The eclectic neighborhood of Wynwood, with its unique food and drink spots, cool galleries and shops and graffiti as beautiful and bizarre as its residents made the perfect backdrop for the iii points festival. Now in its third year, the team behind iii points utilized the blank canvas of the soundstages of Mana to host a wide array of artists and musicians of both local and national prominence this past weekend.
The first-release ticket prices were $77 for a three day pass, which is a bargain considering the five different stages where everything from funk and soul bands to rappers and DJs performed from five in the afternoon till three in the morning.
I was there on Saturday, which happened to coincide with the art walk that takes place on the second Saturday of every month resulting in a sea of people flowing through the streets of Wynwood. After checking in at Milk and Honey and grabbing a Cuban grilled cheese from one of the food trucks in the fleet parked in the massive lot beside the venue, I made my way to the outdoor Mind Melt stage to check out Miami native Fudakochi.
Clad in black spandex and protective vest, shoulders draped in a purple cloak with gold trim, front man Fudakochi wielded his keytar and screamed soulfully while his little sister sang backup vocals and the Affiliated Soul Team band backed him. For thirty minutes this collaboration brought dangerous levels of funk to the stage, reminiscent of something along the lines of George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. The end result was Fudakochi collapsing to the ground to either catch his breath or showboat and then after one final number, exited stage right as his sister followed with her fist raised high.
The next act I caught was Aluna George. You might not know the name, but you’d definitely recognize their music. The duo (Aluna Francis singer/songwriter and George Reid producer/instrumentals) has collaborated with Disclosure and DJ Snake and more recently Aluna’s vocals were featured on the Jack Ü (Skrillex + Diplo) track To Ü. She walked out on stage sporting black fishnets, super short denim shorts and a black sequined bra looking like a hotter, more innocent version of Rhianna.
One of my favorite things I’ve been seeing more of at the last few festivals I’ve covered is the merging of electronic tracks with live musicians. It allows for tons of creativity and sounds and effects you couldn’t accomplish with either alone and Aluna George was no exception. They mixed electric and acoustic percussion with keyboards and synths to support Aluna’s vocals, which were so on point it made me briefly question whether it was actually her singing or their CD playing. Of course she was and when she’d purposely cut out, the massive crowd that’d gathered for their set was more than happy to pick up where she left off, particularly during “You Know You Like It” and “White Noise”.
I was most hyped for Run The Jewels and they followed. The unlikely duo of Killer Mike and El-P couldn’t be more diametrically opposed – one out of ATL in the dirty south, the other from the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York; one a huge black man, the other a regular white guy; but they’ve both been making critically acclaimed music for a while before banding together like a brutal rapping version of Rob and Big to deliver a punch to the sternum of the rap game and fans alike.
Like a yin and yang, they adjust their traditional styles and even dip their toes into each other’s realms to form a complimentary, unified sound. Mike smarts his lyrics up and uses their music as a platform to touch on serious issues like police brutality and get introspective about his sordid past while Jamie (El-P), who’s normally known for deeper and more intricate wordplay dumbs it down to touch on topics like getting the munchies and robbing people. It’s beautiful in a Fight Club sort of way – the type of music you want to hear before going to the gym, asking your boss for a raise or while navigating rush hour on 95.
What else would you expect though from an act whose name instructs someone being robbed to fork over their valuables? Run The Jewels opened with their eponymous track from their eponymous album and my festival compatriots who had been eagerly anticipating this set as well, threw up their fingers to replicate the cover art and screamed along. Mike and El danced around the stage, feeding off the energy and giving it right back to the audience. They were blown away by the reception and mentioned more than once how they’ll be returning to Miami.
They bounced back and forth between RTJ and RTJ2, performing “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” which bled into “Banana Clipper”. For as angry and violent as their lyrics are, Killer Mike stopped the show for a second in a moment of compassion and asked the crowd to take a few steps back so the people sandwiched up against the barricades in the front could breathe and they were happy to comply. Just because Killer Mike raps about punching people in the mouth and getting their teeth stuck in his knuckles doesn’t mean he’s not a sensible guy.
“The beat breaks and your teeth break
keep your canines embedded in my knuckles as a keepsake
It would seem your veneers just mere souvenirs
falling out your mouth and on to the landscape”
After teaching the few in attendance who didn’t know the hook to “Lie Cheat Steal”, they launched into what became a full blown, vicious sing along and they closed with the deep and dark “A Christmas F*cking Miracle”, whose lyrics are quoted above. As they walked off stage, it felt like the energy that had built up in the room left with them; like someone had opened the door of the spaceship and its contents were sucked out into the cold, dark vacuum of space. Run The Jewels was hands down the best set I saw all day and one of the better in recent memory.
MF Doom and Ghostface Killah coming next was icing on the now bruised and battered cake. They were co-headlining and supposedly performing tracks from an upcoming collaboration album, but knowing how out there Doom is, that he claimed he wouldn’t be coming to the states again a few years back and how he has more than a few performances under his belt that were considerably, possibly intentionally terrible under the guise of artistry, I didn’t have high hopes of seeing him in the metal and flesh.
The set time was supposed to start at 11:11, which was intriguing, but started 10 minutes later than scheduled when an image of the mask flickered onto the screen via projector. It stayed there for another 5-7 minutes before Doom finally appeared rocking a New York Islanders jersey. He said Miami a few times and it was obviously him but my hunch is it was prerecorded. There was some tropical latin music in the background and after another 5-7 minutes of him fiddling around with a single CDJ and sparking a few blunts, the feed changed up and he launched into his short set from another location. The handful of songs I heard (“Hoe Cakes”, “Kon Queso” and “Gazillion Ear”) sounded just like the album versions and my assumption is that’s what they were, laid down over the video where it zoomed in and out with some abstract geometric effects. It was lame and judging by the blank stares and quiet reception, many others in the room felt the same way.
Ghostface took the stage and more than made up for that abomination. Currently 45 years old, the rapper hasn’t slowed down one bit and seemed just as energetic and grateful to be on stage as he would have back in the 90’s performing alongside the Wu-Tang Clan. After a handful of songs from Supreme Clinetele, the off key piano opening from “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” started clanking and he launched into ODB’s classic. He’d do a verse from that, jump into “Ain’t nothing to f*ck with” then hushed the crowd. “Make money money make money money money” Ghostface called and the crowd responded. “Take money money take money money money” he called out and the crowd echoed again and then he launched into “C.R.E.A.M.”, all of which the crowd was happy to scream along to. As I was in middle school at the time and the chances of me seeing Wu-Tang in their prime was non-existent, getting to experience one of the original members perform some of the most iconic tracks in hip hop history was surreal.
Still riding the high from the past two sets, I made my way to the Sector 3 stage outside to catch my last show of the night with Bedside, whose members I had met earlier. Composed of Trace and Travis, the Miami duo mentioned they’d spent the past year or so finding their sound. While they were both great instrumentalists and had years of experience, the digital frontier was new and unfamiliar and there was much to be learned in terms of programming and effects. When I turned the corner, I was impressed to see how packed their stage was and how receptive the crowd was to their smooth and sexy grooves. Trace (Trumpet) and Travis (DJ) were supported by a sax, keys, percussion and a fierce vocalist who belted out her notes like the best of them. The Ghostface/Doom set started late and ran over, so unfortunately I was only able to catch a bit of Bedside, but I loved what I saw and apparently the audience did too.
They’re local and have an album due out in November, so hopefully I’ll get to catch a full show in the near future.
While the location of next year’s festival is up in the air due to the owner of Mana being in talks to build a high rise and convention center where the sound stage currently lives, it’s not a question of if, but where iii points will be held next year. Aside from the awesome performances, there were some really unique audio and visual art installations and other cool features, like the donut drift session courtesy of BMW and their new all-electric X1. Good food, great music and fun people in one of the best neighborhoods in Miami made for an incredible experience that I’d be more than happy to revisit next year.