As dance music leans further mainstream, the hedonistic allure of the underground continues to fade. Hope for an authentic rave experience has all but disappeared into the rearview — stories aging ravers tell to their younger counterparts about warehouses in places where condos now loom.
Yet, in an era of raging '90s nostalgia, many in dance music hope to reclaim the spirit of the old school — a return to the roots of the culture, to more inclusive spaces. Miami artist collective Jezebel Sound has spent the past year curating events that recapture that spirit and have triumphantly spotlighted the local dance-music scene.
Long before it organized its first event, the collective's founders, Juan Mejia, Luis Yepez, and Camilo Cano, saw a need within the community for something that broke from the status quo of Miami club life.
Mejia says Jezebel was a reaction to the many issues that surfaced amid the pandemic. As industry norms were questioned, safety and inclusivity took center stage. While some found these conversations difficult, they inspired the trio to create something fresh.
"Jezebel in itself is us reacting to the things that we didn't want to see in our own scene and environment," Mejia says. "Bringing back the hedonistic culture that rave culture originally was founded upon and creating and curating a more sustainable and more inclusive approach to nightlife that strays away from the commercial and feeds more into specifically curated party nights with great DJs."
Longtime DJs all, Mejia, Yepez, and Cano realized a well of untapped talent existed in Miami: talented artists who consistently have to play down their abilities as support for headliners. Their solution was to curate nights around locals. They still book headlining acts like Kim Ann Foxman, DJ Swisha, and Kush Jones. But locals occupy the prime-time spots. This commitment to cultivating and celebrating Miami's talent has been unwavering.
At the time, the founders, who've known one another since middle school, hadn't yet conceived of an artist collective. Mejia originally envisioned Jezebel as a clothing brand. Yet when the opportunity to throw a friend's birthday party arose, they decided the name would fit their budding events brand.
Jezebel's first show took place on a Tuesday night — and it was a hit. The collective was asked back for more Tuesday-night shows. And as its community coalesced, the party moved to Thursdays at ATV Records.
"We experienced the beginning of the exit from the pandemic guidelines. So we saw our own residency go through curfew and out. And because of that restart, which was super-vital for us, we were able to get placed into the middle of the whole electronic music scene in Miami." Mejia explains. "For a lot of people, it's a gradual progression towards the scene. We were kind of slapped right in the middle of it, and we had to adapt in real time to how it was moving. A year in, we've reached this point where we know exactly where we stand musically and where we stand in regards to the quality of the party that we want to achieve."
The collective has also expanded the footprint of the brand. It recently released its first limited-edition T-shirt design, introducing the clothing line Mejia envisioned. The bold abstract design is inspired by South American almanacs of the 1960s and '70s.
"I'm very inspired by the different approaches to art around the world," Mejia says. "And in the beginning, it was mostly trying to bring back the '90s, classic rave style — hardcore graphics with a very electronic feel. But then we started to shift into something that could be more — I wouldn't say inclusive, but more global."
Jezebel also recently became a record label, releasing its first compilation. It's a direct reflection of its mission to elevate the talents of Miami's thriving dance-music artists.
"Most of these local artists are usually used to support gigs and opening gigs and are used to a slow or more slower tempo, pace of action," Mejia explains. "The compilation directly reflects our approach to that. I personally asked most of the artists to give me something more high-energy, more elevated music. So the compilation itself sonically has a lot of attitude, and it's very explosive."
"Danny has been a huge inspiration for us since we first started DJ'ing," Mejia says. "He personifies the type of DJ that we aim to be."
The second show fulfills yet another goal: Jezebel Year One at the Center for Subtropical Affairs will be the group's first outdoor event. The bill is a fitting celebration for a Miami collective. Local hero Coffintexts will bring that lowdown Miami bass sound. New York DJ Elise's tropical-infused beats will be perfect for the gorgeous garden setting, and at the helm will be New Jersey soul assassin Ase Manual.
"We've always wanted to do a party outdoors — you know, under the moonlight," Mejia says. "It's not going to be two of the same type of parties. It's going to be two completely different things. So people can get a taste of what Jezebel really is through different types of partying."
As the founders reflect on a successful first year, they're pumped to continue their mission of bringing those old-school rave vibes back to Miami.
"Year one was more like: Let's get our feet wet. Let's meet everyone. Let's get acquainted with the city. Let's lay the foundation. Let's do right by our people. Let's create these relationships and establish friendships that will carry on into the coming years," Mejia says. "Year two is to say: We're here, we're loud, and we're not fucking around. And we're here to stay. It's all about attitude. We're here, and we're not going anywhere."
Jezebel Year One. With Danny Daze, Milo Ziro, and Jan Anthony. 11 p.m. Saturday, January 15, at Floyd, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-608-2824; floydmiami.com. Tickets cost $10 to $30 via eventbrite.com.
Jezebel Year One. With Ase Manual, Coffintexts, and Elisa. 10 p.m. Friday, January 21, at Center for Subtropical Affairs, 7145 NW First Ct., Miami; cstamiami.org. Tickets cost $10 to $30 via eventbrite.com.