Festival Review: III Points 2019 in Miami

iii points
Photo courtesy of @adiadinayev

Is a mosh pit still cool if A$AP Rocky has to put directions on the screen behind him and scream at the crowd for five minutes until one gets going? Not so much. Luckily, most of the 2019 rendition of Miami’s III Points Festival turned out much better than the New York rapper’s attempt to get a pit to open up during his Sunday night headlining set.

After taking 2018 off and moving from fall to winter, III Points returned over this past weekend stronger than ever. Boasting a truly eclectic lineup that included more than 100 artists traversing many genres, III Points entered 2019 looking to assume the mantle of the southeast’s can’t-miss music festival.

In an age when festival lineups are becoming increasingly homogeous, III Points was a delightful outlier. The event featured artists from a wide range of genres, many of which were making their first-ever stops in South Florida. Experimental titans Godspeed You! Black Emperor played their first show in Florida, and only show of 2019, to a few hundred people inside a warehouse. Tyler, the Creator and SZA played their first shows since November, and neither act is slated to perform again until June at Governor’s Ball in NYC. A$AP Rocky’s Sunday night headlining set was one of only two scheduled appearances at any American music festival this year. I could go on and on, because the story is interchangeable for many of these acts: These bookings were meant to produce sets that were events in the South Florida music scene. This is clearly a festival created by and for local music lovers.

Dedicated to inhabiting the late-night hours of mid-February, each of III Points’ three days ran from 5 in the evening until 5 in the morning. Each night hit peak attendance for the main headliner, as the late-night crowd wafted in around 11 while many made their way to the exits once the main stage closed down.

[Main Entrance] Photo: @adiadinayev
I wanted to put together a list of the weekend’s top sets, but the truth of the matter is that it would have been an exercise in futility. This is a festival that was organized in a deliberate attempt to appeal to fans of many different genres. Who cares what my favorite sets were? (Spoiler alert: nobody.) Any list I put together would be based simply on my own preferences, and I doubt many other attendees would agree with me that the funky instrumental trio Khruangbin provided the greatest set of the weekend.

Here’s what I can tell you: there was something for almost everybody in this year’s lineup. Though there was a definite skew towards rap and R&B headliners on the main stages—as is to be expected in Miami—what truly made this lineup special were the exceptions. Beach House captivated a main stage audience with an hour of its signature atmospheric dream-pop, somehow fitting seamlessly in a slot sandwiched between Odd Future alumni in Syd’s The Internet and Tyler, the Creator. Herbie Hancock drew an impressive crowd to his main stage set as the weekend’s only jazz artist, well before the late-night crowd had begun to arrive.

[Beach House] Photo: @nicklphoto
With so much to take in over the course of three nights that were filled to the brim with music and art, here’s what’s worth knowing about III Points 2019:

The Art:

As if 100-plus musical acts over three days wasn’t enough, III Points was also a hotbed of art installations and displays of creativity that fit right into its home in Miami’s Wynwood Art District.

  • Skate Space: Situated in one of the handful of warehouse spaces surrounding the main grounds, Skate Space was a psychedelic roller rink where attendees could rent skates and cruise around while enjoying projections, DJs and specialty Stillhouse Whiskey cocktails.
Photo: @nicklphoto 
  • Aether: This one was a trip. Located next to the Mainframe stage, this installation featured a wild light show that corresponded with some seriously strange and immersive sounds.
Photo: @adiadinayev
  • ICA / Judy Chicago Installation: Installed by Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art, this exhibit featured small spaces where attendees could sit and watch curated projections. I’m no art critic, so I won’t comment other than to mention that it was exactly as interesting as it looks.
Photo: @nicklphoto

The Stages:

  • Mind Melt: The main stage was the least aesthetically pleasing performance space of the event, but how could you really expect more from a stage in a parking lot that needed to host thousands upon thousands of fans? The massive disco ball that was suspended from a crane over the crowd was a nice touch, even if the idea of standing beneath it was disquieting.
  • Mainframe: This indoor stage was one of the coolest spaces on the grounds. Set up inside the largest of the warehouses involved in the festival, it featured a surprisingly sizeable stage and an impressive setup of lights that ran out into the crowd from both sides of the stage. The fixed size meant that it could get too congested at times, but most of the sets I attended here were more than comfortable.
  • Sector 3: A tiny outdoor stage that was situated in a small asphalt alcove behind the Boiler Room space, this stage was sufficient for the mostly mid-tier indie acts that it hosted throughout the weekend.
  • Boiler Room: A music project born in London almost a decade ago, Boiler Room produces shows all over the world and streams hundreds of shows a year online. This stage was curated by Boiler Room and streamed on its website throughout the weekend.
Photo: @adiadinayev
  • Isotropic Stage: Decorated to feel like a greenhouse, this was aesthetically the coolest stage of the event. With a lower stage than any of the event’s other performance spaces, sets at the Isotropic Stage felt strikingly intimate.
Photo: @adiadinayev

The Music:

With more than 100 artists on the lineup and and a seemingly infinite number of possible combinations of acts to see, there was no way for me to cover everything. From the sets that I saw (and trust me, there were lots,) here’s what I’m going to remember:

LEAST SUCCESSFUL DEMAND: A$AP Rocky’s insistence that the crowd open up a mosh pit during his Sunday night headlining set. Seriously, man, you can’t force it like that. It was Sunday night, and pretty much everyone was exhausted.

GREATEST STAGE SETUP: A$AP Rocky takes this one by a landslide. The first five songs of his set were performed with only his massive silhouette projected onto a curtain. When the curtain finally dropped, he had not only confetti and smoke cannons to hype up the crowd, but also two cars on stage. While most of the weekend’s artists went small in terms of their stage design, Rocky went all in, and it paid off.

Photo: @mkbruix

BEST NOSTALGIA TRIP:Raekwon & Ghostface Killah performing Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Need I say more?

Photo: @mkbruix

GUITAR HERO OF THE WEEKEND: Mark Speer of Khruangbin. With almost no vocals in their songs, this funky Houston trio relied on its lead guitarist to keep the crowd engaged, and his exquisite guitar playing did just that. There’s nothing like hearing a crowd sing along to guitar lines instead of vocals for a full set.

MOST OVERCROWDED SET:Toro Y Moi’s DJ set at Mainframe. Stacked against the dozens of sets I attended over the course of three days, this one isn’t even close. As soon as Beach House ended and people flooded in from the main stage, it quickly became hard to breathe at the huge indoor stage. Just getting through the crowd and out the door to escape the grip of claustrophobia proved difficult.

MOST FANGIRLING: Though I would have expected this one to easily go to SZA, Tyler, the Creator is the undisputed fangirl-eliciting champion of III Points 2019. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy just fine! But wow, did that crowd know every word to his set. I was stunned and impressed at the same time!

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Ty Segall and White Fence. C’mon, man. With a 1 a.m. start time and fresh off the release of the electric single “Love Fuzz,” I expected this set to be the biggest rock ‘n’ roll moment of III Points 2019. Instead, a disinterested crowd and snoozefest of a set turned it into the biggest missed opportunity of the weekend.

BEST TEAMWORK:A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator had a huge presence throughout the weekend, with both rappers guesting during each other’s sets. The biggest crossover moment of III Points happened on the main stage not once, but twice!

Photo: @mkbruix

Like most events of this size and scope, III Points wasn’t without its share of mishaps. Luckily for those in attendance, they were simply blips on the radar. On Friday, power issues at the main stage led to the screens and lighting going out a number of times throughout sets by The Internet and Tyler, the Creator. Luckily, disaster was averted due to either generators or a second power source for all the instruments and sound equipment on stage, as both sets were able to continue unimpeded throughout the relative blackouts.

I’ve attended lots of music festivals, and after spending three days immersed within III Points, I’ve come to this verdict: This is an event that is defined by how unique it is. III Points isn’t defined by its size, by any particular genre or by its location, and it’s not trying to be anything like other festivals. Between the lineup, the installations and the overall experience, III Points is a completely singular event within the landscape of major music festivals. III Points has found its identity, and it seems like Miami finally a festival that will put it on the map with other major music cities around the country.

Find set lists from III Points 2019 here