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Art Basel Week Live Music: No Velvet Ropes

iii Points
FKA Twigs performs during iii Points Art Basel concert series in 2014.

Live music has been a part of Art Basel week since the early years, but often it's been a side dish of the visual art shows or served with a heap of art-world exclusivity.

Over the years, music promoters have built a music-festival component to Miami Art Week meant to welcome crowds regardless of their standing in the world of art collection.

One of the newer groups is iii Points (of festival fame), of which David Sinopoli is co-founder. Even as an insider he experienced what he calls "the Miami process": shows without ticketed entry, guarded by bouncers who allow people entry based on their perceived cool factor.

It was at LCD Soundsystem's Art Basel show in 2010 at the Raleigh Hotel.

"I didn’t have a ticket," he recalls. "And I was a Miami enthusiast of music that works in the industry that would pay to see a [band], but just couldn’t get in 'cause it was too, like, 'see and be seen.' And it was other people throwing a party... in our city, and people from the city couldn’t even get in. It was hard."

You may be familiar with this. It's quintessential bougie Basel stuff, right? Just Google “Art Basel parties you can’t get into.” The Miami New Times has even rounded some up.

"It’s uber snobby," Sinopoli says. "And Miami has that already, but I think Art Basel takes it to a whole different level."

Credit Gramps via Facebook
Patio dancing at Gramps Bar in Wynwood during Miami Art Week 2015.

Sinopoli's iii Points festival has brought alternative electronica, hip-hop and rock and roll acts to Wynwood each October for the last three years. During Basel week, the festival brand does the same thing. This year, it’s indie electronica producer Jamie xx and Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, among others.

Both shows are open to the public. You buy a ticket, you get in. No coolness check.

And Stephany Torres, with longtime Miami party-scene staple Poplife, 

"As Basel has grown it has gone from being really exclusive, to everyone just coming in from the community and so yeah as it has grown it’s definitely going for the people," she says.

Poplife used to book a lot of the shows at Grand Central in downtown Miami. This week, the company's big production is a series of shows from local artists like the Jacuzzi Boys, and some from out of town.

There was an RSVP list to get in for free -- that’s just Miami -- but it’s closed now, so tickets cost $10. And that’s about the price you’ll pay to see a lot of the live music this week.

Mikey Ramirez works with Gramps Bar in Wynwood on booking live music. He owns Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale.

"If you can offer the same amount of entertainment and impact with the less amount of stress, I think that's the kind of route that you might want to go, and that's the kind of route that we went with this year," he says.

Gramps has a packed weekend lineup of small acts with $5 covers. 

But Ramirez says for local clubs, it adds up.


"The more people that get involved in doing these type of events, especially live music events that are open to the public, it benefits not only the community but it benefits the economy," he says.

All these promoters feel like they put on these shows for the betterment of South Florida.

"The geography within South Florida," Torres says, "it’s really hard to bring down certain artists. A lot of the time they’re a little afraid because they feel that maybe the public isn’t ready or it’s way too far down, so we are the link between that."

Even at local shows, there’s still gonna be some exclusivity. Two years ago, iii Points brought Kendrick Lamar down for a VIP Basel show.

"I think Miami people should be putting on the best concerts here in Miami during Art Basel," says iii Points' Sinopoli. "I don’t care that a brand wants to be exclusive and not let us in. I don’t get resentful to it. I just want there to be other options."

And there are. Bars and clubs on the beach and the mainland are booked with live music this week. And chances are you can get in.

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