Poplife is turning 20, and they're celebrating the way Poplife should: with a party on Saturday, November 9, at the brand-new venue ATV, featuring performances by some of Poplife's classic DJs, plus special guests.
If you're new to Miami and think Poplife is "Pop Life," hit the search button at the top left of this page, type in poplife, and you'll find hundreds of articles about the party whose name ultimately became one of Miami’s most influential production companies.
Poplife began in 1999 as a weekly Saturday debauchery, when Barbara Basti, Aramis Lorie, and Ray and Paula Milian saw a gap in Miami’s nightlife and decided to start their own night at Mezza Fine Art, a now-defunct gallery/café in Coral Gables. As New Times described the party 17 years ago, “Poplife is a place for social misfits of all types: breakers, Goths, punks, beatniks, rockers, and musicians.”
Recalls Aramis: "It was a gathering for people who were looking for new sounds, it became a cultural hub for those who weren't part of the Top 40 music scene that was happening. Even though the core was the Britpop sound, we would play everything from hip-hop to experimental electronic music." That musical versatility was key, because it provided local outcasts with a place to discover new music, and to dance.
Poplife's parties strongly influenced Miami’s music scene and the people behind it. "I met Ray and Aramis when I was 16 or 17 at the Virgin Megastore at Sunset Place, where I worked. They were buying something British, which always caught my attention, and they told me they were starting a night called Life," says Lauren "Lolo" Reskin, owner of Sweat Records. "My friends and I went to their various events at Mezza, and eventually when it moved to Piccadilly Garden in the Design District I became one of the resident DJs — my very first residency and the first flyer I ever had my name on."
The weekly bash grew into one of Miami’s iconic nights, and the party and its crew moved from venue to venue, even gaining a nomination for a Paper Magazine Nightlife Award in 2009.
Most of those nights were documented by Jipsy, a local photographer who had a website called NefariousGirl.com. "When I first walked into one of these parties and saw all these creative kids, I knew I found my place," Jipsy says today. "The whole fucking experience was special, and I'm not a writer but I photographed a lot of people that came to those parties, and I have that — those memories."
One of the high points was the 2010 opening of Grand Central, located inside a railroad-style warehouse north of downtown on North Miami Avenue. "Grand Central was an example of a collaborative effort of many partners," says Jake Jefferson, who joined the Poplife family in 2006. “When Aramis showed me an old warehouse that used to house shoes, I told him, 'You are fucking nuts, this will never work.' After he explained to me his vision, I was all in. That was where I really cut my teeth in everything from booking to understanding how a venue operates."
Uncountable international, national, and local acts performed on Grand Central’s stage, from Dinosaur Jr. to Flume, Diplo, Cannibal Corpse, and Peter Murphy. With its Brooklyn-style vibe, Grand Central was the perfect venue for midsize touring acts until it closed in 2015, a casualty of Miami nightlife's most nefarious villains: developers.
Asked to cite her favorite moments at Grand Central, Stephany Torres remembers Poplife’s 15th-anniversary celebration: "We did a quinceañera party," Torres says. "Many people from high school and people we grew up with were there. It was really nice to see that many of those people were successful in their careers, and seeing how we as a company helped to inspire and grow with our local community." Torres, who started working the door at Grand Central in 2012, is now Poplife’s production director.
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After Grand Central, Poplife’s crew focused most of their energy on production and working with brands like Heineken and Diesel, as well as music events such as FM Festival. "Our direction now is working on building brands and working to tie large national and global brands to local communities through experiential activities,” LP Steele, Poplife’s most recent partner, explains.
For 20 years, Poplife has been that rare entity that succeeds in mixing art and music with business. The promoters have adapted and reinvented themselves, yet always remained true to their ethos. As Aramis puts it: “Collaborating with people that you respect and people that inspire you — that keeps you agile and fresh.”
Poplife has teamed with Dale Zine to publish a photo-heavy book that will be available at the 20th anniversary celebration. The night will feature sounds by Lloydski, Ray Milian, Aramis Lorie, Benton, Michelle Leshem, Patrick Walsh, Jessica Who, and special guests.
Poplife 20th Anniversary. With Lloydski, Ray Milian, Aramis Lorie, Benton, Mike Deuce, and others. 10 p.m. Saturday, November 9, at ATV Records, 1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is free with RSVP via poplife20.splashthat.com.