Look Alive Fest 2015 Was a Very Different Side of Art Basel

Wet streets and way too many rowdy party options made this Friday during Art Basel Miami Beach a time to seek refuge from two kinds of storms.

Over in Little Haiti, at Churchill’s, was a safe — albeit loud — space where people who both create and genuinely love music gathered to hear some new tunes as well as to sit at the feet of masters – rock-electronic legend Silver Apples’ Simeon Coxe III and Detroit noise overlords Wolf Eyes.

This is Miami-based special events collective Quiet Mind Recordings' fourth year hosting this very uniquely curated event. In 2013, they hosted two days at Gramps and Churchill’s, headlined by Wolf Eyes and Indian Jewelry. Last year, it was a three-day affair with Iceage, Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), and Miss Pussycat. But this rainy weekend, noise types who'd played at Satellite Art Fair earlier in the night and Miami's music elite all readied themselves to absorb the genius of giants. These two acts have pushed the boundaries of music to its limits and, at times, even further, forcing it to evolve. Thus the ways and means that musicians have to express themselves also have been able to expand.

The night easily flowed through Churchill’s, act after act melted smoothly into each other. Electronic and experimental rock, punk and noise acts Other Body, Treasure Teeth, Snakehole, and New York’s Eartheater kept the energy high but the feels relaxed. As usual, Rat Bastard brought in true talents to make a hell of a lot of noise and clear out the room at the end of the night. This year, guitarist Ava Mendoza and drummer Greg Fox from New York were his cohorts in this extremely loud endeavor.

Silver Apples was originally active from 1967 to ’70 with songwriter and composer Simeon Coxe III and drummer Danny Taylor. Coxe's sound came from a mutant musical lab with 12 oscillators featuring sound filters, telegraph keys, and other gear. It’s a hell of a setup that he invented. Taylor passed away in 2005, and though Coxe created a new Silver Apples band in the ‘90s, he now performs solo.

A hat with a feather on his crown, he sang simply into a mic, turning knobs on his homemade sound machine. It was intimate but dynamic, a vibe aided by the blue lighting. The songs offered a serenity that wasn’t static. Rumbles and beats spread out over the entranced crowd, which grew more lively as time passed. It was like a little magical Art Basel therapy — a moment of true brilliance in a sea of sameness.

As he disassembled, Guardian Alien’s Greg Fox (Teeth Mountain, Dan Deacon, Liturgy) put everyone in a trance with his drum skills. Current Miami twosome Snakehole brought sparkly beauty with their shimmering dresses and the unbridled screams of the darkest punk to the party.

All in sunglasses and armed with their instruments of choice, including a sax and harmonica, Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young, John Olson, and Jim Baljo hit the stage, bringing the drone of noise to the fest with an hour-long set. 

The rain was still drizzling as Rat cleaned out the place with insanely loud noisy sounds. And despite the volume, the people looked tranquil, as if they’d been purged of the polish of Art Basel by the sounds of the night.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy