Music Festivals

DJ Tennis Wants to Show You How It's Done During Rakastella

DJ Tennis hopes you will enjoy the sunrise.
DJ Tennis hopes you will enjoy the sunrise. Photo by Tasya Menaker
Almost every music festival dreams of expansion: more days, bigger lineups, bigger stages, more LEDs, more metal, and more people.

Yet, Rakastella, a 17-hour festival tucked away in Virginia Key Beach Park during Miami Art Week, is one whose founders intentionally keep production and talent limited.

"We always thought one day and one night with the sunrise is the essence of the festival," Italian producer and festival cofounder DJ Tennis tells New Times. "We want to give people one day, even if it's less cost-effective on our end."

Naturally, DJ Tennis (AKA Manfredi Romano) is on the lineup, but on December 3, his impressive track work will find its match in Seth Troxler, a vinyl-crazed cornerstone of electronic music culture. Romano's track selection can include deep, heady techno, melodic rhymes, euphoria-dripping house music, disco, and anything else left on the table.

"Seth and I have played a few times together," he says. "The amazing thing about playing with Seth is that there is nothing to expect — you can't expect something in particular. We have various musical tastes, and we love so many different genres and eras. It is always something special. I don't think there is an expectation on what to hear."

Rakastella (Finnish for "to make love") is spearheaded by Rebecca "Becks" Lange; DJ Tennis and his Life & Death label; the Innervisions record label, including the DJ/producer Âme; and Miami's Will Renuart. Every year, it brings together international and local talent spinning against Biscayne Bay's picturesque backdrop.

"We're extremely excited that we have been able to work on so many editions," Romano says. "We grew a lot and had a lot of hurdles to execute a festival. It's a 360-degree musical approach with international artists. We were the first festival to work with Art Basel. It can be challenging, but we are growing and have a strong following."  The 52-year-old producer took the moniker DJ Tennis in 2010 after being a tour manager for punk bands. He worked with acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Tortoise, and Fugazi before transitioning to electronic music when he founded Italy's first electronic music booking agency, Daze. Romano then spearheaded one of the most revered electronic labels, Life & Death, which has released music by dance-music juggernauts like Tale of Us and Axel Boman.

The pandemic gave Romano time to shift back to the studio and get closer to his production roots.

"During the pandemic, I got into the studio much more and kept that with me," he explains. "I'm touring a little less and focusing on production. I am collaborating with different artists like LP Giobbi and Joseph Ashworth on an album."

Virginia Key has proven to be difficult terrain for local music festivals. From the mom-and-pop festivals to the titans, few can traverse the island's environmental concerns, city approval, and local politics for a picture-perfect location.

As former New Times writer Douglas Markowitz remarked in 2019, "There are no condos in sight, just unspoiled beach. You see the cars passing on the causeway in the distance. You see Orion in the sky. You see a couple of dudes pissing in the water, but you decide to ignore them."

"We do our best to keep the Island clean through our 'Keep Her Wild' campaign," explains Romano about Rakasetlla's strict environmental policies. "We leave no trace and don't want to overpower the festival's beauty with too much metal and plastic. We really keep the island as wild as she can."

Heavyweights like DJ Tennis, Troxler, and Moodymann are on top of the bill. Still, Rakastella always saves room to include the younger generation and local talent like Coffintexts and Ashley Venom.

"It's important to be connected to local talent," Romano adds. "I admire Danny Daze's work with local talent and respect the history of Miami DJing with Miami bass and IDM. I think the biggest potential is still here."

A 17-hour music festival on the beach during Miami Art Week's zenith could intimidate some novices trying to dip their toes into electronic music. Romano, acting as Rakastella's elder statesman, provided some much-needed advice on handling the festival: "Enjoy the sunset and sunrise. It's a beautiful setting. You can experience very calm and can also rave. The best way to enjoy the festival is to make the best of the time there."

Rakastella. With DJ Tennis, Seth Troxler, Moodymann, Dixon, Âme, Diplo, Carlita, and others. 3 p.m. Saturday, December 3, at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; rakastella.com. Tickets cost $60 to $120 via ticketfairy.com.
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Grant Albert is a writer born and raised in Miami. He likes basset hounds, techno, and rock climbing — in that order.
Contact: Grant Albert

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