Music Festivals

Does South Florida Need — or Even Want — the Miami Beach Pop Festival?

Does South Florida Need — or Even Want — the Miami Beach Pop Festival?
George Martinez

The Miami Herald reported last Friday that plans are afoot to throw a three-day music festival December 14 through 16 on the sands of South Beach between Fifth and Tenth Streets. Organizers reportedly envision the Miami Beach Pop Festival as the Magic City's answer to Coachella — though Pop Festival's proposed 30,000 capacity is well below the 100,000-people-a-day crowds of Coachella or, for that matter, Miami's own Ultra Music Festival. The Miami Beach Pop Festival's numbers would be more akin to Fort Lauderdale's Tortuga Music Festival, which also takes place on a beach.

As a music aficionado, I love the idea of being able to roll out of bed to see a versatile lineup of world-class musicians and entertainers within walking distance. But as a South Beach resident, I think these plans sound like a nightmare. On normal weekends, locals already steer clear of that stretch of beach. On any given Sunday, it's a debauched mess where music is blasting at concert-level decibels, glass bottles and condom wrappers litter the sand, fights break out at any moment, and the ocean is a toilet for those who can't handle the combination of liquor and sunshine. Three days of a festival on that site would only magnify those issues by a factor of 300.

Even more annoying for locals and beach lovers will be the weeks surrounding the festival. For much of the year during Art Basel, during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and various other special events, land that's supposed to be public is converted into a fenced-off construction zone. Barefoot walkers have to be wary of debris and nails littering the ground, while joggers running along the sea oats would be wise to unplug their earbuds to listen for construction vehicles zooming across the sand like it's U.S. 1 without those pesky traffic lights. The breakdown of the Miami Beach Pop Festival would stretch out the unavailability of this area to the people by weeks — even if organizers can convert the massive tent that houses Scope Art Fair held on the same site into a facility fit for a massive music festival in the five days their scheduling allows. (This seems unlikely, but we'll take their word for it.)

If it sounded like Miami Beach Pop Festival would be something special, these inconveniences might be worth the effort. But the organizers wish list of performers sounds run-of-the-mill. They say they're going after artists such as Bruno Mars, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Justin Timberlake, Luis Fonsi, Nicki Minaj, and Jimmy Buffett. Lamar has played in South Florida three times in the past year, Mars was just here in October, Timberlake is coming in May, and I can drive to any one of the various Margaritaville chains if I wanted to listen to Jimmy fucking Buffett.

Miami Beach Pop Festival is still in the planning stages. City leaders are mulling over approval, saying they want to hear from the residents, who have gained a reputation as curmudgeons toward this kind of event. So perhaps Miami Beach won't approve, which might save the organizers from themselves. Multiday music festivals seem to be forming a bubble of overkill nearly as big as the price of cryptocurrency. The big ones like Coachella and Bonnaroo sell out before lineups are announced, but a couple of more disasters like last year's Fyre Festival or the buyer's remorse from this year's lackluster Coachella lineup might slow demand. South Florida already has a multitude of music fests, including Ultra, III Points, Tortuga, and smaller ones such as House of Creatives and GroundUp.

If organizers plan to add another festival to that mix, they had better make something extraordinary, unique, and beautiful. Otherwise, let us celebrate something that already shares those qualities: our beach.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland