The XY series is reinventing Miami’s raves by deconstructing the concept of nightclubs.
Bonobo playing at XY party. (Photos courtesy of promoter)
Something strange happened at Miami's Olympia Theater last month. In the shadow of its Moorish turrets and towers, the plush auditorium in downtown Miami hosted its first ever all-night rave on May 7, headlined by Berlin's dark bass duo Âme. The red velvet chairs usually used for seating opera-goers and documentary film buffs were folded away to make space for ravenous dance music fans. Strategically placed LEDs and a goosebump-inducing L-Acoustics system invigorated the 90-year-old historic venue with a new energy. And just as fast as the two-story party palace appeared, it was gone.
That's how the XY series rolls. The roving party is a convergence of people in unconventional places. It enters a space not typically used for raves, erects full production, installs a massive sound system, hosts a banging bash for six hours, then immediately tears down. It's about disrupting the city's nightlife status quo; an event without a home that attempts to breathe life back into the night by breaking all the rules.
"It's about getting people to be curious again," says PL0T promoter Becks Lange.
"When you're in a relationship and it's getting kind of boring and dull, you've got to spice it up," continues Poplife's Aramis Lorie. "We're spicing up our relationship with Miami, so to speak, and we're developing some really cool things ... Miami has come a long way, but it's still relatively young culturally speaking, and there's room for growth there, which I'm pretty excited about."
XY is a partnership between PL0T and Poplife, two of Miami's longest-running promotion companies with a combined 25 years of experience. It was born partly in reaction to the closing to Grand Central, Poplife's celebrated home that hosted annual parties from HARD, Mad Decent, and Fool's Gold as well as hundreds of EDM tours, indie rock bands, and rappers in its five-year run. It's fall, along with other classic hangs including Tobacco Road and Will Call, have prompted discussions about Miami's lack of decent venues. A lot of smaller clubs and lounges have sprung up in recent years, but those intimate spots can't match GC's 2000-capacity energy.
XY has 16 events planned for its 18-month run, which includes Berlin-based soundscape project Tale of Us playing tonight (June 30)'s installment. Previous bookings include Bonobo, DJ Tennis, and Henrik Schwarz live. Headliners are announced about a month in advance, but the venue won't come out until the day of the show, keeping party-goers on edge.
That sort of thing might be normal in other major cities, but in Miami, where most parties happen at the same seven clubs and pull in the same 700 people, it's a bit off-putting. Unlike places such as New York, where restrictive regulations around nightlife make throwing parties difficult, the Miami clubbing scene was never forced underground; partygoers were never made to call anonymous numbers on the backs of flyers just to find a venue. Miami's nightlife is the opposite of clandestine—it's all about being seen, so the idea that things may not be straightforward makes the fancy clientele think twice.
"In Miami, you say 'secret venue' and everyone is super skeptical." Lange says, "like, 'OK, they're going to put us in a dump.'" That's where PL0T and Poplife's reputations come in. People have learned to trust them, and XY banks on the fact that low-risk partiers will buy tickets on a leap of faith. It also means the pressure is on to deliver, but if it's any consolation to confused ticket holders, the headliners don't know where they're going until the last minute either.
"There's a lot of risk in the sense that we have booking agents that are trusting us 100 percent," Lange continues.
"A lot of it was calling [DJs and agents] like, 'look, we don't know the venue yet, but trust me, have I ever failed you? This is a concept, and it's going to be cool. You should do it with us," adds Poplife's Jake Jefferson.
Playing with the unknown can be stressful as shit, but so far so good. Âme and Solar at the Olympia was hailed by one attendee on the event's Facebook page as "the funnest party of the year so far." Bonobo performed to 400 people—his smallest Miami crowd in years—at XY's April 29 party in neighborhood bar 1306. A few weeks earlier on March 15, fans were treated to a one-of-a-kind experience when DJ Tennis came to lead cooking lessons backed by chill grooves at local restaurant Fooq's.
Small touches tie the events together. The in-house system crafted specifically for XY by Pl0t partner UNREAL productions keeps sound top-notch no matter the dancefloor. The team programs and mounts LED tube lights and disco balls of varying sizes throughout each space in whatever arrangement fits best. Sometimes revelers are welcomed with wristbands sporting upbeat messages.
"You can throw a good party or a good concert wherever you want, it just takes a little more effort," Lorie says. "There's pros and cons to every space, but we have fun doing it. It's a creative process. It's not like we're walking into a room, turning on the lights, and pressing play."
"That's what makes it fun, though," Jefferson adds. "It takes it back to the essence of 'oh shit, we've already done that. What can we do now?"
For tonight's show, at the eleventh hour XY were dealt the blow that their permits didn't come through on the venue they'd been hoping would be their next big trick. So the Tale Of Us party will go down in one of Miami's main nightclubs, Trade. But the XY crew aren't disheartened—it was an inevitable setback, one they hope to chalk up to a blip, that was bound happen when throwing parties by the seats of their pants.
"It's an effort of love more than anything else," Lorie says.
Tale of Us are playing XY tonight in Miami. Tickets available here.