When I went to pick up my press pass for the Miami Music Festival yesterday, the MMF staff made a sincere defense against its critics, which include The (Other) New Times, local musicians, and us. MMF staffers told me the fact that many of Miami’s bigger and/or better acts (Rachel Goodrich, Jesse Jackson, Sloane Peterson, Jacuzzi Boys, etc.) are not on the roster is immaterial because the Miami Music Festival is not necessarily meant to showcase Miami music, but rather to present live music to Miami. They said the disparaging comparisons to other, bigger music festivals like SXSW and CMJ are erroneous because those festivals are further along in their respective evolutions — the implication being MMF would get “there” eventually. Finally, they conceded the MMF of today is not perfect, but contended that one could not expect it to be in only its second year.
I agree with this last point. Developing a grade-A music festival doesn’t happen over night, particularly in a city like Miami whose music scene is still wriggling in its infancy. So it was with an open mind and reasonable expectations that I attended last night’s MMF opening show at Cafeina in Wynwood. But even with the bar set low, it was a disappointing night.
First of all, there were fewer than 150 people there (a generous estimate), and many of them appeared to be either entourage or industry folk. Actual Miami music fans were few and far between. This became clear when South Florida musician Mike Mineo asked his audience, “How many Floridians out there?” and only a few hands shot up. Also when the lead singer of the West Palm Beach-based Pangea Kidz yelled “What up Miami?” and was met with awkward silence — further evidence that Miami was either not in attendance or not listening.
Beyond that, there were issues with the sound. There always are, but the technical difficulties that delayed Mineo’s set dragged on for about 20 minutes. “Give it up for electricity — if only we knew how to use it,” a good-natured but frustrated Mineo said at one point during the prolonged SNAFU.
As for the music itself, R&B singer Vaughn Anthony (John Legend’s little brother) put on a good show, but his set elicited little reaction from the thin crowd save for clinical nods from record label scouts.
Now, I’m not ready to write off the MMF after its first night. I’m still excited for a (very) few of the 400 shows scheduled over the weekend (see “Diamonds in the Rough at the MMF”). But last night did not bode well. If the rest of the festival draws as little local support as opening night did, then Miamians themselves will share some of the blame for another disappointing MMF. Then again, if opening night ends up being an accurate forecast of the rest of the festival, who could blame them for staying away?
Here are some more photos from the event.
All photos by Robby Campbell. See more photos from the Miami Music Festival HERE.