As I drifted across the sand at Miami’s two-day House of Creatives Music Festival, squeezing past grungy garage dads in denim jackets, industry folk in pristine jumpsuits, and black-lipped goths, it hit me: Miami desperately needs this. The city has long been pigeonholed as a haven for coke-fueled club addicts and mid-tier rappers, but the energy brewing at the North Beach Bandshell alone was proof that the city is demanding more from its festival culture, beyond the drunken EDM-driven chaos of Ultra. The inaugural edition of House of Creatives was a reminder that Miami’s musicians are thriving, despite the outsider misconception that there’s no active scene in the city. That’s why House of Creatives felt so momentous – it promised to shake up the city’s festival culture with a healthy dose of indie pop.
And for the most part, it did. The two stages – one located at the North Beach Bandshell, a second on the actual beach – were separated by a grassy lawn where local vendors sold light-up sneakers, beaded necklaces, empanadas, and little trinkets. Thankfully, organizers booked tons of Latinx talent, a breath of fresh air from most indie festivals, where there’s nary a Latinx act in sight. Miami-based Peruvian upstarts Hunters of the Alps kicked off the lineup of Latinx artists on Friday, playing their soaring electro indie rock to a small crowd of early birds. A fan eagerly yelped, “¡Viva Peru!” during the set, more proof that attendees were looking to see themselves (and their city) represented on the festival stage.
A major festival (and personal) highlight was Breakbot, the French producer and DJ behind this clever ode to Japanese Lolita culture in Mexico. Along with two live vocalists, Thibaut Jean-Marrie Michel Berland doled out thick, funky waves of blog house nostalgia. In a crisp white suit and long blond hair, Berland resembled disco Jesus, and his cascading synths felt like light descending from heaven.
Saturday’s lineup kicked off at what felt like the ungodly hour of 2:30pm, despite attempts to rejuvenate my body with a few hours at the beach before the festival. Our favorite Brooklyn Boricuas Buscabulla set the mood with their slick R&B, playing their ode to Frankie Ruiz alongside crowd favorites like “Métele.” Dressed like a 1970s gang, they played to the early birds once again, though their effervescent stage presence would have been much better served during an evening set time. Frontwoman Raquel Berríos sported a tinsel sash, and Luis Alfredo Del Valle a luxurious satin Puerto Rico jacket. The duo played a new song (“Perdón”), along with another about their “love-hate relationship” with New York. Shortly after, Los Wálters’ bubbly synth pop briefly transported me to utopic island of 80s italo disco, as more attendees started to trickle into the festival grounds.
Hip-hop instrumentalist Shigeto delivered a mesmerizing set of 8-bit whirrs and clicks, soundtracked by his own live drumming and looped samples. A stream of amorphous bacteria cells and Greek philosopher busts flashed across the screen as he beat down on his snares, Animal-style. Shortly after, incandescent hondureña producer Empress Of commanded the beach stage, vigorously hitting a drum machine and cymbal on stage, accompanied by samples of Aaliyah’s “One in a Million” and Florence and the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love” in between songs. Her intensely raw synth pop catapulted me into my feelings, though a slightly less enthusiastic crowd prompted Lorely Rodriguez to ask, “Are you still with me, Miami?” Above all, Crystal Castles’ Edith Frances delivered one of the most arresting and cathartic punk performances I’ve seen in some time. Non-stop strobe lights flashed as Frances screeched into the mic, scattering flower petals over a crowd of hyped-up fans.
As expected for its first edition, House of Creatives is still a work in progress. The festival succeeded in giving local artists a platform alongside indie heavyhitters, and even low attendance in the early hours of the festival couldn’t mar the energy and sense of community House of Creatives brought to Miami Beach. As House of Creatives’ profile grows in coming years, here’s hoping it joins festivals like III Points in making sure the city’s diverse local scene gets the much-needed signal boost it deserves.
Check out more photos from the festival below. All photos by @ClaOadPhoto, courtesy of House of Creatives Music Festival: