III Points Festival

Despacio at III Points Was the Best Nightlife Experience I've Had in More Than a Decade

Photo by Jake Pierce
If you're a club kid of a certain age, you probably remember the Miami nightlife of the 1990s and early 2000s. While there is undoubtedly some rosy retrospection at play, there's no denying the scene was more vibrant, untamed, and impetuous. Opening a venue was more accessible thanks to a lower burden of entry, and all the clubs felt distinctly different from one another.

But what really set that era apart was the fact that the DJ was in service of the partygoer — not the other way around. Sure, there were marquee names that would draw a crowd to a venue, but DJs weren't the reason people went to a party. Unlike today's well-lit booths, DJs would often find themselves pushed into a dark corner, huddled over the decks with a clip-on lamp providing just enough light to see the buttons.

These days DJs are akin to rock stars, throwing their hands up in the air as pyrotechnics and lights do the actual heavy lifting when it comes to the surrounding spectacle. I blame Daft Punk. The French duo probably had no idea what would follow the Alive 2007 Tour, which featured an LED pyramid, geometric lights, and a ginormous screen. That tour put the idea into thousands of DJs' heads that they, too, were worthy of a multimillion-dollar stage production. But where Daft Punk's show felt like a natural progression of their artistry, for most DJs who followed it felt — and still feels — undeserved.

The 2010s EDM boom brought that mentality into nightclubs. No longer were DJs relegated to a dark corner; they now were the show, and DJ booths got more and more elaborate. And instead of mingling and dancing with other clubgoers, audiences were expected to give the DJ their undivided attention and adoration. While hooting and hollering, partygoers cheered and demanded "the drop" — and DJs were all too pleased to deliver.

That's where Despacio, the project of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and David and Stephen Dewaele of 2manydjs, comes in. The concept premiered in 2013 in Manchester and has been touring all across Europe and North America ever since. The premise behind Despacio is simple: Create a nightclub environment where the trio spins an all-vinyl set powered by seven custom-built speakers providing 50,000 watts of sound courtesy of amplifier manufacturer McIntosh.
The experience made its Miami debut last week when it dropped anchor at III Points 2022. Inside the Mana Wynwood Convention Center, organizers used rafters and heavy black drapes to enclose the warehouse space and control the sound. The room was barely lit except for the lighting rig surrounding the disco ball, which was used to great effect by avoiding being overused, so when the lights did illuminate the space, it felt jarring in the best way possible. The only other source of light was the blue glow of the McIntosh amplifier decibel monitors.

Best of all? Nobody was paying attention to who was spinning. It was nearly impossible to tell who was in command of the music at any given time. The DJ booth was barely illuminated, and the cutout overlooking the dance floor was too high for most partygoers to peek over. And that was the point. You aren't supposed to pay attention to the DJ; you're supposed to be dancing.

The Despacio crowd — from what I could tell — skewed a bit older, with most younger festivalgoers opting for the bass-rattling beats offered by the RC Cola and Outer Space stages. Though III Points had prepared for long queues to enter the Despacio room, you rarely had to wait more than a few minutes to get in, even if you had a general-admission bracelet.

I'd like to imagine some young twentysomething wandered into Despacio last weekend and had the sort of revelatory experience only nightclubs can provide. Still, I did hear some complaints that the BPMs dripping out of the speakers were too dull for some. I can't say I'm entirely surprised; Murphy and 2manydjs offered mainly disco, soul, and early-house cuts all weekend. Still, there's something to be said for just dancing without feeling like there's a buildup in the making.

The few times the crowd expressed jubilation came when all the lights shone their beams on the disco ball, making it seem like someone had switched the house lights on, if only for a second. For the most part, everyone focused on dancing.

Despacio feels like a call to action: Let's ditch the DJ rock shows and get back to dancing.
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.
Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran

Latest Stories