If you still need proof that Miami has grown an underground electronic dance music scene to rival international meccas like London and Berlin, look no further than the success of Underground Story.
Five years ago, it was practically inconceivable for promoters to pull off an underground house and techno night at a South Beach megaclub. And it's still no small feat in 2014, with commercial music and VIP culture continuing to rule nightlife on the beach.
But Underground Story, the brainchild of local promotions mainstays Link and Miami Rebels, didn't just happen overnight. It took years of cultivating a loyal following among local heads at a smaller and more intimate Miami Beach venue: Treehouse.
By the time they set out to launch Underground Story at Story Miami in January 2013, Link and Miami Rebels had already helped create substantial local demand for underground music on the beach. All they needed was a bigger boat.
"The move to Story was a stretch, going from a 500-person venue to a 1,500-person venue," Link's Davide and Miami Rebels' Coloma tell Crossfade.
"The feel and experience that you get from our celebrations at Treehouse and Story are completely different," they explain. "Treehouse being dark and intimate, gives us an opportunity to bring talent that has never graced our city in the past. But we always thought that a big dance arena like Story would be so much better with quality house and techno that takes a risk, is underground in nature, and leaves the crowd with questions and curiosity for more."
"We have had an amazing year full of challenges and experiences," Davide and Coloma add. "The Underground Story night is very special because it is the true melting pot that Miami is known for, all coming together on a big dance floor with exceptional sound and lighting. Our success is only in our survival and we consider that, with Story, we have many more challenges to conquer, and with the help of a great team, we are well on our way."
It was certainly nothing short of an epic first year for Underground Story, with some of the global underground's biggest names gracing the DJ booth. So even if the promoters remain wary of the challenges facing them as they continue running against the tide of commercial nightlife on South Beach, ongoing success must surely be in the cards if their 2014 artist bookings are anything like last year's.
"There were many highlights throughout the year," they reminisce. "To name a few: Magda played amazing and had the room in a frenzy; Claude VonStroke and J.Phlip brought pure energy; Dubfire, M.A.N.D.Y., Davide Squillace in July; Danny Tenaglia for the kickoff of the Music On residency with Marco Carola on Halloween; Paco Osuna, Pete Tong and Justin Martin, Sasha, Luciano for Winter Music Conference; Seth Troxler; both of the Martinez Brothers' appearances; Tale of Us rocking it; Jamie Jones was amazing; Fur Coat was so good; Tony Rohr killed it; Nicole Moudaber; Victor Calderone was so solid; Lee Burridge; and Behrouz."
"Wow, we have been blessed with artists trusting us to play in the venue and with a venue filled with extremely competent and professional staff."
Of course, getting their very own stage at Ultra Music Festival this year is a whole new level of accomplishment for Link, Miami Rebels, and Underground Story, showing how far the crew has come in its effort to bring Miami's underground scene to the world's attention.
"Our efforts in pushing underground music throughout the years gained enough recognition, with the success of Treehouse and during Winter Music Conference," Davide and Coloma explain. "Our work and exposure at Story were important stepping stones in Ultra seeing our artists as the wave of the future. The relationships that Ultra has with the rest of the programming year-round at Story and LIV was also a vital part of connecting the dots. We are incredibly excited for this year's lineup, as well as the layout of the stage.
"You can expect to be blown away by the Underground Story stage," they promise. "It is going to be a bit hidden, with capacity for 1,000 people -- we want to keep it intimate -- and with the DJ booth much closer to the crowd than is typical at festivals.
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"The lights are going to be more ambient and at a slower pace -- more dreamy than extreme," Davide and Coloma add. "Link and Miami Rebels residents are playing on Saturday and this makes us so damn happy. They deserve it, and it's going to be a pleasure to see them on the decks!
"The talent is absolutely the best in the world, from pioneers to the ones leading the next waves to come. Expect surprises."
Underground Story, Presented by Story Miami and Link & Miami Rebels. As part of Ultra Music Festival 2014. Friday and Sunday, March 28 to 30, 2014. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $399.95 plus fees via ultratix.ticketfreak.com. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.