As a college student in Gainesville, I'd recently discovered LCD Soundsystem, which was set to headline that year's edition of the festival. The band's sophomore album, Sound of Silver, was always in front of the stack records I kept next to my turntable. I knew every word, beat, bleep, and bloop. The band inspired many, like me, to buy their own drum machines. I cherish my Korg Volca Beats and still use it regularly. So, when I heard LCD Soundsystem was playing in Miami, I immediately bought a ticket.
I had never heard of III Points, but it didn't matter much. Back then, a weekend pass was only a hundred bucks — a small price to see the electropunk legends.
Of course, nature got in the way that weekend, as it is wont to do in Miami. Hurricane Matthew looked nasty, and though it didn't do much damage to the Magic City, LCD Soundsystem dropped from the fest (as did Oneohtrix Point Never and Earl Sweatshirt).
Disappointed and despondent, I drove down to Miami anyway, 400 miles on the day of the festival, taking the long, western route down the peninsula from Gainesville to avoid the storm, which was hugging the East Coast on its way up. It was well after midnight by the time I made it into Mana. I found my way to Dixon's set and danced my ass off. It was the first time I'd experienced anything resembling a club night, and I fell in love.
The rest of the weekend was great, despite yet partially because of all the dropped acts. There were people there, but it was certainly not crowded. The art exhibits were entrancing, as were the pounding electronic sets and the outlandish clothing of festival-goers. I had grown up in South Florida, sure, but the suburbs of Broward County could not prepare me for this. It was the first time I experienced Miami, outside of a short sojourn I took with my father to see a slimy jeweler downtown, and the handful of ramshackle punk shows I attended at Churchill's Pub when I was in high school. (The venue never seemed to check IDs.)
This year at III Points, I was as excited to see the Strokes as I'd been to see LCD Soundsystem in '16. The New Abnormal has been on repeat for me over the last few months, and I've been into the band since I first saw the music video for "Juicebox" on MTV2's Rock Countdown when I was in the fifth grade.
Of course, it started pouring right when they were set to go on, and anxiety struck. Could this be a repeat of 2016's mass cancellation? No way. This is just what happens in Miami.
I took shelter beneath a golf cart, and the guy sitting next to me, who was visiting from Los Angeles, talked my ear off about how Miami was one of the world's great club cities, far superior to Brooklyn, and on par with Berlin or Ibiza.
As the rain let up and Julian Casablancas began his banter, walking a narrow line between douchey and charming, a wave of relief seemed to wash over the crowd. Though this was far from the most exciting set at III Points, and I have a feeling LCD Soundsystem would have similarly underwhelmed had they played back in 2016. Seeing your heroes is not all this festival is about. It's also about stunting, shooting the shit, dancing with friends and strangers alike.
Most of all, though, it's about discovery.
Part of the Miami code is to complain about these things. Part of that same code, however, is to find a way around them. I was pissed that there wasn't even a bathroom sink to drink from, as there had been in years prior, and Liquid Death — the only water available at the festival — was being sold for $6 a pop. That said, the cans were easy enough to steal when the barbacks loading them looked away. By Saturday, it even seemed the III Points organizers wanted people to take the cans. When I walked in that night, there was a half-full box sitting on a concrete slab.
This all signifies how characteristically Miami III Points is.
Walking around the festival gives one a taste of everything they might experience by living here. It seemed like every person I'd ever matched with on Tinder was somewhere in the crowd. I got caught in the rain immediately after sweating on the dance floor, only to start dancing and sweating as soon as I began to dry off from the rain. I felt welcome to explore areas that seemed they were supposed to be closed off.
Zhu's crowd at Main Frame featured a pitch-black room, which, once illuminated with a phone flashlight, turned out to be filled with traffic cones, barricades, and a single bottle of motor oil. Was this supposed to be an art installation? Or did the organizers forget to put up a "Do Not Enter" sign? Either way, it was an interesting photo shoot for the 'Gram. A stone's throw away, Miami's own Natalia Roth played to a small yet active crowd at Door IV. The spacious, outdoor dance floor brought life-giving fresh air.
Later, I sat on a parker silver Nissan Maxima with standard Florida plates that may have belonged to a nearby resident — though it was trapped inside the festival grounds. There I rested while listening to the second half of Three 6 Mafia's set through a chainlink fence. When the duo asked where the best strip club in Miami was, I thought I heard "E11even" shouted in unison.
Every so often at III Points, no matter where I was, I looked up at the purple sky, interpreting shapes out of the clouds above me, as a child would. From within this after-hours playground, the skyscrapers in the distance were stunning as ever. There were equal parts hip-hop, pop, electronic, and indie-rock from some of the best in the biz. And I was reminded, more than ever before, that Miami is one of a kind.