Music Festivals

I Was a Festival Virgin

Day 3 at III Points
Day 3 at III Points Amadeus McCaskill
click to enlarge Day 3 at III Points - AMADEUS MCCASKILL
Day 3 at III Points
Amadeus McCaskill
Until this past weekend, when III Points took over Wynwood, I had never been to a music festival. They’re a rite of passage for American youth, yet I’d somehow stayed away for 22 years. How? Well, for one, I'm a poor millennial who can barely afford to eat, let alone drop hundreds of dollars on tickets. But let's not dwell on that.

My avoidance comes from the fact I am — what's the point of hiding it? — a music snob. When you're a snob, you want the best of everything, and until now, I thought that meant solo gigs when it came to live music. You can't get intimacy at a festival. The sound bleeds between stages. Your favorite artists usually perform for a fraction of their average time, and sets often coincide, so you can't see everyone you want. Everything is wildly expensive. What self-respecting music fan would bother?

Most fans, obviously. Festivals might be expensive and shitty, but they're usually the main way to see your favorite acts nowadays. And if the bill is right, fests give you more bang for your buck.

That's what intrigued me about III Points. Every year, the small festival offers the best lineup of all South Florida's half-dozen or so festivals, along with art installations, panels, afterparties, and other diversions. It's basically a nonstop party for cool people with good taste, and had it not been for Hurricane Matthew, I certainly would have been there last year. Could this be the festival I've been looking for?

In a word: absolutely.

Throughout the weekend, people pointed out to me that III Points isn’t the average festival. It’s smaller: Crossing the grounds from the indoor Main Frame stage to the outdoor S3ctor 3 takes a mere five minutes. Unlike Ultra or Rolling Loud, it's not beholden to genre restrictions: I saw DJs like Jacques Greene and rappers like Skepta, but also rock bands like Gorillaz and boundary-pushing acts like Arca. The food, though pricey, was culled from excellent local vendors such as Coyo Taco and Pizza Tropical. And the other attendees, dressed in expressive outfits, didn’t fit the standard festival stereotypes. There weren’t obnoxious douche-bros or hippie deadheads, and there wasn’t a culturally insensitive outfit to be seen. As far as I could tell, most people were courteous, respectful, and simply looking for a good time.

It was a perfect environment to explore the festival atmosphere, but for me, there was a problem. Sometimes, while watching an act I’d longed to see, I thought, What if I’m missing out on something better? What if, just yards away at a different stage, an astounding talent was blowing away everyone in the vicinity? What if my friends were there, having fun and bonding without me? What if I was wasting my time?

The paradox of choice is that it’s impossible to know which is superior. These thoughts would creep up on me as late night turned to early morning. The headliners had finished, and all the spectators had converged on Main Frame to hear an all-star DJ set. I would look at the people around me and wonder why I didn’t feel as satisfied as they looked. Was it the music? Was I simply not drunk enough? Was it something deeper within me, an emptiness that pleasure alone couldn’t sate?

By the final night, after all the biggest names had come and gone, I was less worried about all of that. I dressed in my least flashy clothes and danced the night away. I enjoyed the company of good friends and overpriced alcohol. I lost my supper in a restroom toilet. Early Monday morning, exhausted from three nights of hedonistic glee, I left the party early. Yes, there are larger events, and III Points might return with an even better lineup next year, but you know what they say: There’s nothing like the first time.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Douglas Markowitz is a former music and arts editorial intern for Miami New Times. Born and raised in South Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before earning a bachelor's in communications from University of North Florida. He writes freelance about music, art, film, and other subjects.