pioneer, but would the fans know that? As Herbie Hancock and his band played the funky and jazz classics like “Actual Proof,” “Watermelon Man,” and the gentle tease of a few notes from his magnum opus, “Cantaloupe Island,” the crowd was a tad nebulous. They weren’t sure whether to step, shake, slide, or bop. Yet, it all came together, Herbie and the others just let it rip and everyone seemed paralyzed in the desire to stick around. The rhythm was too infectious and Herbie Hancock won over the crowd more and more as the minutes went by.
If you were craving some much needed darker electronic sounds, then the Boiler Room stage was for you. The DJs on the bill included Danyelino, Ms. Mada, Eclair Fifi, and Keinemusik. Mesmerized electronic fans were going wild both in front of and behind the DJ deck. A makeshift lift covered the all-important background audience that we have grown to love from Boiler Room. Ms. Mada brought proper stadium-techno bass as the crowd sashayed in the darkness of a dingy warehouse and the light of the encompassing Boiler Room logo. Her hard-hitting tracks and Marco Carola-like DJ stance was perfect to go late into the night.
I hate writing when a musician “stole the show.” It’s redundant when it’s a one-man show and impossible to gauge when it’s a music festival. Yet, when I caught the rest of James Blake, it was inevitable that he would receive this title. James Blake is running high off his latest album, Assume From. While that album is associated more with hip-hop by featuring the likes of Andre 3000, James Blake took the tone down by playing melodic and soulful music. His ability to sing in such a fragile vocal creates instant emotions. It was as if everything around us moved so slowly and then completely stopped for a brief moment. He closed the 90-minute set with “The Wilhelm Scream,” a song originally written by his father. Again, a musician playing a festival in the heart of Miami’s rowdy art district would draw some negative feedback, yet, James Blake encapsulated all of us with minimal equipment: drums and keyboards. The power of simplicity.
III Points Saturday was an utter success. Almost every stage at one point had a jazz/funky sound to it. Masego, whose heavy lyrics and Caribbean beat made the audience groove. Even the electronic music stages like Isotropic had funk. Mall Grab spun some house with sentimental deliverance. With one day left, it was easy to expect anything and everything.
After a year and a half of waiting, we were now on the last day. The attendees gathered in more and more as the realization that the 9-5 schedule was about to kick in. Boiler Room hosted some soulful house sets by the likes of AAAA, Egyptian Lover, and DJ Stingray. The cramped and intimate Door IV stage went darker as the sky drew a vibrant pink and orange as it juxtaposed with the neighboring Haitian flags flying right outside the festival. The theme to Door IV that night was based off the legendary club (and soon to be closing) Electric Pickle.
Mind Melt brought star after star. Blood Orange started the kick off to the remaining hours of the festival. Blood Orange, whose real name is Dev Hynes, came with a group of back up singers, guitarists, pianos, and drums. The LED screen beyond played videos of your typical neighborhood kids playing on dirt bikes and ATVs and popping wheelies. Everything Blood Orange delivered was amiable and delicate. It was a show that made you want to hold on to someone tight while jetplanes flew above to make their landing into our tropical paradise.
As the night was winding down, I said my goodbyes to Door IV right as Miami’s Puma was finishing up his forceful techno set. Playing such tracks as Pablo Cahn’s “Soul Rain” and St. Germain’s “Rose Rouge,” which played on top of a techno bass loop.
The last person I witnessed was the legendary Erykah Badu. While her set was about 40 minutes late, it was hard to care when you are about to see a queen perform. Later on into the show, she paid homage to Tyler, the Creator who was behind stage just to see her perform. Her set, which was R&B focused, was everything you could hope for in a career that spans over two decades: soft but forceful, saddening but inspiring, moving but catatonic. Gentle tones of blue and pink clashed with Erykah’s bash stovepipe hat and brightly colored clothing.
The big question surrounding III Points this year was if it was worth the extra long wait. The best answer I can give is a firm yes. Despite minor inconveniences like delayed set times on Friday and Sunday, the III Points crew did some amazing things. If you think about it, just being able to come back from a year off is a feat in of itself. Unless you are Game of Thrones, no one is going to wait for you. III Points is no longer an underdog. It is synonymous with the Miami underground scene and counter-culture. I have little doubt that with a better date on the calendar and hopefully some extra revenue, III Points will prove that they are not only a key player in Miami, but in the entire country.