Miami Art Basel 2021 week revealed a fervent local scene

    Being blessed to mark Trommel’s US debut on Friday, November 26th at ATV Records in partnership with US event specialist Un_Mute – what better occasion to enjoy the full week of events and madness that Art Basel week brings to Miami once per year?

    There were already plenty of reasons to visit: most promoters and brands, particularly the most international, always have the Art Basel period marked in red on the calendar, literally flooding Florida’s most iconic city.

    Miami is also a great starting (or ending) point for US and South America tours and is full of networking opportunities for many European-based artists. 

    Plus, with all kinds of events in place running round the clock, from clubs to pool parties and after-parties, it is also one of the ravers’ paradises that the calendar year offers, all with that (South) American touch and plenty of palm trees.

    Paradise, Circoloco, Rakastella, Marco Carola – they all scheduled their events during the long weekend starting on 1st December and ending on the 5th (well, 6th). All of them had pretty solid lineups and acts. However, our interest and excitement were all over what Un_Mute had carefully planned, with the tail end of the weekend featuring three of the biggest shows in Miami, curated together with ReSolute and Electric Pickle.

    In fact, Un_Mute managed to keep Miami underground for a long time and the joint venture with ReSolute and Electric Pickle, culminating in the mega ‘Where Are My Keys’ party series, graced Miami with a week to remember and set a solid stone for a bright future.

    That being said, and although they hardly need any introduction, it’s too good not to recap, especially for those planning a techno trip to the US soon.

    Un_Mute has been in the game for a long time to gather the most in-demand underground talents under the sun of Miami. Looking at just the last few months, you’ll see the likes of Rhadoo, Lamache, Varhat, Z@p, Michelle, Mike Shannon, Maher Daniel, Francesco del Garda, Giammarco Orsini, Sonja Moonear, Priku, or Binh populating an average of two shows a week.

    Un_mute’s partner for Miami Art Basel, ReSolute, is based up north in New York City but in no way far from delivering what Un_mute does down in Miami. Think Perlon mainstays Zip, Fumiya Tanaka or Mayann Nidaam playing in gritty underground warehouses or the planned 14th-year party lining up Margaret Dygas, Vincent Lemieux and resident O-Bee to get a taste of what was to come.

    Third in the game was Electric Pickle, the legendary former Wynwood hotspot run for fifteen years by Will Renuart, Diego Martinelli and Thomas Ceddia – an institution in Miami. Suffice to say, the nightclub just launched the ‘Where are my keys’ parties during the Art Basel week which prove to be the top event of the week – we’ll get deeper into that later. 

    Closing the circle was ATV, a hybrid venture launched at the end of 2019 that hosts an intimate nightclub, a boutique record store and a bar for the use of Miami’s leading promoters, including Electric Pickle.

    But let’s get back into business; that is the actual parties.

    To kick things off on 1st December, we headed to said ATV Records to attend the event hosted by Toi.Toi.Musik and Un_Mute. The line-up was short but extremely effective: US pioneer Titonton Duvante joined forces with Uruguayan selector and My Own Jupiter head Nicolas Lutz, returning performing for the London agency and party brand. The intimate vibes and the power of a four-point sound system are all ingredients for a great start to our Art Basel touring spree.

    Duvante nailed it. His set was energetic but always controlled, and the crowd appreciated being driven through a long journey between old classics and techno records, spacing between the deeper and the moodier tone. He then handed over to Lutz for another extended set running until the close. While you sometimes might expect the direction the My Own Jupiter boss is going to take it, he always finds a way to surprise you. He is a master of the obscure and apocalyptic side of techno, spacing from uptempo electro to unknown records whose musical genre would be too hard to classify according to the usual scale, including the latest (published and unpublished) Lutzifer releases.

    Fast-forwarding to round two, on December 2, at Space Miami, where Un_Mute and local collective Link Miami Rebels were inviting Maher Daniel, Alex Boman, DJ Koze and a b2b between Luciano and Ricardo Villalobos. This would be the first of four appearances behind the decks for Berlin-based Villalobos, whose schedule was packed tight.

    The two Chilean artists have a history together, and both were clearly ready to pick up where they left – maybe when playing Pyramid at Amnesia Ibiza closing 2018? Their collective performance in Miami made the crowd overcome every kind of fatigue and had them dancing in a packed room until the very last tune past 3 pm in the afternoon of the next day. First Refusal by The Cartridge Family, House Nation, R&R – L’essentiel are a few of the tracks captured during their extended back-to-back.

    If things were to work out, it wouldn’t remain the last epic B2B of the journey – next in line was six hours of Ricardo and Zip. Only they did not, not as planned. Just hours before the event, the news struck that the Perlon co-founder could not travel to the US – a real disappointment as I had imagined me witnessing Thomas Franzmann’s state-of-the-art flow of uplifting house records as the soundtrack for the rising morning sun.

    However, the teams had already worked hard behind the scenes for a “replacement”, only that the term can hardly be used to describe Margaret Dygas.

    The first (official) back-to-back between Ricardo and Margaret had been set. While I was reading the updated flyer, she was already crossing the Atlantic to reach Miami International Airport. The fact that she was coming to the US for the first time in eight years made clear – it was going to be a night to remember.

    The venue for what had gone into December 3rd was 94th Aero Squadron, a restaurant next to the airport runways with a big, green outdoor space made of many different areas and even a small pond. A tent was set up above the terraced dancefloor, and the sound system was finely tuned, resulting in a warm and crisp sound.

    As soon as I arrived, I quickly noticed the place was already packed with over a thousand ravers jumping on the groove provided by Maher and O.Bee on the decks. From the energy level in the tent, their set was clearly on-point: nothing strange for two artists like Maher and O.BEE, who keep demonstrating their value release after release and gig after gig.

    Shortly after, Ricardo and Margaret make their appearance through the back entrance, passing through a rammed backstage. Margaret entered quickly and in a state of high focus, blending minimal rollers with subtle vocals. At the same time, Ricardo was sorting out the vinyl records from two big bags placed on a table behind the booth, and every time he turned to pick the next tune, someone was trying to give him new records and test presses, others simply to say hello or ask for a picture. The constant interruptions and his trademarked playful mood with the crowd didn’t compromise by one inch the quality of his contribution to the joint performance.

    While the pair was spinning records, planes on the runaway were landing and taking off, adding a surreal taste to the experience of a Miami summery night of December. 

    From Margaret’s set, I was unable to catch any track IDs – not that this surprised me. However, one of the highlights from Ricardo was when Larry Heard – Deja Vu (Musaria Mix) resonated from the speakers, as well as the closing track, one of his classics, the uplifting and Latin infused remix of Senor Coconut – Behind The Mask.

    Skipping the previous night when Dyed Soundorom, Giammarco Orsini and Maksim took over ATV Records, I was fresh for ‘Where Are My Keys’, the week’s final and by all means pinnacle event and ripe fruit of the collab between the US powerhouses Un_Mute, ReSolute and Electric Pickle.

    Before going into more detail, just lining up the names is going to give you a taste: Kalabrese & Will Renuart were on opening duties, leading straight into the legendary Chez Damier, who handed over to the unannounced special guest – Ricardo Villalobos, ready to treat the crowd with a special daytime after hour set. However, it was not over yet. After Ricardo, there came Margaret Dygas again, this time with a solo set, followed by Francesco del Garda, Craig Richards & Nicolas Lutz, Powder and to conclude (phew) another surprise back-to-back (or maybe back-to-back-to-back).

    And this was only the outside stage. Indoors, Miami locals were sharing the booth from afternoon to early morning – Taimur, Puma, Sonsshowcased Tomas Station, Loren, Chklte and many more were showcasing the height of their grassroots scene.

    But it wasn’t just the magnitude of the names on the bill, the ‘Where Are My Keys’ event ran through 27 hours. Powered by a custom sound system, there was space and time for the artists to express their sound and a celebratory bash that easily places the party among the most exciting events of the year.

    I got there at 12 pm and was welcomed with a sunny 25 degrees and Chez Damier in control of the booth. The setup at 94 Squadron Avenue was different from the previous night – a smaller wooden terrace now the main dancefloor. The light filtered through palm and banana trees on a booth slightly raised from the ground.

    Sitting on a stool, Damier was gently blending house records with a funky and disco vibe on a blue Alpha Recording System analogue mixer, building a light-hearted groove and quickly filling the dancefloor. His three-hour slot ran very fast but smoothly, and the result can be easily summarised in a legendary artist providing a masterclass throughout.

    Then it was again time for Ricardo to hypnotise the crowd – this time, when he arrived, he quickly took his place behind the decks, not before having greeted Chez Damier and the other artists backstage. It took only a few minutes for Villalobos to have full control of the entire dancefloor, putting enraptured ravers under his spell. It came to my great excitement when he decided to mix in the folkloristic Insanlar – Kime Ne (Ricardo Villalobos Mix 1) and, shortly after, his remix of Beck – Cellphone’s Dead: he was starting the journey with some of his classics, so I expected treat after treat with the groove already rolling this high despite this being just the beginning of the afternoon.

    When Margaret Dygas stepped in, the sky had already taken on its darker shades of dusk. She picked up exactly where Ricardo had left, manifesting the connection between the two once again. Her set was arguably the best of the day and for sure contending the top of the whole week. Her signature minimal led the way as the experienced selector carefully drove the crowd in a darker direction, not without throwing a few wild cards. The dance floor was all over it and experiencing a long-deserved double-dose of Dygas after so many years.

    Right into the early evening, it was Francesco Del Garda’s turn to spin records. Freshly arrived in Miami that day, the Italian looked focused during his performance – the first of a US tour that will touch New York City and other states. Bumpy house tracks and unearthed old records were blissfully alternated, entering right away into the peak of the event.

    Said peak was delivered by Craig Richards and Nicolas Lutz. The duo has consistently proven their weight on many occasions, continuously forging a natural connection nurtured during the many extended sessions at London’s fabric nightclub. In Miami, their set took a weirder and moodier turn and became less and less predictable, with the two at the helm of an adventurous ride. After several minutes of peak time electro, Craig’s records started to tune Nico’s more aggressive vibe into perfect give and take.

    Still, it was time for me to leave and catch the direct flight back to Europe, not without more than a few regrets for missing the rest of the night and the final surprise back-to-back.

    On my way to the airport, I thought again about this intense and beautiful week of events: the hype and anticipation were high and it ended up completely surpassing every expectation.

    Until next time, and well done Miami!

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