It'd be a mistake to underestimate Fanciulli or his bona fides as DJ: His career has spanned more than a decade, and he possesses a peerless eloquence when he mixes, often blending pounding high-stakes techno with euphoric tech-house.
Even after spending several years traveling around the world — with the accumulated frequent flyer miles to match — Fanciulli has several fond memories of playing in Miami. Besides reminiscing on playing a 17-hour back-to-back set with Miami house legend Oscar G, Fanciulli said one of his favorite occasions is still the first time he ever traveled to Miami. It was 2004, and like many international DJs, he'd found himself in the Magic City for that year's edition of Winter Music Conference.
“It was for a Yoshitoshi / Deep Dish party on the Space Terrace,” Fanciulli recalls, referencing one of the preeminent duos in deep house music. Besides being his first trip to Miami, the British DJ shares that the outing also marked the first time he played in the city. "I played Saturday night into Sunday morning. I just remember the atmosphere, and I said ‘Wow, there is a club that opens at 10 at night and ends 5 in the afternoon the next day.’ This was the start of something special in Miami.”
Well-earned nostalgia aside, Fanciulli's return to his old stomping grounds will see him play the Terrace's coveted sunrise slot between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Newcomers to dance music sometimes assume that when DJs step behind the decks, they're going to unleash a sustained 135 BPM assault for hours on end. Fanciulli has acquired a patience-centric perspective from his time touring and mixing before international audiences. He is sagacious and methodical with track selection, and does his best not to go too slow or too fast, but keep the pacing juuuust right for a prolonged period of time. He knows a sunrise set is certainly not the time to give a crowd of starry-eyed ravers a heart attack.
“If I go in with guns blazing at 3 a.m., people aren’t going to want to stay until 4 or 5 p.m," Fanciulli admits. "You don’t need to bang it out. You just need to play good music for people to dance to; I haven’t played Space in a while, but I do know that room well, [so] I’m looking forward to it."
2019 was a year of soaring success for Fanciulli. His record label Saved Records is celebrating its fifteenth year on the scene, and marked the milestone by putting out its 200th release. The house music-oriented label recently continued the celebrations by putting out “Saved 15,” a compilation album with selections from the imprint. Its artists include Carlo Lio, as well as Fanciulli's brother Mark, who also helped to cofound Saved.
Fanciulli's also kept busy organizing parties of his own. Last summer, he debuted his Ibiza-based series, Dance or Die, at the club Ushuaïa. The open-air parties — which see the stage littered with dozens of Las Vegas Strip-styled neon signs that flicker in time with the music—brought the likes of Black Coffee, Loco Dice and Fanciulli’s longtime friend and Ultra Music Festival VIP, Carl Cox.
Looking ahead, Fanciulli's goal for 2020 is to bring his series of parties to different nightlife hubs all over the world, including Miami. “We loved the concept. It took ages to build with the neon signs and the way the stage was setup at Ushuaïa. We are now trying to figure out how we can take it to major cites; all of our signs are 100% neon and very delicate, and there are no LEDs on the stage. We don’t want to do it without recreating the actual visual experience and not have the fans getting the full performance.”
While bimonthly residencies at Space were common for Fanciulli in the early aughts, he now comes to Miami primarily for two events: the simultaneous one-two of Winter Music Conference and Ultra, plus Art Basel. He's regularly played at Miami's preeminent music festival since 2007. Art Basel, Fanciulli admits, might be upstaging WMC these days: “I hate to say it because I love the Winter Music Conference and Ultra weekend, but Art Basel is becoming just as good as that week.”
He shares he was excited to hear about Ultra’s return to Bayfront Park in 2020 following its less-than-ideal excursion to Virginia Key for its 2019 outing.
“The stage [the Resistance Megastructure at Virginia Key] was great, but the venue was totally wrong,” Fanciulli lamented. “I was so thrilled to hear the news about Bayfront, because I’m obviously very close with the festival. I had a long conversation with Russel [Faibisch] and Adam [Ruskoff] after the 2019 show. You could see in them they lost their home, but they had no choice. I’m so glad the city brought it back, not just for the festival, but for the city as well.” Naturally, Fanciulli will be playing Ultra this year.
Whether he's playing a club or a festival, Fanciulli is a sonic juggernaut who refuses to be pigeonholed to one sound; he's grateful he's had the opportunity to share his love of music with dancers and listeners for as long as he has.
“I was so lucky when I was 19 and got support from some major DJs — people like Pete Tong and Carl Cox — and even local DJs in my hometown,” Fanciulli says when asked if he believes in luck. “There are so many more talented acts that just don’t get the break.”
Nic Fanciulli. With Marco Carola, Loco Dice, and Joey Daniel. 11 p.m. Friday, December 6, at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; clubspace.com. Tickets cost $48.24 to $96.47 via eventbrite.com.