III Points 2017, Day Two: Nicolas Jaar, Mark Ronson, Willow Smith, and Others

Despite bouts of rain, III Points 2017 continued last night with a slew of pounding performances. Here's what went down:

Virgo
Virgo
Photo by George Martinez

Virgo
6:20 p.m. on the Mind Melt stage
As the sun began setting behind the giant Mind Melt stage disco ball, alien water creature Virgo welcomed early stragglers with siren songs from her Water Planet EP, flanked by visuals from the immersive video game she developed to accompany the collection of songs. She punched up the danceability of songs like “Disappear” for the live set, a wise decision for the III Points vet who upgraded from last year's intimate Sunset @ Noon stage to an early main stage set this year. It took some time for her to get comfortable with the newfound space. She paced around her synth for the majority of the set, but the audience appeared unfazed by her timidity as her pounding beats overtook the outdoor festival grounds. By the time she came around to her last song, she’d released all hesitation and jumped along with the crowd after finding her bearings on the larger stage. – Celia Almeida

Nick LeónEXPAND
Nick León
Photo by George Martinez

Nick León
7:15 on the Main Frame stage
Slapping down rhythmic percussion against warbling soundscapes, local Miami artist and Space Tapes label head Nick León reminded III Points audiences why he’s one of the most exciting talents working in the city. Blending his experience producing for South Florida rappers like Denzel Curry with his ongoing fascination and involvement with the legendary Warp Records, León had his Main Frame audience grooving by 7:30, long before the insanity and idiocy of the evening had truly gotten underway. Characteristic of both his age and his influences, León’s music offers a, well, warped sensibility to a generation reared on Majestic Casual; the synths might glisten and capture your ear, but it might be a minute or two before they actually make you dance. Although there was the occasional slip into plaintive, keyboard-prominent moments, the majority of his set was defined by his expert blending of atmospheric production with intricate drum patterns. Flying Lotus, eat your heart out. – Zach Schlein

BadbadnotgoodEXPAND
Badbadnotgood
Photo by George Martinez

Badbadnotgood
8:20 on the Mind Melt stage
Considering the art-centric, left field nature of III Points, Canadian outfit, Badbadnotgood was both out of place and a perfect selection for the festival. The mostly instrumental group is comprised of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, Leland Whitty on saxophone, and Alexander Sowinski on drums. Appearing on the Mind Melt stage shortly after the most sustained period of rain Saturday night, Badbadnotgood provided a smooth transition into the evening’s shenanigans like a jazzy intro to a modern day hip-hop album. Alternating between the classical and the eccentric, the four-piece made sense on the III Points roster insofar as they don’t quite fit any one classification, like many of the other acts, or art pieces, or for that matter, some of the people. Perhaps the harshest criticism of a Badbadnotgood set is that, as far as the festival is concerned, they weren’t loud enough or weird enough…at first. Like most of us fighting the puddles and the muddy ditches, they took some time finding their feet, but once they did, they found themselves on solid ground from there on out. – Angel Melendez

Lil BEXPAND
Lil B
Photo by George Martinez

Lil B
9:15 p.m. on the Main Frame stage
If you're a prolific rapper with an enormous cult following and you're asked to devise a festival set, what do you play? For Lil B — AKA the Basedgod AKA Brandon McCartney AKA the Rawest Rapper Alive — whose discography consists of dozens of mixtapes and literally thousands of tracks, the answer is simple: Play the hits. Play the tracks that will ensure the maximum amount of litness in the audience, from the old classics such as "Like a Martian" to the new, from his latest tape Black Ken. Sure, he may have gotten winded a few times, but when you're in the presence of the Basedgod that doesn't matter much, especially when the audience is as energetic and mosh-happy as one at an '80s Black Flag show. The best part? Thanks to Lil B, either mistakenly or intentionally, this festival shall forevermore be known as "ILL Points." Figaro! – Doug Markowitz

Willow Smith
Willow Smith
Photo by George Martinez

Willow Smith
10:20 p.m. on the Main Frame stage
It would be unfair to lay into Willow Smith, the 16-year-old daughter of actor Will Smith, for being privileged enough to have been born already with a foot in the door of the entertainment industry. Willow is talented, but she definitely has some maturing to do as a performer before she becomes a star in her own right. She seemed taken aback at the large crowd gathered to see her at the Main Frame stage. "This is wild!" she stammered before beginning her set. That nervous energy seemed to carry on into her first song, with her vocals sounding a bit wobbly, although her confidence grew with each song. Focusing mainly on her work off of her debut album, Ardipithecus, and her EP, Mellifluous, her songs ranged from neo-soul to experimental pop and alternative rock. Where Willow could stand to grow the most is in her lyrics. Introducing a new song, she asked the crowd if they knew someone who "sucked the life" right out of them, before kicking off the track that started with, "You suck the life right out of me," when good symbolism could have expressed that better. On "IDK," she sings, "When I say goodbye to the third dimension/When I say goodbye to all this, amnesia," it sounds all bit like metaphysical clichés. It will be interesting to see Willow's talent grow as she ages, as she continues to shed the "Whip My Hair" tween persona and turn into a voice that represents her generation. – Jose D. Duran

Nicolas Jaar
Nicolas Jaar
Photo by George Martinez

Nicolas Jaar
11 p.m. on the Mind Melt stage
Nicolas Jaar is a master of maximizing tension for ultimate effect. The Chilean-American producer’s songs teeter somewhere between alienating sound collages and stirring electronic symphonies; on their own, either one of these styles would be listenable enough. But it’s that ongoing question when listening to Jaar – which are we, the audience, going to be treated to? – that makes him such a distinctive artist. Both modes were on display last night when Jaar took to the Mind Melt stage. Unlike his DJ set at III Points 2015, where Jaar was beset by a broken A/C and challenged audiences with the likes of Steve Reich, last night’s live performance comprised solely of his own original material. It would be a bit of time before Jaar launched into anything recognizable, choosing instead to build anticipation with drones and displaced vocal samples. From “Three Sides of Nazareth” onward, Jaar’s set covered the expanse of his discography, reaching all the way back to early singles and set closers “El Bandido” and “Mi Mujer,” to tracks off his most recent album, last year’s Sirens. Jaar offered a prime example of how to do more with less, dispensing with garish visuals and intricate lights shows in favor of little more than smoke and blinding lights. Jaar may not have drawn the same massive crowd as fellow headliner Gorillaz the prior evening, but those who did attend were given a rare opportunity to watch a master at work. –Zach Schlein

Mr Twin SisterEXPAND
Mr Twin Sister
Photo by George Martinez

Mr Twin Sister
11:05 p.m. on the S3ctor 3 stage
Often classified as chillwave or dream pop, the reality is Mr Twin Sister owes its sound to acts like Sade and Nile Rodgers. (Seriously, music journalists need to stop coming up with nonsense genres that describe sounds that already exist.) It's soul, funk, and pop all wrapped up in a smooth, neat package. Unfortunately, the band's set was marred with technical problems, which seems to be an ongoing problem at the S3ctor 3 stage. The band scrambled for the first 15 minutes of the scheduled set times working on getting everything in order. By the time they started performing, Andrea Estella's vocals sounded so muffled that the lyrics were basically unintelligible. Not sure if it was bad acoustics or sound board issues that caused the problem, but its was a pity that Estella's vocals weren't crystal clear during the set, because the band's soft-rock ethos was a welcome respite from the louder performances throughout the festival. – Jose D. Duran

Mark Ronson and Kevin ParkerEXPAND
Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker
Photo by George Martinez

Mark Ronson
11:10 p.m. on the Main Frame stage
In a set that spanned old school hip-hop, trap, and 70s funk, Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker made the III Points Main Stage their own private party. The pair were not at all interested in trying out an obtuse, artsy set at the festival. Instead, they hit the decks with songs they knew to be crowd pleasers, but made room to play some of their personal favorites, too. Ronson and Parker took turns behind the booth, but Ronson took the lead, putting his spin on everything from Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” to the Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine.” Parker played his original demo version of the song that eventually became Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion,” and a half dozen songs from Tame Impala’s psychedelic synth exploration Currents elicited the most enthusiastic crowd responses. Ronson offered tribute to his late friend and collaborator Amy Winehouse with her song “Back to Black,” and the two played an unfinished song they’re working on with SZA; a disco funk stomper in the vein of Sister Sledge. Of course, Ronson couldn’t pass up the chance to play “Uptown Funk,” the most infectious song he’s ever produced and a summation of the neo-funk aesthetic he’s perfected over the years as a producer. But judging from the muted crowd sing-a-long, the world still needs some time to recover from the thousands of times it played on the radio at the height of its popularity. – Celia Almeida

Skepta
12:40 a.m. on the Main Frame stage
Paul Revere's midnight riders can put away their lanterns; the British have invaded. Skepta, the London-bred rapper who popularized the grime genre abroad, powered through a set of hits new and old. Spitting his technical, speedy rhymes while jumping up, down, and down the stage, his performance impressed in both its finesse and its range. "Shutdown," "That's Not Me," "No Security," and other well-known tracks were heard, but so was a classic freestyle battle of the mics between Skepta and one of his Boy Better Know label associates. That's what made the show most special. In a U.K. rap scene that's moving sonically toward the blowhard bombast of American hip-hop, Skepta still reminds us of where he came from and what makes grime so unique and thrilling. Without that, even a foreigner is just another rapper. – Doug Markowitz

Kaytranada
1:40 a.m. on the Main Frame stage
Despite an early morning start time inside on the Main Frame stage, Kaytranada had one of the healthiest crowds all night. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Willow Smith, Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker, and Skepta all preceded the Haitian-born Canadian producer. But it was hardly incidental that so many stuck around for the man responsible for one of 2016’s best albums, 99.9%. A quick glance around the room and it was easy to see, between the flashes of pulsating lights, that Miami was ready for Kaytranada, with a chorus of voices singing along to the songs he was spinning. The DJ set felt, on its surface, like it was meant for fans of his work, but damn near every track Kaytranada sent coursing through the late-night crowd was danceable and rousing. He was a bright spot through the haze of cloying weed smoke and a jump start to the waning hours of III Points Saturday that very likely propelled soggy attendees into the second half of their night. – Angel Melendez

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