Miami Music Week: An Overview of Underground

Lauren Krieger

Discovering the ever-present elements of Underground during Miami Music Week

The Winter Music Conference in Miami has been an annual go-to destination for the Underground Electronic Music industry since 1985. Slowly Ultra Music Festival began overtaking WMC, and what was once a 10-day conference packed with 500 events and tens of thousands of attendees slowly became a barely noticed 3-day affair, while Ultra grew from a crowd of 7,000 people in a one day event to over 165,000 people across 3 days. While both events both cooperated and competed for the past 20 years, DJs continued to come to Miami to play, connect, and share, and Miami Music Week became an official collaboration of DJs and electronic music fans, a week of over 300 events at more than 85 venues.

The first time I went to WMC and UMF was in 2003, and I was excited for the opportunity to see how very different things were now. And of course, the chance to meet new people in the industry, dance until my legs hurt, and enjoy a variety of events couldn’t be passed by. My underlying mission was to see how much of the Underground I would be able to experience. In a world where EDM gets the biggest stages and crowds, would there still be a great representation of the real, underground, deep sound that is the core of what the music is all about?

Thankfully the answer was a resounding YES.

Wednesday: TRADE / Sounds of the Underground

Presented by More Volume & featuring Eelke Kleijn, Guy Mantzur B2B Khen, Darin Epsilon, DAVÍ, Jason Rault B2B Iván Sandhas

My first destination was an event called “Sounds of the Underground”, so that had to be a good sign. A high ceilinged, dark club with neon “love love love” lights, TRADE was the place to be on a Wednesday night in Miami. Right after I arrived, Darin Epsilon got behind the decks and brought his trademark deep progressive sound, getting the dance floor flowing, moving, lost in the rhythms as only perfectly mixed prog can do. The booth is a high, dark affair, where the DJ is directing the audience from the shadows, the music overtaking any aspects of glitz or showing off so that the only focus was the sound and its message. Old school. The crowd was feeling it, with the energy building as the night turned into morning and the party kept going. It was a perfect club environment with atmosphere, filled with happy people, who were excited to be a part of this one moment surrounded by lights, beats, love. Although I knew I was just getting warmed up, an event like this would have been a yearly highlight on the calendar any other time. One day in and a win for the Underground.

Thursday: Rapture Festival

From the Rapture Festival Website: Held during Miami Music Week in the stunning surrounds of Historic Virginia Key Park, Rapture Electronic Music Festival features today’s top underground house and techno talent in an idyllic beachside setting. Boasting lush spaces and ocean views, Rapture offers festivalgoers the chance to dance to their favorite DJs under the sun and stars, to relax on the beach, or to partake in a wealth of wellness activities designed to reinvigorate the soul and rejuvenate the mind. Bringing together human souls connecting with nature through music, Rapture promises to be a truly special and unique experience taking place in one of Miami’s most beautiful places.

In only its second year, Rapture Festival did a fantastic job of bringing the Underground atmosphere to a festival format in a real and refreshing way. The whole event was full of substance rather than flash, with an excellent line up of DJs, creative and interesting stages, beautiful scenery and an experienced yet passionate crowd. I spent most of the time at the Soundgarden stage watching Guy Mantzur, Danny Howells, Nick Warren, and Hernan Cattaneo (what a lineup!) get the crowd into the zone. The vibes were overwhelmingly positive, the people easy going yet enthusiastic, the sandy dance floor always in motion with an appreciation for the music felt throughout the ebbs and flows of the whole experience. The music itself was a beautiful mix of melodic, deep, tech, house, and progressive, with each set creating its own well designed journey yet intertwining wonderfully as one. While the sun was setting and the darkness was setting in, I was reminded of how it felt to be young and new into the music, when it was something so amazing and indescribable, soul filling in a mysterious yet familiar way. I remembered how that felt, and it made my heart unbelievably full to know that this special feeling will always remain a part of this music, and a part of me.

Friday: The RESISTANCE

FRISKY Guest Writer R. Abou-Bakr (Hahnoum) gives us some background:

When electronic music began its mainstream revolution about a decade ago, UMF underwent several changes reaching out to a broader range of music goers especially within the United States.   One question of change was about how to preserve the sacred underground scene.  A crucial partnership between the iconic British underground house DJ, Carl Cox, began solidifying the true essence of what electronic music has always been – underground – and the RESISTANCE is here to stay.  
 
Ultra launched worldwide RESISTANCE in 2015 naming Cox as its ambassador in 2017.  The Carl Cox & Friends arena better known as the Carl Cox Megastructure will remain hallowed ground for the true purists and those new to the sounds, sights and spiritual journey of the underground.  

This year’s lineup included Dubfire who many may remember and recognize as the other half the iconic Iranian-American duo DeepDish.  Adam Beyer, Sasha, Jamie Jones, Joseph Capriati, Pan-Pot, and of course Carl Cox were also included on this year’s headliner list.

To see how the Underground would fit into the definitively EDM world of Ultra, I went to the other part of the RESISTANCE: The Arcadia Spider. Definitely one of the craziest structures I’ve ever seen, the epicness of the Spider was an incredible sight. With a DJ directing the experience from within its core, engineers positioned high above the crowd to control its arms and claws, fire exploding into the sky, and steam rushing to the beat, it was an incredible way to witness the feeling of awe and other-worldliness that comes from electronic music. While across the expansive festival were bass drops and fireworks, unbelievably huge displays, and the latest in technology working to connect the festival with viewers around the globe, this little corner with the house and techno beats had a crowd of kids excited about the music. I was definitely having a lot of “I feel really old” moments at Ultra, but the experience was was fascinating and impressive, and the spectacle and mood were unlike anything else. A reminder of the weirdness and wildness that only electronic music can represent. You’re not seeing a giant flame throwing mechanical spider at a rock concert.

Later Friday: C&L Warehouse / SAGA Miami

About: Bedouin’s infectious blend of music has already hypnotized audiences from all around the globe and hits town for one night only at C&L Warehouse, where the Saga and Diskolab teams will transform the space to recreate the series’ already notorious atmosphere and vibe. Featuring Bedouin, &Me, SIS, Sainte Vie, & Baez

To go the opposite direction, after leaving the RESISTANCE it was off to the Saga Warehouse party, to see Bespoke Musik artist and FRISKY newcomer Baez alongside a lineup of deep and dark electronic music, featuring the gritty, the artistic, the strange and beautiful. In the awesome and distinctive Wynwood district, C&L Warehouse provided the classic warehouse atmosphere done with professional care. With red lights and candles setting the mood, the energy was passionate and emotional, yet calming, mysterious, and comforting. A place for conversations and connection, then allowing yourself to get lost in the rhythms and be taken away by the flow. The soothing, deep, music would seep into you as you wandered around the open space, taking in the visuals and mingling among the calm and collective crowd. I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the chairs that were placed in front of a giant, beautiful artwork in progress, letting the moment be exactly as it was, the music flowing along with the paint brush, as the greater picture came together one stroke, one beat, at a time.

Saturday: No 3 Social w/ Wally Lopez

The final night was yet another completely different affair, back in the Wynwood district to the rooftop restaurant/bar No 3 Social. A huge rooftop overlooking the city, the location was amazing, and Wally Lopez was fantastic behind the decks. The crowd was not the quite the Underground type, with many sitting and sipping while the rest of us had huge smiles on our faces and Wally with the biggest of all. FUN is the best way to describe that night, and when the serious looking guy standing next to the DJ booth busted out in some liquid moves and Wally came out to the dance floor to join him, I could not have been any happier. That night, that moment, was all about the tight knit community that puts music above all else. One that believes that the best friends are made on the dance floor, even if it’s just for one night, and that all the memories that have been created in a world surrounded by Underground Electronic Music will always come to light when you feel that same feeling, that same energy, that same love, that you have felt since the beginning.
One of the main things that I took away from this experience was that even through all these very different events, from the club, to the warehouse, the festival, the bar, no matter the location, the spirit of the Underground lives. It is in the openness of the people, their willingness to truly listen to the music and be in the moment, the appreciation for groove and flow and smiling on the dance floor, the overwhelming feeling of deep, hopeful, and loving connections that are formed throughout every second that’s filled with rhythm and melody.

The Underground is everywhere, and no matter where I go, I know I will always be able to find my way home.

The Home for Underground Electronic Music:

FRISKY

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