Like Flies to the Light…only to be betrayed

It shimmers. It promises. It’s delivered before. Ultra.

The year is 2022. A musical genre that used to spook people has become your neighbor’s backyard BBQ party, a very expensive one at that. Is this a festival that Miami should be supporting? It’s our baby. But, so much time has passed since 1998, and sometimes relationships end for a reason.

First, I get into the music and examine the Resistance versus EDM divide. Then I attempt to answer the question: What are Ultra attendees getting for their money? I prove that a festival born by Miamians is no longer representative of Miamians, and lastly, I weigh the cultural betrayal against the economic benefit to answer the question – is Ultra Miami a good thing for Miami and music, and should we be supporting it?

MUSIC

I wish I could say this is the first year where I felt Ultra artists under-delivered, but that’s simply not the case. In 2014, when house music got full-on ugly, DJs were OD-ing left & right during MMW. “Confetti music,” a term coined by original Space owner Louis Puig, was peaking, and that’s when I first felt the void. I wouldn’t return to Ultra for another 4 years.

So how does 2022 compare to 2014? Well…I really hoped we had seen the worst of it. 2018, Ultra’s 20th anniversary, was a spectacular showcase, but it seems a revival was short-lived. That year was followed by a disaster year on the key. And then two years of silence.

In 2022, with hopes for a new era continued from the 2018 glory last seen at that venue, I wanted to either cry or vomit. For the first time in my life, I cringed at music being played. My best coping mechanism was to cover my ears as I was forced to pass some stages. Not to say all music was cringe-worthy. The best sets that I could enjoy:

1)     Ilario Alicante

2)     Dom Dolla

3)     Pan-pot

Why not some of the bigger players? Well with Carl Cox, the music felt safe. I have also now seen him play a 5-6 hr set at Brooklyn Mirage, and now can see I shine and so does the crowd from his long sets making him shine, too. I’d prefer to have one day of Ultra with a seven-hour Cox set versus the seven hours over three days that he performed.

As for Capriati, I loved his style. He did the job setup before him, unlike Bibi who perhaps intentionally bombed before him. So I can’t say it was in my top three because all day Friday was bad music except for him. The main role of his set was as a resuscitator – not a “transcender, which is a term I’m coining. If you had experienced the 2018 line up of Maceo Plex, then Jamie Jones, then Cox, you would understand the difference between transcendence in a set versus revival.

So what is it about Ilario that earns him the number 1 spot? Well, first of all, he’s a hard DJ to get to play here in Miami. There was plenty of space to dance at the guardrail. And the music was well-varied, from fast to slow, screeching techno to deep house. It seemed to hit all of the right notes, just like a well-baked cookie. A little sweet, a little salty, crunchy, chewy, warm. And who doesn’t like a good cookie? Every part of it made me want to shimmy and dance. I even got the chance to shout out an, “I love you!” during a soft spot in the set, which made him smile and a girl on stage smile and laugh, which in turn made me smile.

It was so much fun, dancing by myself at the guardrail to good music, meeting new acquaintances in the sunshine.

RESISTANCE V. EDM

What wasn’t fun was feeling ostracized/cut-off from the remainder of the festival. When I was younger, and so was Ultra, the music mixed. I remember walking by the Drum and Bass tent with my friends, and just standing for a few moments in awe, enjoying it, while moving on to our next tent. There was a mixture of elements, yet also a cohesiveness to the culture, to the event, to the palatability & curiosity of music.

2 Stages v. 4 stages. I’m not sure where the term “Resistance” originated. I’d like to maybe sue that person for defamation of what was a perfectly fine, unadulterated mixture of genres, including, but not limited to techno, tech house, electro, bass, and acid. Somehow these genres got cut off from other genres such as progressive, nu-disco, Dirty Dutch, tropical, and dubstep. (EDM)

Trance and Drum & Bass don’t even make listing. They’re neither. So where do they go? The “other” category? If you’re with me, you’re against this “Resistance” talk. It’s always been about house music. One love. Feel the love generation. If pop is pop, let it be at a pop festival. If house is house, let it be at a house festival.

Putting a VERSUS into the mix is not what Bob Sinclair was talking about.

MONEY

As for money invested, and for being a fan of the genres that include techno, tech house, etc., I’m insulted by the limitation to two stages of what I consider to be the cultural threads of house music. In numbers, that’s 33% of festival for people like me. Could I in good conscience pay to attend a festival that showcases my preferences as the minority? Well, yes, if I found the 67% vaguely interesting, curious, or palpable like in younger years. But I’m not finding it so. I’d rather hear new Reggae or Rock or stay home than hear screeching noise and 10-year-old songs badly remixed.

So I ask, should the 33% even be part of festivals like this? I mean, the stages are already setup that way with a specific path to and from the two stages, ostracized to the north, while EDM stages take up the larger southside grounds.

But the worst part…..the worst part about the 33% spending the money….is that one of the stages didn’t even have an even-surface dance floor. To me, it’s where the best sets were performed, and I had to dance on a hill? They couldn’t construct a wooden platform like organizers for Tomorrowland in Belgium will do? This was just nuts. I’m still suffering from knee pain. In fact, based on the hill alone, I would probably vote against Ultra (by just not going) because I couldn’t reasonably dance to my favorite music! What is that about?! Making us the minority is one thing. But to take another 16% away from me because I can’t dance on a flat surface? Shame on you.

As for the 66%, surely they are getting their fix. But their music isn’t for me. And I would consider the divide not being “Resistance” versus EDM, but rather EDM versus Pop. To me, that is the change I’m seeing. Ultra will one day exclusively become a Pop festival.

CULTURAL BETRAYAL

Beyond the movement of music, which I suppose could be a betrayal in itself, the saddest thing is that Ultra is no longer representative of its birthplace Miami. The proof is in the details:

1.      My arepa was served to me by a guy from Virginia. Pre-cooked, he noted that the Arepas are made locally (I would hope so). Furthermore, he admitted he had never had an arepa in his life. AND the most insulting part of the interaction is that he let my arepa slip into melted ice water and tried to put it back on the grill, telling me it would be fine. No sir, that is NOT ok.

2.      I met two production crew members on the metro-rail. I found out, it’s not a local crew. They were both from Washington, DC. They explained that Ultra hires the production companies & that the production companies outsource to labor companies. So the same people essentially are building the light and stage design at festivals across the country. So much for festivals being unique. Isn’t it the people (creators and production staff included) that make festivals special/unique?

3.      Syndicate – The last and probably most obvious reason why Ultra has lost its Miami magic is that it went corporate. According to Google, Ultra now conducts its name-brand spectacle in 29 countries. No wonder it no longer feels like home.

TO SUPPORT OR NOT SUPPORT ULTRA

Why is the cultural betrayal important? The first and foremost reason to keep Ultra Miami is the economic benefit. “But it brings so much money to our city!” is a popular response. Well, wait a minute…

1.      Does Ultra bring money to our city or does Miami Music Week?

2.      Didn’t I just tell you about three non-Miamians working the festival? Is Miami’s labor force benefitting? Friday afternoon rolls around and downtown Miami is a mess for our corporate workers trying to get home (Florida-resident laborers). To be fair, I had a locally-made Arepa, but do we know what kind of deal the organizers are cutting for our people?

3.      Is the festival beneficial for local economics? Part of my ticket is paying for the flight, meals, and hotel rooms for these Non-Floridian residents, such as the guy from Virginia, and the two from Washington, DC.

My Miami Money isn’t going back into Miami. That’s my conclusion. I exclusively attended Ultra this year, and outside of pay for Metro-rail transit, all my money went towards this festival. Was it worth it? Is it worth it for my city?

I did see my dollars be used in a cool, fun way. The Carl Cox megastructure this year was spectacular with synchronized parallel light beams that not only went up and down in rhythm or in unison, but also tilted side to side. That’s technology on a scale I have never seen before at a music festival. So my conclusion is that the money is going into Production. It’s not going into the User Experience. Because if it was about the User Experience…they would have made a flat dancefloor for the Cove. Pyrotechnics, LED lights, Nitrogen gas – sure – but a flat deck to dance? That’s what they chose to skip?

My recommendation is to let Ultra be Ultra. In reference to betrayal, you can’t tame a beast. If they’ll listen, I say take the entire “Resistance” culture out. Make the festival smaller to 3-4 stages which tailors to the pop music attendee population. That way, Biscayne Blvd doesn’t have to be blocked off, benefitting our commuters. Or just take it away, and let live music bands/DJs actually use Bayfront park as it was intended to be used. (When was the last time you noticed a show there?)

We are hurting desperately because Miami has lost its home, its community to corporate music giants. It’s our firemen, our policemen, our trash collectors and trash piles that are being used and perhaps abused. We first saw the sell-out of DJs like Guetta & Kaskade. Now we are seeing the sell-out of music events like Ultra. I suppose by now I’ve reached my conclusion that I do not support “Ultra.” In the past, yes, that name was gold, and can still be held as dear to so many Miamians’ hearts, myself included. But that word means something completely different now.

I want back what “UMF” used to represent. Maybe I’ll have the chance to create something that has to be whispered in the hallways of high school again. As I keep going down this My Miami Music road…thanks for joining me on the journey. There is hope yet.

Church with Aaron Lewis

An unexpected venue for an unexpected visitor. 

Last Wednesday I went to the Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek, about an hour north of South Miami to see the maven on the mic, Aaron Lewis. You may better recognize him as the lead singer of the band, Staind.

I witnessed Staind at the first Welcome to Rockville festival held at the Daytona Speedway last year. Welcome to Rockville is a festival that’s been held in Jacksonville for about 6 or 7 years, until it got so big, that they decided last year post-pandemic to take up the entire racetrack in neighboring Daytona Beach.

It was awesome. 165,000 fans showed up over the course of four days to see a plethora of bands, with the headliner Metallica playing both opening and closing night. It’s now been recorded as the largest Rock event in U.S. history, and this was November when pandemic was still a concern in some states. Well, not Florida! It seemed to be a liberation festival. We were done with masks & isolation. It was time to move forward and onward with our lives. So we celebrated.

Aaron Lewis was the highlight of my experience for the two days I went. His voice caught my attention. I had originally come to see bands like The Offspring and others I can’t even name right now. But Staind. Wow.

Aaron Lewis has a voice that is versatile, magnetic, soulful, and relatable. It’s the kind of voice we all wish we had to sing with instead of the screeching raccoons we probably sound like in the shower (Ok, that may only be me.) But his voice is powerful. And the ranges that guy can throw off the tip of his tongue had me in awe. His voice can go from mellow singing to wide-mouthed howling in an instant. This talent keeps the crowd engaged, and I’m mesmerized by his ability to jump in and out of a cool, smooth alternative rock song to unleash some depth of humanity with a voice that howls, but does not intimidate.

Most heavy metal singers, when I hear their howling, I have often associated with it disgust, a tightening of my body, a turn of the face, or some other kind of physical expression to repel the energy being sent my way. Aaron Lewis is the first singer I stay eyes wide open, relaxed, and almost drawn in like a fly to the light when he sings this way. I promise you, I have never heard anyone else sing like this.

Anyways, this two-hour laidback show last Wednesday did not disappoint. In fact, I was impressed because there were so many chairs lined up. And Aaron Lewis was also sitting down on stage with his guitar, promptly at 8 o’clock. It was like we were all there to sit around a bonfire, eagerly awaiting the next story our camp counselor is tell.

He got deep. He shared about the song leading up to him going to rehab. He spit a line about “bangin’ bitches, I was 20-something” and the crowd is cracking up. It’s somewhat refreshing to hear lingo that isn’t PC be thrown around knowing that he doesn’t mean any harm. It was just a popular phrase, and perhaps the crowd laughed because it reminded us of our youth.

Interesting story about Aaron Lewis – his grandfather was a gold smith. So Aaron, while he loved making music, he trained to be a goldsmith. “I quickly learned I was better at creating than doing the same minutia over and over again.” So his uncle hired him, and after shrinking a woman’s gold bangle in a matter of an instant, he didn’t even know what happened, it just shriveled up, his uncle fired him.

So at his new goldsmith job, he meets the girlfriend of the roommate of the guy who lived with Mike Mushok, the guitarist for Staind. He only got that opportunity because he got fired from his family’s job where he would have been a 3rdgeneration worker. His learning lesson to the crowd was that sometimes things are working out for you, even when they seem like they aren’t.

I mean, the guy is such a bad-ass. The Pavillion as you’re walking into it clearly says No Smoking, and the guy’s on stage nearly chain smoking his menthol Marlboro’s, low key threatening the super drunk woman in the front row. He said there might be a mistake later, as he says, “oopsies” and acts to pretend he’s spilling his drink on what would be her. He also low key insults a guest in the crowd who’s interrupting his goldsmith story. He goes, “I hope your girlfriend smacked you on the back of the head from that one! Actually…you probably don’t have a girlfriend.”

By the end, Aaron Lewis is victorious. He surprises guests with a random rendition of Drive by The Cars. He told the crowd he’s on his third drink, which means shots 10 thru 15. Once I gets to 15 thru 20, then he knows he’s getting into trouble. So he gets up there and starts strumming, “Who’s gonna drive you home, tonight? Who gonna..” And man, it was so beautiful. He goes well that was random. Ah. And that’s the beauty of live music with really good artists.

The reviews walking out of the concert/church/bonfire were positive. I could see and hear people lightened up from his simple, but quality two-hour performance. It’s so refreshing to have Real. In a world of fake, he’s just real. He ended the show by encouraging us all to be Lions. He said the truth is like a lion. Once you set it free from its cage, the truth will defend itself. So be Lions!

I couldn’t relate to that encouragement more. In a world where illusions are honored, let’s fight like Lions for Truth & Freedom. God bless the USA! God bless Florida. God bless our governor. God bless our mayor. God bless our artists. Amen.

Vanity, Money, & the Glass Ceiling

Clubbing.

What a time of life. And I can confidently say that club life is a dying activity. But this article is not about death; it’s about rebirth.

As I do my routine jog around UM campus, I see the youth of today. I look at girls with their grunge Kate Moss looks, boyfriend jeans, slicked back hair. I’m certainly in the future. Androgyny when I was their age consisted of a polo tee from Abercrombie and jeans.

Today it’s cool to look like someone out of a Nirvana meets Shakira music video, girl or boy. How that happened with the educated elite I’m not sure. Laguna Beach I understand. But sometimes the only direction for change is down, depending on your point of view.

Anyways, I write with more seniority. Each and every day. More seniority. 

Time felt weightless until the age of 26. I knew it was all downhill from there. The irony is that I had to go down to come back up. This means I had to let my old self die in order to live again.

On my walk today, I had an epiphany while dancing to the music on my headset. Yes, I still listen to good music. It’s a bit slower now, perhaps more groovy. It still makes me want to dance.

So I pictured myself at the club. I loved the club. The club was good to me and I to it. Dress up. VIP. Drinks all night. 5am closing. Repeat 6x a week if I wished. It was grand.

However, the last time I was at Space I realized how little I enjoyed dancing next to the other people there. It seems the bad-energy or no-energy people outnumbered the good. I was groped twice while simply walking, and yes I pushed them and yelled a shit-ton, embarrassing them. Who taught men to behave this way? Later, I was recruited to a Russian mafia table with like six men who invited me back to their penthouse, when it was already 6am at the club. The whole time I was checking to see if I felt weird in case they drugged my drink. You never know, unless your promoter is pouring the freakin bottle. So I got the hell away from them.

See? Experiences. It is hard to find good people. When I dance on the sidewalk to the music I want, I have space. I don’t have to worry about someone being inappropriate with me. I don’t have to endanger my life with international tourists where I might end up who knows where.

I have personal freedom. So where I might look weird – I’m really just genius, and safe.

And so I questioned – why did I ever love clubbing so much? Now yes, perhaps the culture was different back then, and so was I. But the answer came to me. I loved clubbing so much because I’m a vain person. I needed attention coming from a family and situation that could not afford me much. So when I got on the platform to dance, I felt eyes on me. I got attention because I was a pretty girl. And that felt so good coming from a place where I often felt invisible.

Perhaps that’s why some girls & women continue to dress the way they do. I was never a prostitute or a professional dancer. My first Ultra in 2008 I so desperately wanted to be one of the go-go dancers on a platform. I wanted to dance and express myself to the world. Hear me roar! But instead I would do that at the club for almost a decade – expressing myself. Sometimes dancing to be seen. Sometimes dancing to lose myself.

I still love to dance. I’m not sure where that will take me. In the near future, it will take me to Ultra 2022. 14 years of dance. I can’t believe it. I feel so young on the inside. And look great on the outside if I might say so myself.

Part of my feeling good also comes from knowing I just bought a new luxury car – hot red, hot rod. And while I’m proud I lived up my youth, purchased my own sexy ass car, and hold a career, I’m questioning what’s next. 

I certainly don’t miss club culture based on last impressions, i.e. the subordination of women by men. But I do miss good people. I used to laugh a lot. I used to smile a lot. And perhaps in youth, some innocence is preserved. Generosity is more common. Selfishness hasn’t grown into a terrible soul-eating disease.

I miss good, kind people. All that to say, this proverbial glass ceiling, not in career, but in personal happiness, comes from being selfish & scared. I can’t be anymore of a person than I am now if I don’t let these things go. And it’s a hard place to return to when trust has been burned. 

I’m not a youth, but I have wisdom. And I know being scared & being selfish are only going to get in my way.

I’m trying to trust new people. The right people add a lot of joy to my life. 

And this might be my vanity talking, but I’m aware of special people like me – and the thing about being special is that it’s hard to find the others.

I don’t need a lot of people in my life, but I do need good ones. So I’m on the hunt. Let’s see. You probably won’t find me in the masses anytime soon (lol with the exception of Ultra).

I achieved a socialite status, which is cool to say. And I do have a handful of people that I met through those glory days that I still keep up with. But it’s a fucking revolving door. The new 18-year-olds are out on the scene everyday. Being hip or a socialite today doesn’t indicate long lasting fulfillment or friendships, but it might add some joy.

It’s all a river of change. So don’t let vanity, money, or glass ceilings get in your way. You’re allowed to die & be reborn.

Reality check 1,2 1,2

In today’s post, I go into racism.

Today, as a white woman, I experienced racism.

Racism has a textbook definition as being “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.”

I was chosen as a scapegoat, to take all anger out on, because I’m white. I had a high school friend, someone I’ve known for 15 years and first discovered Space with, commit psychological violence on me, because I’m white. Whenever you use personal details about a person, and weaponize them to make a person feel bad about who he or she is, that’s emotional and psychological warfare. And that was the final straw.

I’m no stranger to abuse, sad to say. But the gift of my experiences is that I can readily identify it. And repeat the advice I’ve been given – that all problems are spiritual problems. And you can’t reason with the devil.

So I removed myself from the situation. I didn’t once return the favor in hurting her because of her race. I didn’t make her feel uncomfortable for who she is. She antagonized me, and was looking for a fight – for three days! Furthermore, I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness my own growth and evolution as a kind, respectful human being.

We can show kindness and respect, without being bullied and abused. Sometimes silence and walking away is the only right answer.

I have finally recovered my good graces and sanity by relocating to a hotel (as we were sharing an AirBnb), but the reality is that Anger exists in the world today.

I had quite a good conversation today with someone about Stoicism. Stoicism is a philosophy that says human life ought to mimic life in nature. In other words, we were all born differently and for different purposes. We can’t all be leaders, and we can’t all be followers. It’s neither wrong to be one or the other. As just as a Tree may want to be a Flower, a Tree just can’t be anything, but a Tree. So let’s appreciate the Tree as it is. Let’s appreciate the Flower as it is. Let’s appreciate others as they are – WITHOUT TRYING TO IMPOSE EQUALITY. Because the truth is, nature is, by physical evidence, not equal. Functions are not equal. It is littered with diversity, and it’s beautiful. THAT’s what makes a dancefloor beautiful.

So the Stoics say, if you’re trying to live a life that is not conforming to the laws of nature, then life will be met with much friction – because it’s unnatural to fight who you are and the role you play in this vast galaxy.

Perhaps too much focus is on our Differences, and that’s what effectively takes the beauty away. If I was trying to look at a colorful forest, and nitpick all the differences between the things in the forest – wouldn’t that take away some of the joy? If I zoomed out and just looked at the vision as a whole, wouldn’t I be less consumed by hostile differences and enjoy the whole? That’s how I’ve been living my life. I grew up AS THE MINORITY in Miami. And my friend knows this, but she picks and chooses what aids her argument.

So when I was attacked today because of my white-ness, I realized that Anger is pervasive and it will manifest in a myriad of ways. Some people choose to be angry at the “system” because their life is hard. Guess what – life is hard for ALOT of people regardless of race. I didn’t get a 100% scholarship to Florida and join a sorority because I was white. I did it because I EARNED the grades. I paid for the sorority MYSELF. I wanted a social life that my parents didn’t give me.

As for my education, my mom took us to a public library growing up, and all people, regardless of race or economic background can access a public library. I have worked really hard for what I have. And it’s not because – I’m white. I dated the son of the richest man in Pennsylvania. He’s white. But that guy didn’t get a college degree, doesn’t hold a steady job. His mom didn’t read to him as a kid I don’t think. THESE are the factors that differentiate people, not race. Lord have mercy. I’m so different from him.

And naturally I’ve been doing a google deep dive because I had never heard of racism against a white person. But I know now what it looks like and feels like. I did read some interesting concepts about “white fragility” and it’s a feasible hypothesis and likelihood this exists. But fragility is different from hostility.

All I’m saying is that tensions are getting tough out there – and dance floors one day may not be a safe place for a diverse crowd.

We don’t have a racism problem, we have an anger problem!

Fight Hate. Fight Anger. It’s not me. Let Jesus heal your heart so you can move on, and live in Peace versus carrying out more Hate.

I’m proud of who I am and how far I’ve come. I embrace diversity. I embrace safety. Stand up for your self-respect and avoid bullies. This is a worthy cause.

The heavens open up to shower a celebration on Green Day fans

Were you there on Sunday? See, the fun part about events is that no one can live the life that can only be filled by your shoes. No one can see all the random, beautiful, ugly that you see or do. That is just for you. But. When it comes to a show. That is a moment we can all share.

And something about getting soaked in the rain, refusing shelter, adds to the glory that is a rock-and-roll moment.

Last night, was like a link conjoining what is the beginning of my musical experience timeline. I was a newborn on the lawn of what used to be call the Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach,  FL. I was thirteen years old, wearing a Gap tank top and Old Navy bottoms. I had no cell phone. I’m not even sure I had money. I hitched a ride with four dudes from my Broadcast magnet class, all skater boys, with one dad driving the mini-van. I didn’t tell my parents I was going. I was “sleeping over at a friend’s,” which I would.

That night changed me. I had no idea who Green Day even was. The following weeks, months, and years, I would listen to their album, “International Superhits,” memorizing all the lyrics. No longer a newborn, but a full-fledge adult, I was FINALLY belting out the lyrics with them live. Why has it been 19 years since I’ve seen them? I couldn’t tell you. Probably the house-head-dom of Miami drowned out the voices of the skater boys, and I swapped bands for DJs. But you know what I realized after last night? You can’t take the Rock out of the Rock girl. 

I was dancing ska – moves I have NEVER before in my life pulled out. It all flowed out organically, musically. I was bopping up and down the aisle and no stadium seating could stop me. I’m not sure what my date thought, but that’s the joy of a good date – you just enjoy the experience while being yourself, and you feel accepted as-is. No acts. No shaming. No expectations except mutual respect and honesty. It was a great date, if you can even call it that. I feel like I just climbed Mt. Everest.

I took my shirt off to put on a tour shirt that he bought me. I soaked that one, too. It was so hot. Sweat was running down my legs from my forest green corduroy mini-skirt to my black converse chucks. I asked him, “Do you mind if I take my shirt off?” And he shakes his head no, offering the explanation, “It’s hot out here!” So I join him shirtless in my black sparkly bra. And i’m rocking and rolling just like the women I first witnessed 19 years ago – when bands like Green Day and Blink 182 could corral women in the crowd to take off their shirts. (Something that would not fly in today’s world.) So I did it voluntarily. And there we were, a shirtless couple making a dash to the front stadium seats to get cooled off by the oncoming rain.

It just so happens that as the rain started, Green Day performed “Wake Me up When September Ends.” A magical moment suspended in time. The lyrics go like this:

“Here comes the rain again

Falling from the stars

Drenched in my pain again

Becoming who we are

As my memory rests

But never forgets what I lost

Wake me up when September ends

Summer has come and passed

The innocent can never last

Wake me up when September ends”

And we got those stanzas twice. It was utterly the coolest rock show I have ever been to in my life. Not that I have been to a ton, but this has to be the definition of what legendary rock shows are made of.

And there I was, making out in the rain with my hot date, us both shirtless, to my favorite band. I’m not sure to what song. But I remember the bliss. We have only kissed up until this point, so the air of innocence and purity and love and joy and rage too, because we’re at a show! All that came up, and again wove right into the fabric of what this show meant for me.

I walked out of that stadium wringing the water from my two French braid pigtails, still in bra, with nothing dry to wear, walking hand-in-hand with my date through a massive exodus. Smiling to the heavens. Luckily the rain had stopped at this point.

It was surprising Green Day didn’t do the tease of coming off and then on again, as is so customary with live music shows. They chose to be different, a one and done type of deal. I suppose there was no way to top the performance as it stood. Not from my angle. As a fine artist knows when his workmanship is complete, so did they.

I got home, saw my thick black eyeliner had smudged it’s way to my cheeks. The markings of a night in reckless abandon, in praise to rock idols. We came and they conquered. It’s now Tuesday and my head and heart are still on cloud 9. Sufficiently bruised up and still tired as the emotions have been riding high since that night, I write to pay homage to that evening. A metamorphosis of sorts took place for me. So much has happened in my life since I was 13 years old. But I’m still that girl. And as Life would have it, I’ve seen the immensity of both beauty and pain. And I had no idea what that would entail. But I made it. I’m here. And so are they. And that’s the beauty of a musical journey in life. We get cut up, bruised up, soaked, thirsty, hot. But then, there’s this bliss. This simple transcendence of harmony. As if everything is right in the world.

That’s what occurred Sunday night. We got that taste of transcendence as if God alone could only make that moment happen for us.

I’m a firm believer that there is a Guiding Hand. And I’m so happy He watched over us that night. That’s one for the books, if there ever was.

And I haven’t even mentioned Weezer or Fall Out Boy who opened for them, who deserve praise in their own right. But this post is about my journey with Green Day. And how I get to share music with you all today with them as the finite kicking-off point.

Thanks for joining me on this ride.

The Dream Life

Here I am. Drinking casaamigos. In the pool at the 1 hotel. Overlooking the sand dunes and ocean. And I’m standing in the same place where I would introduce myself to the notorious DJ Luciano.

Cher. Madonna. Luciano. One-name names are iconic. And this was an iconic setup.

Having posted up at the 1 starting Saturday, I made the move to Treehouse instead of the downtown venture to Space. Why? Because Treehouse is two blocks from the hotel. And Eli & Fur was playing.

Eliza Nobel & Jennifer Skillman (Eli & Fur) 🤣 get it?! Female rockstars.

It was only Eliza playing last night but she was wicked good. I have a whole auto-shazam set to share with you.

So fun news is…Luciano just secured a residence in Miami. So it looks like for the foreseeable future, we will see much more of him.

And the cool thing is…Luciano is a funny guy. One of those people that likes to crack jokes and have a good time. How refreshing. I have met many DJs that are surprisingly introverted. Not this guy. He’s a charmer and a laugher. 

I was proposing a possible project to Luciano. And once he told me we could connect on WhatsApp I perhaps over-gushed with enthusiasm. And his friend ushered us all out of the pool.

When opportunity strikes like that, a girl can only keep her composure for so long. But it seems like a career as a publicist is in the making. I’m looking forward to curating the best channel of events, parties, and people that Miami has to offer.

Cancel culture, cancel music

Cancel culture is wrong. What is the point? Let’s look at the upside and downside.

Upside: There is no reminder of past grievances, so a person may feel more at ease and content in the present moment, being free of the negative connotation of said person or time in history.

Downside: There is no reminder of past grievances, so a person can repeat the grievance, perpetually, until we have a perpetual reminder.

Like Sarah Bond, a lecturer in history at UNC at Chapel Hill, says in a 2011 New York Times article, “Erasing the crimes of the past doesn’t help us avoid them in the future.”

In fact, one may argue that erasing crimes of the past only encourages them to occur in the future. So how naïve and selfish is the cancel culture movement? Are you naïve enough to believe that removing someone’s name or statue will rectify wrongs? Are you selfish enough to realize that you are sacrificing the health of future generations by removing reminders of dark times just so that you feel better?

There is a beautiful podcast, which I can’t remember now, but the author talked about going into dark places and sitting with them. He showed his teenage daughter Auschwitz. He explained that although it was difficult for her, later she would remark as an older person that she was grateful for the experience. It fostered emotional depth in her and added to her emotional maturity. It allowed for transparency on the spectrum of human emotions and the capabilities of others to do wrong. Should we cancel Auschwitz because something bad happened? Should we cancel Adam and Eve because they were wrong? We need dark places, dark reminders, just as we do the light.

And if we start canceling history, which we already have in the University of Miami cancelling culture left to right on its campus, where does it end? What is to stop the momentum of erasing everything that feels uncomfortable? This is highly terrifying, and should be for any who cares about the future generations. What oppression will arise because adults foolishly behaved like children in our day and time? I do not want my place in history with millennials being associated with a generation who could not and would not think for themselves along with the future implications of their actions.

For those that do not know, UM is removing George Merrick’s name from campus. You know Merrick Park? Yes, same guy. He founded the University, and people have effectively ruled to remove his presence. Criminy.

At least the City of Coral Gables has some sense. Their statement:

“Coral Gables founder George Merrick was an urban planning visionary who understood the importance an institution of higher learning would play in developing a world-class community. To make this a reality he donated 160 acres of land and pledged $4 million to build a great university. While like most people he was not perfect, his memory and presence is still very important in and to Coral Gables.”

It is important to understand how this came to pass. Evan Kissner, a 2006 UM graduate, started the petition with the University to remove him. A guy who lives in California effectively made changes in Miami! And that’s fine to have a voice, but why 5,000+ people would follow someone who’s not even a current member of our community or society is beyond me. This isn’t his only petition either, he’s also petitioning to cancel A-Rod from being associated with the University of Miami.

How pompous is this guy to want to make his alma mater free from iniquities? How selfish is he to want to change a community, he’s not even a part of anymore. This is not about catering to a new-world. This is about increasing fear in action. The act of cancelling establishes fear amongst us all. What is acceptable? Will I get cancelled? As Ms. Bond writes, “Romans saw [removal from history] as a punishment worse than execution: the fate of being forgotten.”

What is more terrifying than death? Being forgotten. How do we ensure we’re not removed, and thus forgotten? Be ever so cautious. Don’t ruffle features. Just fit in. You may not be remembered, but at least you won’t be removed.

And I’m not biased here with the University of Miami. I feel the same way about my own alma mater, the University of Florida, removing a chant song from games.

At some point, ambivalence has to come to an end. There is an enemy. And that enemy is silence and groupthink. And the people that lead such movements, like Evan Kissner, who is nearly 3,000 miles away from us, who likely passed the petition by corralling a cohort of emotional, zygotic Generational Z students currently enrolled at UM, are the people we must stand up against. Who will lead Gen Z properly?

Thankfully, there are people like me who understand the implications of such actions. And not all Gen Z thinks along Mr. Kissner’s lines. Amanda Rose, a University of Miami law student and member of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, created a petition to reverse the recent actions by the University of Miami.

So who do you agree with? How will you act? To do nothing is to admit defeat to the oppressor. And in the end, we will be forced to choose a side. Think about your favorite song being cancelled. Are we going to cancel Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” because it’s symbolic for lynching? No? Why, because she’s black? Who makes up these rules?

And this is what I’m talking about.

If you agree with me, you will sign Ms. Rose’s petition and stop the cancel culture momentum in any way we can.

Remember to use logic versus emotion in these circumstances. We must use our brains for the future that is to come.

The Exodus from Pandemic on the First Day of Summer

It was my first time walking into Club Space since pandemic obliterated our very spoiled social lives. I was fresh, having had a Red Bull in hand. It was time to reintroduce myself.

It felt strange and off-kilter, walking in at 8pm on a Sunday, with it not being music week or Art Basel. The greet was the same. ID check. List check. Bag check. Ticket check – and away I went.

There were not a lot of people, but enough to fill out the dance floor. Satori was to play that night. And as to be expected, the first thing I did was take a lap.

The decor is different. Sofas litter the venue, and the Gardens of Babylon hang from the ceiling. It didn’t take me long to notice that all the stages for dancing had been demolished and reconstructed. That long center stage where sexy ladies have danced for a millennia it feels like has been split into two smaller dance platforms. 

This is not the same club I first entered. Nor will it be the same club as it is today, years from now. The most obvious sign of change is that men are allowed to dance on the stages with the women. This must have something to do with equal rights liberation he/me/she/whatever. My comment is that women should have a safe place to dance, and that has always been the stage, keeping the men who do not understand, “No,” away. If I have anything to say about it, separation should still be encouraged.

I’m a fan of etiquette. Bring on change, sure, but some things are in place for tactful reasons.I did enjoy dancing next to this one guy, C. He had a big fan that claps when you flick it closed. We were both wearing sunglasses at night. Perhaps a sign of like-meets-like. But that kind of interaction can be left on the floor. The stage at Space is meant for ladies. So step down guys and let women shine in the limelight. And ladies, if you want to dance with your male genus friends, step down and do it on the floor. You are being quite selfish to those needing safe-haven.

The thing about being there solo, is that I really get to tune in (or tune out) without the noise of other people drowning out my thoughts or my observations. I also get to (or am forced to) meet so many more people as a lone rider.

Let’s talk about the huge role fate has to play, daily in our lives, although we tend to acknowledge Acts of God more-so in our nights out. So I saw my ex-fiancé for the first time since parting ways. And fate would have it that I’m getting a welcomed lap dance from a strange, sexy Brazilian as he’s walking by.

No matter. The irony is that in the year I spent with long-time Space resident DJ Ivano Bellini, we never once went to Space as a couple. To recap, Ivano and I got reconnected through this blog when I interviewed him in 2019. Gnarly to think at 21 yr old I’m dancing my ass off at Space’s 10th anniversary to his set, only to be engaged to him on Space’s 20th. It was a simple match of DJ meets fan and vice versa. It was part-fantasy, at least for as much as my part is to play. And it worked until it didn’t. 

I pondered whether I should say hi. I knew I would have to be the one to approach, post lap-dance. So on my exit out, I said my hello, and it was a kind exchange. Short, sweet. Life keeps going. So we go from the year 2010 to the year 2021, and he’s now my ex-fiancé. And in some ways, I’m still that 18 year old girl discovering Space for the first time. And then I look around and see not only has this place changed, but so have I.

I’m not embarrassed of who I am. I don’t hide behind house music. I acknowledge my proclivity towards love and fantasy (throwback to Serge Devant’s Addicted to Love) and I see how beautiful it is to grow within an environment that has also evolved, while also sticking true to its guns, where ends meet. (I.e. house music self-abandoning, where we can just erase 2015-2017)

Point being, many of us self-abandon, but thankfully I’m one of the ones who has made it back, Alchemist-style. And I look at the 18 year old girls on the stage Sunday night, stammering that at one point in time, that was me, with my girlfriends – and my whole world ahead of me (and my miami music?)

Well, life sure gets weird. From then until now, it’s been a ball. A crawl. Slightly terrifying. Slightly knowing I’ve had some top experiences that most will not.

I’m just thankful to still be doing this, health intact, meeting some of the kindest strangers you may ever come across. The vibrational energy was high Sunday night. 

Kimonos did a very good job building their set with the crowd. The music hit like a heatwave. And the people that intrigued me the most, were mainly recent transplants. Fresh locals, bringing their energy from wherever. And multiple times when I asked, “Why is it you moved here?” The answer came back unanimous – the energy of Miami.

Am I part of this? I can’t help to think that I am. That my life, however big or small, has played a part in this momentum. You know the number of people “doing this” longer than I have? I get why. It’s a home away from home. A home where you are accepted, where you earn respect, and most importantly, where you are encouraged to love and express yourself. No judgments given. And if they are, they’re for fun and jokes. Who wouldn’t want to call a place like that home?

I noticed the newness of Miami that’s going to abound in this new era. I’m thankful for the transplants. I’m thankful for the youth. We needed some fresh blood. Looking forward to the next chapter that’s to be written.

Miami Vampires

It was a terrible weekend in the name of house music and energy.

With all the hype surrounding the arrival of Ricardo Villalobos spinning in Miami, publicity was setting up this weekend to be a grand follow-up to iii points weekend.

Unfortunately, it was an ugly turnout. Not on part of the DJs, as the talent delivered, but ugly on part of the patrons. I could not believe it was the same city that so joyously partook in this ethereal, suspended time-and-space event three weeks ago.

What happened?

Well, on account of Ricardo Villalobos at Space Park Friday – let’s just say I went in with rainbows and butterflies, finally able to see him after missing him at the infamous MMW 20th Anniversary Cocoon party at Trade in 2019. And it went from starry eyed wonder to a deer-in-headlight look that had me shook by night’s end.

You might say, “Well, it’s techno,” or, “The crowd is known for being weird for Ricardo.” No, no, no. It was perhaps the ‘scariest’ crowd I’ve seen since Space 00’s days. In fact, I’m pretty sure I recognized a couple faces from those days. Feelings/memories I’d rather forget. It’s as if the crowd came out of the deepest, darkest recesses of Miami for this event, to say, we’re not gone yet.

Not to say everyone met this criteria. I met a fellow music blogger, her friends, and a former music event partner. But the good energy people were few and far between. And as the sun set, it seemed we all were drawn out of the crowd to find shelter towards the back.

It got to a point where I was physically repelled by energy to enter the center again. Stepping on the grass was like crossing over the Berlin Wall. I could not ethically do that to my body/temple/Self. It was as if an energy wall had been built in a matter of hours. On the outskirts, I was confirming my intuition. I started first by asking the girl in the bathroom line and she laughed. She didn’t want to admit it immediately, but after some coaxing her for an opinion, she nodded her head, saying, “Yes, it’s weird crowd.” Then I met a couple sitting on the sofa under the tent, and they confirmed, that they too were having to stay back from the middle. Then, all the way in the back, I saw the group of eight guys on a bachelor party weekend, who I met upon first entering. They were also needing reprieve.

By 9p, two hours of Ricardo, I was texting my friend to possibly pick me up – as I kept close to the group of eight. The energy was that bad. And at least with them, I felt some safety. In my 16 years of clubbing and music events, this night qualifies as Top 3 bad energy events.

My friend who picked me up was asking what the crowd was like – and I described them as heavy, almost zombie-like, lifeless. And she said it sounded like they were all on Ketamine. I thought it was more so a Heroin effect. I know Molly is going for $200/gram nowadays, if you can even find it. Only the darkness will know what went on that evening.

I came home, cleansed that energy off me best I could, and woke up knowing I had Boris Brejcha that evening. I did not want to go. But like falling off a bicycle, sometimes you get back on and try again – especially if you’ve already purchased tickets.

Well, this time I went with friends, so I felt strength in numbers walking back into that place. And I could almost immediately tell, it was going to be a better night. The crowd did not have that crude heaviness about them.

However, although being a younger demographic for Boris – the energy again was not there. In fact, a group of people would come up to friends and me as we were dancing, and leave us feeling drained, so much so, we had to sit down. This is what is known as Energy Vampires, people. They cannot internally generate power to support a beaming aura, so they take the happiness and energetic fire of others. I didn’t even realize it until a friend pointed it out. Later on in the evening, we would shun them energetically, turn our backs, not engage in conversation – and we would be able to continue dancing in our own right – although sometimes not easy to fully enjoy if such usurpers are standing in aura, which extends 6 ft beyond you. (Is it a coincidence this is also pandemic measure of influence?)

And I will illustrate the difference in what is instead constructive interaction, the interaction we look for when we pay for a house music event. Later in the evening, when the vampires finally left us, I saw a young female, by herself – just trying to enjoy herself. Mind you a lot of the crowd was not invested in the music. Too much talking. Not enough dancing. Barely legal kids at VIP tables, too nervous to show authentic expression, or know anything about anything. I KNOW this about the crowd, because Boris threw down his newest track, “Spicy,” which is a fire track – and it seemed like I was the only one who lost their marbles while dancing. Wow. That was so good. And I can glow thinking on that. It’s just unfortunate that the majority of attendees did not plug in like that. Or at least the attendees that I was close enough to witness.

Back to my point, the girl. She had these big black sunglasses on, tinted so dark I couldn’t see her eyes. She wore all black. Height 5’2. Hair in pigtails. And when I thought hope might be lost for all, especially the younger generation, she and I had our moment. I stood about 2 feet from her, chucked a smile her way – maybe she would see it, maybe not if her eyes were closed – but she smiled softly back – and I knew she saw me. We acknowledged each other’s presence and joy. And I turned my head back towards the DJ, knowing with amplified energy now that one other person was appreciating this as much as I was. We were now sharing and building something bigger than either of us alone. This is etiquette. This is called being in the music.

It’s not for show. I didn’t go up to her to start talking incessantly. I didn’t throw my hands in her face to get her attention. How crude and vulgar it is for a being to mess with others’ auras that way. It’s not pleasant or cute – especially if you’re a 40-something-year-old doing it.

Energy exchange is an art. We bring the best of ourselves and share it with those worthy of it. That moment with that girl, is what house music is about. No words needed.

So the spirits soaring on Virginia Key and Damian Lazarus at Space Park three weeks ago, seemed to be pummeled over by a certain darkness, lameness, lifelessness this past weekend. A dull beating that made my energy contract, not expand.

There were some shimmers of light – as mentioned by some essential interactions I had – but generally speaking, the bad outweighed the good.

I was happy to sell my Ricardo ticket for Sunday at Space, and instead spent the day at the beach with my best friend. Sometimes, all you need is that quality time with people who build you up, not tear you down.

Word to the wise: Protect your energy. And if you choose to be on the dance floor, be highly selective, Miamians. We are living in different times.

iii points secret weekend energy has already escaped us.

iii points shines a light

It was a weekend of liberation, of soul nourishment. The beach breeze seemed to cast a charm on the key. And in its charm was clarity. We saw with naked eyes, artistic, humanly expression centered around music – something that’s been void in Miami the past 15 months.

The reckless abandon, the kindness on people’s faces, the deep appreciation for what we were all there to experience. It was where peace met welcomed chaos. Nature contributed with its sun, sand, wind, ocean, dust, dirt, rocks, trees. Humans contributed with their spirit, music, food, drinks, expressions, security, cleanliness. Technology contributed with its lights, sound, moving displays (shoutout to the massive disco ball that moved!).

And I know the word magical is overused, but this quite frankly, was a magical time in Miami, and it will not be repeated – just because of the sophisticated layout, reduced capacity, freshness of people on the scene, and the authentic love. I mean, the whole weekend was filled with so much spirit and love – more so than I’ve seen in quite some time at music festivals.

It’s as if locals and out-of-towners were humbled by recent history, and showed up with genuine earnestness. With a lot of egos left at home, many of us with very low expectations, willing, hoping for any taste of the musical life we once knew and shared, we were brought back to life with the vibrancy that a weekend like this provided. I think most of us were willing to take anything, and this was a well-executed, never-before-done “secret” event weekend on Virginia Key.

There was connection. I spoke with so many people. They’re all pretty special because my weekend would not be the same without them. And so I want to give a sincere shoutout to all the people that made this event happen. The odds were stacked against you, and you succeeded!! THANK YOU!

Now let’s get into the music. Here are some highlights, based on my opinion, which also considers the opinions of those I spoke with. Take what you want and leave the rest!

FRIDAY

  1. Luciano – Gorgeous sunset set. I was guardrail and would make friends that I would again see same time, same place on Saturday. It was fun, magnetic. I didn’t leave the rail once.
  2. Thunderpony – He’s a local who brought the heat to the stage Friday Day 1, setting up for Luciano at sunset. We expect the best from the big names, but when a local, rising star makes headway like that, recognition needs to be given where recognition is due. He is definitely one to watch out for. I really enjoyed when he dropped a remix of, “Deep End” by Foushee. That was a fun way to get the crowd hyped up.

SATURDAY

  1. Green Velvet – MVP – wow. I’ve seen him before at Space which was a b2b set with Mark Knight?? I wasn’t impressed. But this set. This set was a shirtless, booty-shaking, threesome-making, set your spirit free kind of experience. I made friends in this set at the guardrail. It is simply one of those sets, you cannot properly into words. Afterwards in the parking lot, an old friend was blasting what happened to be Green Velvet b2b w Carl Cox on SoundCloud. I definitely recommend finding that set if you want a taste of what these two hours brought out in people.
  2. Michael Bibi – comes in close second as he opened up for Green Velvet. This was a banger, where the crowd just went nuts from the very beginning. I’ve seen Bibi before at a Epic hotel pool party during MMW in 2019, and his set was just okay. So again, this was a very welcomed surprise. The bartender (front left) told me, “I’m going to jizz my pants so hard when he comes on!” And LOL I saw her 5 minutes after the start and she was losing it, hugging her bartender friend. This brought laughing and smiles to my face. We’re here to be happy, joyous, and free. I got confirmation from others and got the most reactions on IG from the Bibi clip I posted; as some telltale signs, this guy rocked it.

Notable mentions:

  • Gerd Janson – I saw just 10-15 minutes of the closing of his set and wow. He might of made it into my top 3 had I seen his set versus Green Velvet. He is definitely on my radar of DJs to catch next.
  • Eric Prydz – Oh PRYDZ. This was also a special set for me. Closing out the festival with my new guardrail friends. I really just let go, and had a different kind of experience. Not in my ranking for similar reason above. Seeing Prydz at Ultra’s 20th anniversary in 2018 stands out, with the 3-D imaging display, acoustics, set layout, space to dance near the front of the Carl Cox tent. I feel like Prydz toned it down as some point before his set ended at iii points Saturday night. It didn’t have a legendary finish, but again, it’s Prydz. And he can do what he like – and we’ll probably like it anyways. 🙂
  • Dixon – I saw a very good video and have historically heard very good things about him. He’s on radar.
  • Trikk – Another one I did not see, but heard good things. On radar.
  • Danyelino – I do not know why this guy has not gotten more recognition. I have been seeing him spin at Space Techno Loft since 2009?? I mean, the guy dropped music Saturday that other artists do not set up the beat for. There is something special about this guy. He was playing b2b with Brother Dan. But the real gems I think came from Danyelino. Put him on your radar?

I’m not impressed list:

  • Bedouin – wanted its Miami fan base to go deaf. I really don’t like it when DJs try to “fit” their set times. Luciano was on the money. Bedouin felt like they were trying too hard following Luciano. I’ve seen them before at Wynwood Factory, and it seemed they played more authentically there. With 20 minutes left, they were killing the music selection, but the bass was just far too much to handle. Not worth listening to any music over that ruckus.I did like when they dropped an intercession of “California Dreamin.” It made me want to dance, a welcomed refresher, but as a whole, the set fell flat, with what seemed like they were making up for with decibel levels.
  • Black Coffee – He didn’t have an easy job coming on after Bedouin. He also had to deafen the crowd. I was half way back in the crowd and it sounded like he was drilling out eardrums. No need for that. I did like his remix of Purple Rain. That was pretty. But in general, the set felt very much commercial.

Alright, that about does it for the iii points Monday wrap-up. There’s more to say on last night’s Lazarus soirée at Space Park, the official closing party for the iii points/secret project festival. But a woman needs her beauty sleep. 😉

WE DID IT!!!