Little Haiti's Magic City Studios Debuts for Art Basel

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If NYC is the city that never sleeps, what does that make Miami?

Last night, the fairly new Magic City Studios — a property that includes two main buildings, the Factory and the Warehouse — hosted day one of five of the Art Basel Concert Series curated by the team behind III Points. This is year four of the series, but this year's installation marks a shift away from Mana Wynwood and into Little Haiti.

Each evening begins at 10 p.m. and closes around 5 a.m. That being said, arrive at 10 on the dot and both spaces are largely ghost towns. One single, solitary food truck sat lonely in the gravel lot poised to be ground zero of an “innovation district,” the vision of developer Tony Cho and investor Bob Zangrillo.

Come midnight, however, like moths to a flame, the grounds began to swell with bodies, most drawn to the thumping music from either side of NE Fourth Avenue. Meanwhile, others were caught in the web of the glittering and titillating rooms housing naked female mannequins and the beautiful, gleaming art installations at the Magic City Sculpture Garden.  Does that make Miami the city that simultaneously arrives late and wakes up early for its merrymaking? While that’s a mouthful sure to never catch on, the truth is Miami loves its block parties. Thus, the engineers of these events meet that demand by expanding into new territory. Little Haiti has been earmarked as the next hotspot following the oversaturation of midtown, the Design District, and Wynwood, clogged as they are by high rent, unbearable traffic, and a general loss of that new-car smell.

Practically named for their functional identities, the Factory and the Warehouse look to serve as the bright and shiny new things of the area. While the lineup this week is a clever mix of festival headliners such as James Blake, Nick Murphy (AKA Chet Faker), and lesser-known but no-less-veteran DJs, these are still corporate-sponsored raves. Beck's and Red Bull logos are prominently splattered across lit-up signs and walls, their financial auras radiating through the fog of smoke machines.

That being said, it’s difficult for anyone to put on any large-scale event of any quality without healthy financial backing, and — credit where credit is due — the Art Basel Concert Series by III Points is very well-done. Spacious areas for dancing or lounging, sound systems that fill the body as much as the air, and an overall inviting and safe atmosphere — it’s all properly organized and fastidiously prepared.  But it also feels like we’ve been here before. That’s not necessarily a negative critique, but it isn’t a glowing endorsement either. It certainly helps that III Points has the experience to recreate what was so successful in Wynwood, but what’s next? It’s a pertinent question that addresses not only this event but this neighborhood. Little Haiti already boasts a rich culture — does it need an infusion of an altogether different one?

If we’re to go by the comments of the developers who told the Miami Herald that they want to “embrace the history” and “create jobs in the community,” then this can only be viewed as a step in the right direction. As for this concert series, the issue is: Can the event live up to its promises? If you’re a night owl looking for an all-around good time, then yes. If you’re looking for a typical festival with set times, then you're shit out of luck. Opening night was a free-for-all of rotating DJs, and the big get of the night, James Blake, didn’t show up until 3 a.m. for a DJ set, something not mentioned in any of the promotional material III Points put out. For fans expecting a live concert, it was, understandably, a frustrating disappointment.

Still, the bad doesn’t seem so distressing when the general good is hearty and abundant. Let’s hope the same can be said for the future of live music in Little Haiti this week and going forward.

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