Since landing on the crystalline shores of Miami’s Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in December 2017, Rakastella has grown from a starry-eyed house and techno event hoping to leave a mark on Miami's oversaturated Art Basel musical calendar into a full-fledged festival. In the process, it's set a worldwide standard for balancing impressive underground bookings and panache production in service of assembling an unforgettable event.
Rakastella means "to make love" in Finnish, and that’s exactly what happened when the well-respected house and techno imprints Innervisions and Life and Death partnered to create the one-day event. The 16-hour party was a natural progression from the annual Life and Death Art Basel soiree, which label head DJ Tennis threw in tandem with Miami-based promoter Becks Lange for six consecutive years.
“For year seven, we decided Miami was ready for something different,” Lange explains. “DJ Tennis, Âme, and Dixon spoke, and after many long brainstorming sessions, Rakastella was born.”
A fixture on Miami’s underground scene for more than a decade, Lange has worked as a party promoter as well as a talent booker in order to bring distinguished artists and rising stars alike to the Magic City. Her company PL0T has produced both immersive art events and club nights featuring the likes of Seth Troxler and Soul Clap. As the head of Rakastella's booking efforts, she served an instrumental role in bringing the festival to life in 2017.
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Each year, Lange strives to grow the festival organically by presenting artists she and her coconspirators truly love and support. This year, aside from cofounders and renowned selectors Âme, DJ Tennis, and Dixon, every artist is a newcomer to Rakastella, fulfilling Lange’s goal of booking as many debut acts as possible to compile consistently dynamic lineups. The inaugural festival lasted 13 hours and boasted a lineup including Axel Boman, DJ Koze, and Octo Octa. Last year’s roster set itself apart by venturing into more left-field bookings such as Apparat, RY X, and Young Marco, and this year’s bill stands to be Rakastella's most multidimensional to date. The 16-hour romp will host appearances by Life and Death head DJ Tennis and Innervisions ringleader Dixon, as well as DJ sets and live performances by some of the most respected and diverse names in dance music, including Ben UFO, Jayda G, John Talabot, Mor Elian, Kink, and Miami native Danny Daze. German house architect Motor City Drum Ensemble will make his hotly anticipated Magic City debut at Rakastella, further cementing the festival’s commitment to curating unprecedented bookings.
“We book artists we believe in, no compromises,” Lange explains. “We’re always looking to push the sound boundaries and striving to bring something different to Miami. We want fans to keep the Rakastella experience in their hearts for a lifetime.”
As the festival has grown in size and notoriety — drawing successively larger, more international crowds in the process — so has Lange’s commitment to Rakastella’s sustainability initiatives. Launched in advance of last year’s event, the “Keep Her Wild” environmental protection campaign was the most eco-conscious undertaking by any Miami electronic music festival.
To up the ante for 2019, Rakastella’s third installment will mark the first time a Miami event of this kind eliminates all single-use plastics and Styrofoam onsite. The festival engaged the city's first sustainable event consulting company, Ascendance Sustainable Events, to help Rakastella strategize additional ways to reduce waste, implement an improved recycling program, and organize “Leave Only Footprints,” a litter-prevention campaign powered by volunteers.
"As a Miami native, I’m so happy to finally see our local festivals making bold moves to respect the environment they're operating in," Ascendance Sustainable Events founder Vivian Belzaguy says. "The electronic music community is so influential these days that sustainable choices really go a long way in shifting how people behave during and after the event. We need that more than ever right now, for our city and for our planet.”
Onsite volunteers and a well-trained cleaning crew will work around the clock to keep the grounds and shoreline clean. The festival’s commitment to protecting the environment even extends beyond the 16-hour affair: Rakastella has teamed up with Ascendance and Debris Free Oceans to host a postparty beach cleanup Tuesday, December 10, at 3 p.m. to ensure Virginia Key Beach remains as scenic as it was before the event.
“It's a festival that's meant to leave our home better than we found it,” Lange says. “Our whole team knows how lucky we are to host our event at the incredibly beautiful Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, and we understand just how special and sensitive the venue is."
Rakastella is also diversifying its amenities by adding the Hi-Fi Tea Garden, curated by local DJ and Terrestrial Funk label head Brother Dan, who has been involved in the festival since day one. The Tea Garden, a peaceful oasis away from the festival’s hustle and bustle, will offer organic tea blends and a Danley sound system pumping beats by surprise DJs.
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The VIP experience includes lounges, massages, a mixology bar, and sunset hors d’oeuvres by Miami chef Andres “Billy” Garcia. All attendees will enjoy new lighting and stage design by Montreal-based Irregular, who is famous for his installations at the Mutek music festival and Bains Numériques in France. Irregular has created cutting-edge designs and a kaleidoscopic visual experience for the festival’s multiple stages, including a new stage built in partnership with the Electric Pickle- and ATV Records-affiliated party series Where Are My Keys?
“We’ve learned a lot since year one, and every edition is a chance for us to improve and build a better version than its predecessor,” Lange says. “We are always working to create an experience that will blow patrons away.”
It’s easy to see how Rakastella has quickly become the must-attend closing bacchanal of Miami Art Week. Lange promises attendees will find even more to love about the gathering this year and those to come.
Rakastella. With Ben UFO, Dixon, Eclair Fifi, Kink, Marie Davidson, and others. 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, December 7, in Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; rakastella.com. Tickets cost $56.25 to $225 via residentadvisor.net.