iii Points is a three-day festival in Miami with a lot of EDM, hip hop, and slow, trippy rock. I attended the 2015 edition, on Oct. 9, 10, and 11. Before I explain what each day was like, here’s some background info:
- The three ‘points’ best I can figure are: music, art, and technology. There were art exhibits and techy things all over the campus. One of my coworkers hosted a virtual reality booth. Basically, it’s a playground for high teens who want to look at bright colors.
- The venue is about a block from the Wynwood strip. Wynwood was the shitty party of town until Miami made a very conscious effort to gentrify it. Now there’s huge graffiti murals and tons of bars and the hipsters congregate every weekend to dance. The actual iii Points venue is an open lot littered with neon pyramids and oriental rugs. There were two inside rooms (the main stage and one for djs), two outside stages, and a line of food trucks.
- Tickets, will call, and drink wristbands were across the street in Wynwood Soccer.
Nicolas Jaar – Russian Dolls
I showed up late on Friday, because I had to make an appearance at Nando’s 30th birthday party. It was surprisingly formal: professionally catered (paella), a bartender, little glittery 30s scattered on the tables. Nando’s mom tried to convince her friends to check out this Bernie Sanders character, who has some really good ideas and you should totally look into. Everyone else besides me (who got an invite the day before over text) wore a button-down. I’m 29 now, bracing for the next birthday. Too old to be showing up to formal events in band t-shirts.
Earlier that day, I picked up Nando from his apartment and was playing Tame Impala. He called it crap. “People don’t sing anymore. What is this breathy, ethereal vocal shit?” I turned on Bob Seger and we sang Against The Wind, loudly.
My friend Freeze and I have an ongoing conversation about the age when one stops searching out new music. It’s different for each person, of course, and dependent on life events. If you have a baby and a career by 25, you probably aren’t spending free time and money on new music. But at some point, nearly every adult falls back on the bands she already knows she likes.
I thought I hit my moment two years ago, when I gave up weekends (and this blog) to run a TV show with Nando. It was worth it. I loved television.
By the time I left the party and made it to Wynwood it was nearing midnight, which isn’t a crazy time to go out in Miami. All the bands I wanted to see that night started after 12 anyway (except Panda Bear, who I had to skip so that Nando could grow old). On my way in, I bumped into Alice, who was leaving. She gave me her folding fan and said the air conditioning broke in the main stage. She said if I got an offer of over $10 for the fan, to sell it and split the money with her.
All my other, younger friends got there after I did. Then it became a maze of texts and missed calls and lost directions as we combined and split up and bumped into each other again. There were too many people in Wynwood so I stopped getting reception. Sterling fed me sips of Jameson from a flask she’d smuggled in her bra. It was drunken and sloppy and people kept getting lost and frustrated.
In this milling about, being pulled around by people and giving up and just going to bands I wanted to see, I ended up catching snippets of Mano Le Tough, Neon Indian, Nicolas Jaar, and DJ Tennis.
I have three specific memories.
- I’ve wanted to see Mano Le Tough for a long time. He plays what my friend Arielle coined sadboi techno. I played a song for Brent. “It says: I’m sad inside, but I still want to roll.” This set was more straight-up dj dance stuff. He didn’t sing at all. It made me want to move to East Berlin so I could see him all the time at Berghain. Arielle is the one who got me into EDM. We would go on road trips and she would guide me through the history of deep house, or play all her favorite Italo Disco tracks, or just lull me to sleep with Le Tough late at night.
- At one point, the entire group found each other at the exact same time, in front of the soundboard for Neon Indian. There were about 15 of us. Then we looked to our left, and it was a bunch of other coworkers we didn’t know were coming. Then after greeting the new crew, I realized that two of my Miami Herald friends were standing next to them. The world felt very small and manageable.
- Neon Indian sucked, so we left to catch Nicolas Jaar. This memory will stick with me. Two very drunk girls led the way to the very front. The room was long and narrow, and the lights splayed out from behind Jaar out toward the crowd. It felt like a movie scene, in the club, where the boy follows some spunky girl through the crowd and throbbing music. It was very surreal, and a touch magical.
Madvillain – Fancy Clown
On the second day, I rolled two root beer-flavored drops from Denver around in my mouth. They kicked in two hours later. I poured healthy swallows of Sterling’s Jameson into cans of Becks. We were the first two there, so we watched Telescope Thieves. A topless girl in body paint walked by handing out fliers. Later, we saw two more. They were advertising a nude afterparty.
This is Miami, so clothing is always minimal. Most girls wore jean shorts and sideboob halter tops. I saw one guy with full Miami Vice ’70s ‘fro and mustache, dancing away. He amused me. Everyone else wore what youths wear today.
The group had weaned since day one, so five of us parked in the main stage to see Run the Jewels and Ghostface Killah. Sterling ran off. I later found out two of my other friends were in the crowd, but I didn’t see them.
All the rappers we saw were really sincere. Killer Mike at one point went, “This one’s for Ferguson.” Ghostface mentioned how touched he is that people in every country have Wu-Tang tattoos. The reprieve was MF Doom. He was listed as playing with Ghostface, but they didn’t overlap. Instead, they projected Doom on a huge white sheet and added some grainy effects. Apparently, Doom’s not allowed back in the country. He started by playing bizarre old timey blues stuff, then he’d hit a spliff and wander off camera. In the background palm trees swayed. No one was sure what was happening. I thought it was just intro music for Ghostface, but then it stretched on toward an hour mark. My friend Kit got weirded out and left.
Eventually there was a lot of static and Doom reappeared, still in New York Islanders jersey and orange do-rag, this time from behind his dj set, and he rapped a bunch. It was good shit.
Before him was Run the Jewels. I found them entirely cheesy. They kept chanting back and forth in ways that reminded me of Christian rap from my childhood. I was pleased in a way, because I’ve been trying to like them for a while and can’t get into it. Now I know: I’m just not into it.
Ghostface, of course, killed it.
After that, even though it was only midnight, I went home. The edibles had worn off, I didn’t want to see anyone else that night, and I was tired. So, because I’m an old, I went home.
Jay Electronica – Jazzmataz
Everyone who gave me shit about bowing out early the night before didn’t make it out on the third day. So fuck ’em. I can party just like a youth.
I came with Brown and Miriti, sucking on two hard candies again. We showed up just in time for Jay Electronica, who called a slew of people onto the stage and had two of them spit bars with him. He said the first time he ever performed in front of people, Mos Def pulled him out of a crowd like that.
Again, the sincerity.
Meanwhile, Brown kept making up rhymes and fake words and laughing. It was a lot of this:
Jay Elec went over his allotted time. He apologized to the guys after him, but didn’t actually care enough to, you know, stop when he was supposed to.
The guy after him turned out to be Spooky Black. Brown kept hyping him up. “He’s this white teenager in a do-rag, but then he starts singing and out comes the dope ass R&B.” So we stuck around. Turns out, Brown only likes Spooky Black because he thinks he’s hilarious as a concept. It’s this Jesse Pinkman-looking teenager with an oversized hoodie who absolutely cannot sing, singing what is essentially emo R&B.
At one point, Brown just broke down into a full-on laugh. He was doubled over, nearly slapping the sticky floor. I couldn’t help it and burst out laughing too. Miriti turned away and chuckled to himself. It was so bad it was funny.
Now, remember I was pretty high. But it was around this point that the illusion started to fade. Reality curled up at the edges. All I could see was a scared teenager, pretending to be a singer, walking around the stage in a too-big hoodie, the lights and music drowning out his terror.
Then it started to spread. I kept looking around and seeing pimples on teenage faces, silly bikini-bottom costumes, all the pomp that we put on for each other. It felt fake. Who knew if anything was any good. Maybe no one can sing? Maybe we’re all faking it, and sometimes we’re tricked, and other times all the smoke machines and neon lights and sick beats can’t hide what frauds we are.
Between sets, Brown explained the etymology of trap.
We stayed for King Krule, but that kid couldn’t sing either. Eventually we shuffled over to the dj room, and I swayed my body back and forth and closed my eyes. Miriti and I got bored and convinced Brown to leave before Unknown Mortal Orchestra. We’re old. He played UMO in the Uber on the way back.
On Monday I got sick. I’m drinking a glass of Emergen-C as I write this.
Part of the reason I was tired Saturday and Sunday nights was that I’d had boozy brunches both days. On Saturday, I met up with my friend Figgy. She was telling me about this Nirvana documentary she watched, and how it made her nostalgic for the ’90s. She said pop culture was so much better back then, and she missed it. I said she’d be nostalgic for now too, given enough time. She disagreed.
Figgy is wrong. I’ll miss these times, the last fumes of my 20s. When girls’ ass cheeks hung out of their shorts, and Arielle taught me about house, and girls fed me bra whiskey, and I took drugs and listened to EDM and hip hop until way past my bedtime.
I’m still young enough to find new music.