Merchandise offered no words of wisdom for you, dear readers. Maybe you don't care, but at the end of the week, I was in desperate need of a good nugget. There has to be some image, some device, that would encapsulate Art Basel's Miami. According to a note in my phone, someone said "I'm just gonna get wasted and listen to Lana Del Rey all night. I don't give a fuck." And I truly wish that getting wasted and listening to Lana Del Rey and not giving a fuck were all part of some choice signifier for last week. But consider my Friday afternoon. After sitting in an hour of traffic to get from one side of Miami Beach to another, we ended up at a little Mexican restaurant so that we could feasibly park in their lot for the Nada show. Univision was muted on the television and there were empanadas made out of a plantain batter and some molten, salty cheese. Within minutes, my colleague/bro was sipping a four dollar, very small cup of Intelligentsia coffee as we moseyed through displays of huge denim intestines and disquieting Frankenstein taxidermy. Nada was very much so the Brooklyn show. Not simply because most of the galleries representing were from Brooklyn, but because all the sudden, every random person you knew from a party in McKibbon dorms was charging with arms spread. It also held the highest concentraion of conceptual stuff of any show I'd been to in Miami: elegant string art, cardboard cut-out photographs of women's painted bodies, a money counter with Warhol on the bills, a Darth Vader bust, a panel of wood siding, so on.
The point here is not to say that Basel's Miami was at heart some juxtaposition of youthful intellectualism and Mexicans-- that would be Bushwick. The point is that the whole encapsulating image thing is really goddamn difficult, especially when the day started with eating bagels at a franchise then going to a show on the beach that smelled like burnt pizza (Untitled). And then Friday night made the spirit of the whole week clear-- Art Basel week, and Miami in sum total is whatever you want to make of it. See, the evening started out on the same high-pitched note of absurd that the last 48 hours had been. One moment I was at an empty dance party where Kool Keith and AraabMuzik would later play, sipping a big cup of free red wine. The next, I was standing in the middle of a football-field-sized vacant lot surround entirely by food trucks, eating a cross between a Quesadilla and a Cubano sandwich. And the next moment, inside an airplane hanger of a sound stage which Tumblr had rented out for a huge party with a small display of GIFs projected in the center. High octane, only-in-Miami randomness and decadence, right?
On a dime, it all shifted. Around 7 PM, I met up with Andrew McLees of Teepee, the fine dude who brought Ad Hoc on for the show that we cosponsored at Churchill's that night. Before I get too deep into this yarn, let me note that I was subjected to some top-notch hospitality and friendliness this week. Many genuine smiles and not-so-small talk. And my buddy Willie, and these two absolute random strangers-- Andrew and his girlfriend, Melissa-- were consummate hosts. Just please don't tell any of these fine folk that I licked their toilet seats with a junkie's abandon. I first accompanied Andrew to a party Teepee at Legal Art. Half of it was a mixer in a parking lot, and the other half was a punk show in an empty warehouse. Truly strange was the flimsy liminal space between Basel's askew extravagance and a minimalistic DIY show. Take it from me though, the punk part was barely inhabited as the attendees seemed to prefer the DJ spinning-- no joke-- George Michael's "Careless Whisper". I think this shook Andew a little bit, but I was on my fourth comped Mojito and very fixated on the free rum at Churchill's.
Being a shitty journalist who apparently doesn't do his research, I didn't realize that the show at Churchill's was going to be start to finish excellent. Lil' Daggers did this "The Strokes made a sludge album" thing, Band In Heaven did a fine rendition of "what if Smashing Pumpkins made an album for Hozac?" Lots of energy all around, even as the place was just filling up. Teepee sounded significantly better playing in a real venue instead of a big concrete box. Kind of this whole goth post-punk sound that I have a hard time putting my finger on since what is this rock music stuff anyway? Enough dB's to clear your sinuses though. At some point while this was all happening, I went backstage to get some more rum and figured I better get Merchandise to a say a thing or two. As he was simply trying to close the bathroom door, the bassist insisted that he had no wisdom and that I should ask Carson, who apparently does all the talking. Bullshit, everyone has some kind of wisdom, even if it's just "don't water flowers during a heat wave." Anywho, the rum went down and Merchandise was crushed it and I was genuinely surprised to see that it was only a trio because the dudes brought like 8 people backstage. But I should have known in advance, I guess.
If there is one thing that I learned in Miami this week-- aside from the fact that there are bartenders who don't know what a goddamn tall boy is-- it's the fact that all airs put on in Miami are results of very deliberate effort. This wisdom came thanks to Andrew, who detailed the sheer effort of trying to get a band, even a scene, noticed in a city that the country largely doesn't pay attention to. He rattled down a list of all of the bands from around the country that he tried to book for his Churchill's show and it quickly because obvious that he was working just as hard to display his Miami-- a place where rock lives, breathes and thrives-- as the guy running the mermaid party did to promote his metropolis of upper-crust low brow. Between Miami Beach's art deco, Wynwood's street art paradise and the distinctly insular ethnic neighborhoods, Miami is a town of bold images. Few of these images are incidental, and Miami-- just as any city worth a damn-- is one in which the cultivation of them is the culture itself. So Art Basel's ceaseless surrealism doesn't necessarilly reveal something constantly bubbling under the city's surface. If anything it reveals the city's capacity to be what it must when it must.