You may be headed to III Points this weekend to see the big names, like the Gorillaz or the xx. But there are artists that you should be just as excited to experience as the players at the top of the bill. III Points isn’t just about Florida-exclusive performances from longtime favorites. It’s also about discovery. This is the next wave of greats, the avant-garde of popular music. Prepare to tremble in their presence.
1. Arca & Jesse Kanda. Ladies, gentlemen, and those that refuse to conform, this is it. This is the III Points act that you simply must see. Forget the cartoons playing the mainstage on Friday night: at this set you’ll see bizarre, disturbing videos scrounged from the sick depths of the internet coupled with the intense, cathartic mix-and-match method of producer Arca’s uncompromising DJing. He doesn’t just play the music: he jumps on the decks, into the crowd, shouts, demands, begs us to peel off our inhibitions like yesterday’s rotten skin. Believe us when we say: if you miss this fucking show you will regret it for the rest of your life. 9:15 p.m. Friday, October 13, on the Main Frame stage.
2. Skepta. Still skeptical of UK rap? Across the pond a genuine new wave of talented, skillful MCs has emerged within London’s urban music scene, but Americans have yet to warm to the cold bars and colder synths of the style known as grime. Let Skepta, the most significant force in Black British music since Dizzee Rascal in the mid-aughts, be your guide. He’s an elder statesman of the scene on a victory lap following his album Konnichiwa, hit singles “Shutdown” and “That’s Not Me,” and so many awards that he’s rejected some. Better bundle up, Miami: Skeppy’s about to shut down III Points. 12:40 a.m. Sunday, October 15, on the Main Frame stage.
3. Teklife featuring DJ Spinn & DJ Earl. True Chicago footwork has to be seen to be believed. Over ferocious, 160-bpm tracks, dancers move their feet at hyper-speed, competing in graceful, feverish feats of athleticism. It can be intimidating to watch, which may explain why the scene remains a largely underground concern, with small but passionate pieces across the globe. With two of the best footwork DJs in the game, the veteran DJ Spinn and the prodigy DJ Earl, both of the revered collective Teklife, playing a showcase at III Points, hopefully Miami can become the next hotspot for this intense, under-appreciated genre. 10:15 p.m. Sunday, October 15, on the White Dragon stage.
4. Yves Tumor. Electronic music heads know that when Warp Records signs artists, they’re a big deal. Take Yves Tumor, an essential member of a wave of black, experimental artists like Dedekind Cut and Chino Amobi who are redefining ambient music. Tumor, real name Sean Bowie, released an album, Experiencing the Deposit of Faith, just weeks ago. It’s a collection of soothing tones and abrasive beats, a work of art that’s hard to explain but easy to enjoy: Nicolas Jaar, an equally audacious fellow III Points performer, described his reaction to the record like a beautiful, colorful bird. 9:45 p.m. Saturday, October 14, on the Mind Melt stage.
5. Kelsey Lu. Every year, III Points finds an artist making the music of the future with instruments of the past. Last year it was Dawn of Midi, with a clubby take on jazz. This year, it’s Kelsey Lu, a classically-trained cellist with a voice that sounds simultaneously polished and raw, whose famous fans include Dev Hynes and Oneohtrix Point Never. With sparse arrangements that recall the rough, empty spaces of the American interior, she sits at the crossroads between an experimental composer like Mica Levi and a passionate pop singer like Björk - that’s right, we’re comparing her to Björk. She’s the real deal. 10:05 p.m. Saturday, October 14, on the S3ctor 3 stage.
6. Actress. Nobody expected anything new from London DJ and producer Darren Cunningham, AKA Actress, following his difficult 2014 LP Ghettoville. The man had retired. He was calling it quits. But apparently he spoke too soon: this year, he returned with a fifth album, AZD, a record of spacious, pumping ambient techno that evoked a shiny, conflicted future where chrome decorates artworks and architecture instead of the mouth of a suicidal War Boy. His III Points set has been tagged with “Live,” meaning it’ll hopefully be more than a standard DJ set. What he’ll do remains to be seen, but the outlook is bright. 8 p.m. Friday, October 13, on the Main Frame stage.
7. Kali Uchis. “Can I get a kiss?” Those five words, from Tyler, the Creator’s “See You Again” might be all you know of Kali Uchis, the Colombian-American chanteuse who’s collaborated with the rapper since his 2015 album, Cherry Bomb. But look deeper, and you’ll find her solo work is just as hypnotically romantic as Tyler’s hit, from the sensual 2015 EP Por Vida to her poppier recent singles. Plus, her music videos are also intensely stylish, with aesthetics taken from 50s chola-chic (“Loner”) and fluorescent '80s flair ripped from the scenes of Miami Vice (“Tyrant,” featuring Jorja Smith). Can we make her set last forever? 10:45 p.m. Friday, October 13, on the S3ector 3 stage.
8. Serpentwithfeet. You have to be some kind of mad genius to use a classical sample in an R&B song. It shouldn’t work. But by God (and possibly Satan), Serpentwithfeet, the bearded, nose-ringed, glitter-caked Baltimore native also known as Josiah Wise found a way, looping the climax of Berlioz’s epic “March to the Scaffold” in the track “four ethers.” With a searing, trilling voice the sirens themselves couldn’t replicate, the singer delivers soul-rending messages of heartbreak and occult influence over mystical, boundary-pushing production. He’s also opening for Grizzly Bear at the Fillmore next month in addition to his III Points set. 7:10 p.m. Saturday, October 14, on the Mind Melt stage.
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9. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Clergy often talk of a “calling,” a moment they knew they had to serve something beyond themselves. Something similar happened to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith when she happened upon the Buchla 100 Series modular synthesizer, as classical and revered as an instrument can get when it comes to electronics. The Berklee College of Music student ditched her folk band and began writing intense, complex, and stunningly beautiful compositions with the Buchla synth. Using traditional instruments and highly-clustered, natural-sounding synth tones in a brilliant collage, the results, compiled on her album Ears, are simply divine. 7 p.m. Friday, October 13, on the Main Frame stage.
10. Abra. Out of all the alt-R&B acts at III Points this year (and there are quite a few), Abra is one of the most exciting. She’s associated with Atlanta’s Awful Records, the underground collective that birthed rising stars like Playboi Carti as well as scum-rap weirdos like Slug Christ and the founder, Father. This self-proclaimed “Darkwave Duchess” delivers a moody, synthy, nearly gothic take on the Atlanta trap sound. And if you think she’s a bit reserved on wax, rest assured: her confident live act has been the toast of this past festival season. 9:35 p.m. Friday, October 13, on the S3ctor 3 stage.