Before Alexis Mincolla, vocalist for the heavy industrial band 3teeth, found his creative base in L.A. and went on to open for bands like Tool, Rammstein, Ministry, and HIM, he called Miami home. But Mincolla felt he was outside the fringes of the city's nightlife options, and he set out to curate events that catered to an underground, alternative crowd.
"We were trying to recreate nightlife that we wanted there, because at the time there was not a whole lot of options. It was like sun-soaked, white linen, Nikki Beach bullshit parties that we weren't really into. We were trying to give it a little bit of a darker edge," he remembers.
Mincolla partnered with party promoter Samuel Baum to create events like Basel Castle at the Overthrow, and booked Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott years before they found mainstream success. Now Mincolla returns to Miami with his own successful band to play Dark Basel, a pre-Art Basel show at the Ground presented by Anti-Language Records and Too Much Love magazine with fellow L.A. bands Vowws and Bestial Mouths, and South Florida bands Astari Nite, Sci-Fi Affair, and Laboratory. DJ's DeadHead and Rippin Kittin will hit the decks, and fetish performer Val Vampyre promises a surprise during her special performance.
Val Vampyre typically performs at parties thrown by Fetish Factory, the Fort Lauderdale store that has catered to South Florida's fetish community for over two decades. Vampyre was excited to accept an invitation to perform at Dark Basel because she finds common threads between the fetish community and the darkwave and industrial crowds that listen to the bands that are playing the event. She says it was music that first drew her into the fetish party scene.
"Every other club I would go to, I was like, eh, same thing in every single club," she says. "I feel like the whole dark scene — industrial or dark new wave, all that — always really connects. Fetish Factory plays that kind of music. We're always on the dark side."
Unlike the parties where she usually performs, Dark Basel will not require a strict dress code, but goth, leather, or fetish wear is encouraged. Her performance at the event will also differ in another significant way; "I do not get nude," Vampyre says. Performing at an event with bands like 3teeth and Astari Nite makes sense, she says. "It's all connected. Fetish is not so far away from goth and punk and all that — it just has a little bit of sex appeal to it. So I don't think we're much different at all."
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In the last year, Fetish Factory has made a concerted effort to include bands in their parties, which have historically been soundtracked by DJ's. Astari Nite has performed at Fetish Factory parties, and singer Mychael Ghost has seen the dark scene expand over the decade his band has been active in South Florida playing events like Respectable Street's MASS and the Kitchen Club parties. "I believe that the scene is starting to grow a bit more. You're starting to see a few more bands that are dabbling into darkwave and gothic rock," he says, but he adds that Dark Basel is unique because of its focus on live music.
Though the varying scenes represented at Dark Basel are united under related umbrella terms, there's nothing "alternative" about ascribing to rigidly defined genre limitations. Vowws synth player Rizz says her band tends to stick out on darkwave lineups because of their large swath of musical influences.Their latest single "Forget Your Finery" sounds more like '60s surf-rock than '80s synthpop or '90s industrial. More than genre, she says, it's a certain element of perceived danger in the art of Dark Basel's performers that connects their sounds, but that doesn't mean the music can't appeal to a wider audience.
"We have a style of writing that's heavily influenced by popular music," she says of her band, "stuff that was in the top pop 40 but that was cool. Nirvana was in the Top 40. Blur, Elastica, Oasis... they had this kind of danger about them, but they still just wrote really hooky, catchy pop songs."