This past March, the music critics over at the New York Times ran a piece titled "Why We’re Not Making Plans for Coachella and Bonnaroo." In it, the authors raise several valid criticisms and concerns regarding the current state of American music festivals. Chief among the points discussed is the uncomfortably similar lineups this summer’s various large-scale music gatherings have to offer. “Want to see LCD Soundsystem? You can catch them at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Panorama, and Way Home,” journalist Ben Ratliff observes. “Major Lazer? Coachella, Sasquatch, Firefly and Panorama.” He goes on, but you get the idea.
Although Miamians are certainly among those who’d like to see LCD Soundsystem, as evidenced by their headlining slot on the just-announced III Points 2016 lineup, Ratliff does have a point. As with any innovation that strikes a societal nerve or addresses a collective need, the explosion in popularity enjoyed by music festivals in the last decade has inevitably resulted in a fine-tuning and “perfecting” of the formula. For as wonderful as Bonnaroo is, we doubt its organizers could have predicted that disparate acts — in the case of 2016, artists like rapper J. Cole or pop starlet Ellie Goulding — would one day come to be the rule, rather than the exception, for their ostensibly jam band-oriented love fest. What festivals have gained in revenue, advertising, and crossover appeal they have more than lost in distinctive character.
Which brings us to III Points. Since 2013, the festival has consistently booked prominent and beloved acts that might not otherwise swing by the Sunshine State. It wasn't like inaugural headliner DJ Shadow was itching to come back after the Mansion fiasco. The overall quality of the 2013 lineup, which saw Shadow joined by the likes of Jamie xx, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, and Miami natives such as Dude Skywalker, set a high bar for subsequent years to follow. Luckily for us, yesterday’s lineup continues a winning streak that is now four years strong.
Damian Lazarus performing at last year's III Points.
Photo by Karli Evans
What has set III Points apart from other festivals — barring perhaps this week’s Moogfest in North Carolina — is a strong focus on forward-thinking electronic acts. For as many III Points 2016 artists that’ll get attendees body movin’, there are just as many that will likely confound concert-goers in — hopefully — a good way. The oppressive drones of Andy Stott and the sometimes-inscrutable internet weirdness of Oneohtrix Point Never (both on this year's lineup) are a very far cry from the crowd-pleasing bass drops, cake-throws, and populist EDM anthems offered by Ultra Music Festival. Important though the axiom of PLUR may be, sometimes it's refreshing to swap fist-pumping for chin stroking during live electronic shows. Thankfully, III Points seems to agree.
Even with a healthy serving of the avant-garde, III Points’ 2016 roster retains what has made previous lineups so great, namely an appreciation for Miami’s own as well as for those that made such a festival conceivable. Much of yesterday’s social media hubbub surrounded artists currently enjoying what could very well be the peaks of their careers, such as bizarro pop-maximalist SOPHIE and Adult Swim staple Flying Lotus. However, the presence of innovators such as hip-hop trailblazer and New Order confidant Arthur Baker along with Miami fixtures like Kazoots, DJ Le Spam, Psychic Mirrors, and Otto Von Schirach is just as, if not more exciting than, the buzzier bands. Assuming the money and investments are there, it’s easy to book a festival and sell tickets on big name recognition alone — but it’s another thing entirely to successfully construct a compelling lineup with over 100 acts of varying popularity.
III Points 2015.
Photo by Alex Markow
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As far as festival lineups go, III Points has eschewed the obvious in favor of the intriguing. While the distinctive qualities of Bonnaroo and Coachella continue to evaporate into the outdoor festival morass, it’s exciting to see a festival — in our own backyard, no less — wear its weirdness on its sleeve.