The year is almost over, and if you aren't living your best life yet, you’re being judged. Luckily, there’s still time, because Miami’s Best Life Music Festival — a gathering of local and national R&B acts — is slated to happen this Sunday, December 8. Although last year's edition didn’t exactly promote the best quality of life after pushing set times back three hours and cutting a handful of artists' sets (as well as dealing with attendees who had passed out due to dehydration), the festival is back for another go-round during Art Basel weekend.
This year's lineup includes pop and R&B singer Kiana Lede, Dvsn, Emotional Oranges, and SiR. Local artists Savannah Cristina, Dyna Edyne, and Teenear will also grace the stage.
However, even with the enticing roster of talent the event commands, what’s most interesting about this year’s iteration of Best Life is the Indie Room. Local artists don't usually get the chance to try out for music festivals, but when they do, the results can range from III Points' successful support of Miami-based acts to Rolling Loud 2016's questionable pay-to-play mode.
But someone has to care about the indies, right? Best Life curators Matt Krane and Jake Inphamous created the Indie Room in an admirable attempt to show love to the culture.
Separate from the main stage, the Indie Room will host smaller acts who will enjoy the chance to gain the undivided attention of festival patrons. Best Life determined the room's roster through a contest. According to the festival's Instagram page, artists were required to submit a demo, their social media information, and repost the main flyer for a chance to perform. Winners were announced via Instagram Live by YesJulz and 99Jamz’s Supa Cindy and then promoted with a general flyer to congratulate the artists.
Though Miami isn't shy of R&B events thanks to a growing demand for the genre, Best Life stands solo as the first and only R&B festival in town geared toward millennials and your little sister. The festival has also distinguished itself by implementing an independent artist-oriented stage that not only staggers time slots for impatient guests but also gives lesser-known South Florida acts their time to shine.
“It’s important and something I feel all local artists can use,” Miami-based singer SaintLee says. She performed last year on Best Life's main stage but unfortunately had to play a shorter set due to unforeseen difficulties with the festival’s production.
“I think it's a better idea to have a spotlight on indie artists," she says by phone. “It makes more sense. We deserve the time slot and respect just as the main artists [do]."
She adds, "I hope this time around, we get the attention we deserve."
Over the past few years, South Florida has worked to put R&B artists on the map. Between local showcases and dance parties, there are ample opportunities for fans to find their new favorite artist. But a bigger platform can always provide an extra, possibly career-changing push. Miami singer Kaylan Arnold says regardless of a stage's size, she’s always ready to perform.
“I’m an artist, and I’m always going to be an artist regardless of the foundation,” she says. After years of singing and playing a variety of instruments, including the guitar, drums, and flute, she doesn't sweat the particulars of the platform on which she performs
Though Kaylan is more established, up-and-coming artist Ledoux and the Broken looks forward to making his first festival appearance at Best Life.
“For me, this was a goal of mine," Ledoux says. "I felt that my team and I have been working really hard on creating music and preparing for an opportunity. This is something I can check off my list as an artist.”
By emphasizing the independent artists on its lineup, Best Life is taking steps to establish itself as a brand that cares about the health and people who compose Miami and South Florida's local scenes.
“At the end of the day, I’m just a regular guy from Miramar that’s trying to put themselves in a place to help people," Ledoux says. "Some may look at it as no fucking deal, and some may look at it as the best thing that happened in their life. To me, It’s a part of my journey."
Luckily, unlike many acts performing on platforms that ostensibly help the underground, the artists playing the Indie Room don't have to pay for a slot. Performer Highimls netted a place on the roster by submitting her work.
“Once submitting, it was a waiting game to the point where I forgot we submitted," she says. "Randomly, a few weeks later, I received a DM from one of my followers saying, 'Congratulations,' with the live video of SupaCindy and YesJulz announcing the winners."
The handful of selected artists all bring something different to the table. Kaylan Arnold prides herself on her range and versatility.
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“And I don’t mean just by different genres,” she emphasizes, “but being a musician and being able to bring different energies to the stage.” For Ledoux and the Broken — the only band performing in Best Life's Indie Room — the plan is to emphasize the art of storytelling.
“I want to carry out the message in my music and provide [an] experience," Ledoux says, adding his choice to perform with a live band is a deliberate one that brings out the best of his creative abilities.
When Sunday rolls around, Best Life's guests would be wise to keep their eyes and ears on the Indie Room — they might just discover the next must-see festival headliner.
Best Life Music Festival. With Kiana Lede, Dvsn, SiR, and others. 1 p.m. Sunday, December 8, at Wynwood Factory, 55 NE 24th St., Miami; 786-360-3712; wynwoodfactory.com. Tickets cost $45 to $166 via eventbrite.com.