III Points Festival

The Ten Most Underrated Acts at III Points 2019

The Ten Most Underrated Acts at III Points 2019
Photo by George Martinez
Look, you’ve got options at III Points. You don’t have to fight the hordes of Golf le Fleur-wearing teens to watch SZA and Tyler the Creator. You don’t have to risk becoming ill at the sight of the dozens of couples who just got into James Blake a month ago making out in the crowd at his set. The advantage of attending a festival where many of the names on the poster might be unfamiliar is just that: diving into the unknown, traveling off the beaten path, and discovering something new and exciting.

We’re here to help. This list is designed to guide you to the most exciting, interesting, and downright weird acts flying in from parts unknown to play III Points. We couldn’t include all we wanted, so honorable mentions are Herbie Hancock (he’s 78 years old, he’s the greatest living jazz musician, and you have to see him if you value your life), Eclair Fifi, Channel Tres, Nonotak:Eclipse, David August, DJ Earl, SOB x RBE, and local acts such as Otto von Schrirach, Twelve’Len, Danny Daze and Mariel Ito in a back-to-back set that’s sure to be wild, and dozens of others.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - COURTESY OF III POINTS
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Courtesy of III Points
1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Listening to “The Dead Flag Blues,” you might think it was written either recently or, God forbid, 20 years from now. The harrowing opening track from the 1998 debut album of this venerable collective of musicians, who both deny and exemplify the genre label of “postrock,” is a terrifying picture of a society eating itself alive. “We’re trapped inside the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.”

Godspeed You! is the dark sage of the neoliberal era. The band emerged from the highly political Montreal music scene to produce long, symphonic instrumental tracks full of roiling guitars, plodding percussion, radically outraged narrative samples, and strings, sometimes mournful, sometimes hopeful. Now, for the first time in memory, if not history, the group will perform in Miami, arguably the epicenter of our climate apocalypse. Seeing them is an experience for the bucket list, and if their morose predictions are right, we might all be kicking that bucket sooner than we think. So carpe diem.

2. Tim Hecker.
You might see this Canadian composer’s music tagged as “ambient” or “noise,” but don’t get confused — this isn’t music meant to fade into the background. For years, Tim Hecker has produced stirring, complex albums that mix melody, tone, and texture in ways few others can accomplish. His masterpiece is 2013’s Virgins, with its frightening allusions to the atrocities committed by the U.S. Army at Abu Ghraib, but it may be rivaled by his latest release, Konoyo, an exploration of Japanese gagaku music. Hecker is set to perform at III Points with the Konoyo Ensemble, a group of musicians playing traditional instruments such as the sho flute and taiko drums, and we guarantee you’re unlikely to see anything else like it at this festival or the next.
click to enlarge Dean Blunt - COURTESY OF III POINTS
Dean Blunt
Courtesy of III Points
3. Dean Blunt. He is the most unpredictable man in music. His musical progression over the past decade goes something like this: Dean Blunt was in a band called Hype Williams. After he left, he made an album called Black Metal, but it isn’t black metal; it’s country music if it were made by a black British man. Then he formed a new group, Babyfather, and it released the batshit-insane U.K. rap piss-take record BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow. The cover is a Union Jack-emblazoned hoverboard set against a London skyline. The lead single, “Meditation” featuring Arca, is a grime track with car-crash and crying-baby sound effects over it, and it’s also maybe one of the best songs of the decade. We cannot explain him. We’re not even going to try. We have absolutely no earthly idea what the hell Dean Blunt will do when he gets onstage. A must-see, clearly.
click to enlarge Laurel Halo - COURTESY OF III POINTS
Laurel Halo
Courtesy of III Points
4. Laurel Halo. You simply cannot pin Laurel Halo down. Album to album, the Berlin-via-Michigan producer and vocalist changes moods and aesthetics like a Tumblr kid changes blog themes. Last year’s Raw Silk Uncut Wood featured woozy ambient compositions. Twenty seventeen’s Dust included acid-jazz freak-outs and brainy, smooth pop, occasionally sung in Japanese. Then there’s the techno of Chance of Rain and the early-Oneohtrix Point Never-style kosmiche of Quarantine. What will she do next? Find out at her III Points set — that is, if you can comprehend it.
click to enlarge DJ Stingray - COURTESY OF III POINTS
DJ Stingray
Courtesy of III Points
5. DJ Stingray. You’ll know him when you see him, because DJ Stingray, AKA Sherad Ingram, almost always wears a black balaclava when he performs. In a way, it’s an appropriate metaphor for his style: dark, efficient, and effortlessly cool. The Detroit native began his career in the '80s at the Outcast, a biker club, with his mentor Moodymann, sneaking electro and techno records in between the hip-hop and Miami bass demanded by the crowd. Now in demand across the world thanks to a renaissance in electro, he hasn't much to hide anymore.

6. Egyptian Lover.
New York has Afrika Bambaataa and “Planet Rock,” but the West Coast? The West Coast has Egyptian Lover, AKA DJ and producer Greg Broussard. The two started from the same building blocks in the '80s: Both made wise use of Kraftwerk samples in their songs, and Bambaataa even introduced Broussard to the TR-808 upon a visit to Los Angeles. But Broussard — preferring the escapism of sexy, exotic Egypt to his colleague’s futurism — went in another direction thematically. A 2016 box-set retrospective issued by Stones Throw revived interest in his work, and he’s been DJ'ing worldwide ever since.
click to enlarge John Maus - COURTESY OF III POINTS
John Maus
Courtesy of III Points
7. John Maus. Once a leading light of the hypnagogic pop movement along with Ariel Pink, Minnesota native John Maus all but disappeared after the release of his indie-hit record We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves in 2011. He went back to school, got a PhD in political science, and finally got to work on a new album, Screen Memories, which was released in 2017. That record reconjures all the old Maus magic, combining spooky synth compositions with echoing, deep-throated vocals and evocative, koan-esque lyrics, like a monk suddenly ported into an episode of Stranger Things. His live sets tend to be “karaoke” performances — just him and a mike — that, despite the lack of instruments, still get pretty lit.
click to enlarge Mall Grab - COURTESY OF III POINTS
Mall Grab
Courtesy of III Points
8. Mall Grab. For some listeners, a brief period of U.K. club music — let’s say around 1992-95, right between the wane of acid house and the beginning of jungle — was the best time in electronic music history. The breakbeats were in full effect. The soulful vocal samples were everywhere. The tempos were fast but not yet hitting breakneck speeds. Jordan Cutler, an Australian DJ in his mid-20s, seems to have an affinity for this era, because his wicked sets and massive tracks under the name Mall Grab are certainly pulling from it. Check his “Liverpool Street in the Rain,” a lo-fi banger from last year’s How the Dogs Chill, Vol. 1, and you’ll know just what we mean. It’s pure pleasure.

9. Honey Dijon.
Not to say that every club kid from Chicago automatically has a dance music pedigree, but Honey Dijon sure puts hers to good use. She began crate-digging at legendary Chi-town record stores such as Imports Etc before moving to New York, where she became celebrated for out-of-this-world, genre-defying sets. She also happens to be one of the most visible trans-women on the international music scene and frequently makes her voice heard regarding gender issues and other topics.
Courtesy of III Points
10: JPEGMAFIA. Sure, you’re probably going to III Points to try to forget about politics, but with JPEGMAFIA, AKA Peggy, AKA Barrington Hendricks, there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too. The Baltimore-based rapper/producer plugs current affairs into his music in hilarious and provocative ways: dissing everyone from Morrissey to Kellyanne Conway, referencing weird internet phenomena, and even releasing a song called “I Might Vote for Donald Trump.” Onstage, he’s less a ball of energy than a rolling boulder, screaming lyrics and diving into the crowd. Whether his music will age well or not — and we’re betting it will, thanks to his forward-thinking, kinetic production style in full effect on 2018's Veteran — JPEGMAFIA is without a doubt one of the most entertaining voices in contemporary hip-hop.

III Points 2019. Friday, February 15, through Sunday, February 17, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-0371; manawynwood.com. Tickets cost $75 to $375 via iiipoints.com.
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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.