Miami’s III Points festival had already overcome the hurdle of a post-lockdown world before it’s muddy start on Friday evening. With a promising lineup of both local faves and massive draws, the show persisted in bringing its 2021 iteration to fruition at Mana Wynwood. The docket unfortunately had to cut some international acts like Arca due to international travel restrictions, and acts like Ariel Pink due to [REDACTED].
With a relatively calm week, Friday seemed poised to be clear for the show. However, with storm clouds that morning stretching into the afternoon and evening some local bands were placed in a tough spot: perform in the rain for no one, or not at all. Wi-fi issues at the gate left an entire massive line outside the festival preventing attendees from getting in at the slated 4PM show time. On the Sector 3 stage, Miami thrash rock duo Holly Hunt ripped through a raucous set to a crowd of essentially attendees that managed to brave their way onto the festival grounds, or other artists performing. In a morbid silver lining, this proved to be a warm-up for their massive local show at Revolution Live. Other bands were not as fortunate, with Ghostflower having to be cut from performing entirely due to inclement weather. These issues could mar any festival and quickly go from Woodstock ’69 to Woodstock ’99, but the festival managed to roll with the punches. Thankfully, the weather and wi-fi issues subsided for the crowd to treacle in for the strange art punk of Pariah to grace the stage. The other stages such as the Honda Tent featured indie synth pop from the band TWYN and the DJ NADHI kept dry in what appeared to be a car lot with a cotton candy machine.
With his biggest mainstream exposure being his appearance as part of Sufjan Stevens’ star studded band performing “Mystery of Love” on the Oscars, art pop singer Moses Sumney is no stranger to the big stages. His record “Græ” was released in two parts, the first in January 2020, and the second in May 2020. The tour for the record has seen the artist make a series of festival appearances from Outside Lands to his Miami stop in Wynwood. Flanked by an army of fabulous, genderfluid musicians on strings, synths, and horns, Sumney’s piercing countertenor belt soared above angelic arrangements of the orchestra around him. With his first record “Aromanticism” being a more straightforward R&B record, the transition to a sound more akin to Bjork or FKA Twigs felt right at home at III Points with a massive sound ready for the mainstage.
Devendra Banhart’s bilingual vocals gave the diverse Magic City crowd an evening of soothing indie rock. While the audience’s primary hype for The Strokes got them energized, Banhart urged the crowd to quell their energy to curate a purely sirene vibe. With his last record “Ma” released in 2019, the artist mixed old and new opening with his track “Mi Negrita” from his 2013 album “Mala.” As a musician for over 20 years, Banhart has performed with The Strokes as both an opener at MSG and with drummer Fabrizio Morretti in the band Little Joy. Banhart’s stage presence, while terminally mellow, saw some moments of flamboyant nature while the musician was not relegated to the guitar. The artist even ended the set with a cover of Cher’s “Believe” in the most relaxed rendition, answering my question of what a pride anthem would sound like on Ambien.
Fellow Houstonians following Banhart, Khruangbin consists of the trio of Laura Lee, Mark Speer and Donald “DJ” Johnson. The unit sauntered onto the stage with a casual swagger before diving into the track “Time (You And I)” off their latest album “Mordechai.” A unit is the only way to describe the group as their set had the improvisational elements of Speer’s guitar solos under Lee and Johnson holding down the groove of the rhythm section, but all three musicians had moments to shine as vocalists on top of their musical duties. While Speer had the spotlight to flash off riff after riff, the rhythm section’s technical chops are nothing to be dismissed. Interspersed with their tracks like “Dern Kala” and “Pelota” were instrumental interpolations of everything from “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy to the AC/DC hard rock anthem “Back in Black.”
Around their scheduled performance time, the rain that had plagued the earlier sets was rearing its ugly head back with some light drizzle as The Strokes were set to appear. A little over a half-hour later the band was given the all-clear to go on. With two decades as a band, the nostalgia factor made the NYC rockers “Hard to Explain” an exceptional start to the set, in spite of a more lackluster and probably soaked audience. Having seen The Strokes a few years back in their first New York show back at Governors Ball 2014, I had witnessed firsthand what a truly zealous audience for the band felt like, plus a crowd surge back then that bordered on dangerous. The band dived into new tracks from their latest New Wave effort “The New Abnormal” (a name chosen pre-COVID as the record was released in April 2020). Speaking of the dreaded disease, singer Julian Casablancas made several odd statements on the virus during the set that just did not really register as jokes and made for awkward interactions between the other members of the band. Casablancas seemed especially off that evening, forgetting words to not only their new songs but some of their bigger hits like “Reptilia” that the band even had to re-start (“I blame COVID” Casablancas said, singing the third verse at the beginning). As a group, they were definitely solid, playing a career worth of hits except for their albums released in the 2010s, “Angles” and “Comedown Machine.” Partially, this was due to the abridged set time even with the rain delay as the song “One Way Trigger” was cut along with other “The New Abnormal” tracks. The Strokes wrapped their set with an encore of earlier tracks “New York City Cops” and “Automatic Stop” before ending on their massive single “Last Nite” which thankfully got the rained out crowd hyped for their finale.
The Strokes Setlist
Hard to Explain
Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus (Live Debut)
Heart in a Cage
The Adults Are Talking
Is This It
You Only Live Once
Ize of the World
Take It or Leave It
New York City Cops
[At the Door, Not The Same Anymore, 12:51, & One Way Trigger were on the written setlist but not played due to time constraints.]