If you see me out and about this week you will notice my lingering tan obtained in just two days in the sun in fun Miami Beach last week. I was lobster red when I headed north and now I’m heading to beige, but I have no complaints. I left New York cold, tired, and snow-white and returned a better man. ABSOLUT Miami had me down south for a nightclub panel moderated by Cocaine Cowboys and Limelight producer Alfred Spellman. Limelight will come out on DVD tomorrow and I’m all up in that. Sunday’s New York Post did a story on it and I was there putting my two cents in. I put $1.75 in the flick.
The only puzzling thing about seeing a vividly tricked-out thrill ride pop up in Midtown Miami for Art Week was: why it hadn’t happened long before now. As everyone knows, that mad dash folks erroneously refer to as Art Basel (which is actually the name of but one of many massive components) is the cultural equivalent of a thrill ride itself—albeit one where 100,000 of the world’s most illustrious creatives all hop on at the same time. It’s also a bit of a carnival; only in this case, the revelers all seem to have doctorates in decadence. And while there was no way in heaven or hell for even one of those top-shelf party people to catch every happening on their wish list, let alone all fit on a single thrill ride within a 5-day stint, a damn good gaggle did make a point of lining up for the attraction—and they all consequently sweetened the time of their wild lives as a result.
Yes, you guessed it: this heaping helping of praise is for Peter Anton’s Sugar & Gomorrah, the thrill ride which served as a sort of artful carny sideshow to the big tent Art Miami and its adjacent three-ring CONTEXT. If the block-long lines are any indication, Anton’s great creation also proved to be one of Miami Art Week’s most crowd-pleasingly popular sights.
Presented by Palm Beach’s Arcature Fine Art (who’ve long handled Anton’s action) and green-lit into existence by Art Miami/CONTEXT Director Nick Korniloff, Sugar & Gomorrah combined confections and sex, and made of them one singularly sweetest sensation. Actually, it was a series of sensations, and each lasted but the proverbial blink of an eye. No surprise, considering the one-minute duration of the thrill. According to Anton, the rapid-fire frenzy of it all was highly intentional. “I wanted people to be reminded of how fast we live, and how quickly some of the best things in life can pass us by,” said Anton right after my minute-long ride-along. “I’m sure you saw the underdressed beauties and the oversized treats; but how many things didn’t you see? And how much of what you did see were you able to take in? Seems the faster we go, the less we’re able to appreciate. And there are a lot of things out there worth appreciating.”
By adding the notion of Gomorrah to the equation, Anton’s carnal candyland didn’t just suggest we stop and smell the roses, it seemed to recommend we gobble them up—thorns and all. How else to best sate our most sublime desires before the proverbial bell tolls for everyone? And while the sixty-second sexing of our collective sweet spot did in many aspects seem to evoke instant gratification, the creation is the result of one long hot summer. “We repurposed the classic 1960s Mouse Trap ride,” he explained. “Unfortunately there are only three left in existence, and of those only two are fully operational. So we spent all last summer chasing carnivals from town to town just to get a sense of what would and wouldn’t work. I can’t even tell you how much cotton candy such an endeavor entails.”
Speaking of treats, I wanted to ask Anton how many times he’d had to listen to Leslie Gore’s "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” and whether that or any other syrupy ditty helped to keep him going while he was creating Sugar & Gomorrah. Sadly, our chat had already exceeded its original one-minute limit. I did thought it prudent to know just how he pulled off placing such a great creation at such a prime location throughout the largest art show on earth. “That was all Nick,” said Anton. ”Arcature and I approached him with the idea and he said go for it. He didn’t ask see a drawing or a blueprint or anything. Nick’s only condition was that we make it absolutely spectacular.”
As anyone lucky enough to thrill through Sugar & Gomorrah will gladly tell you, Anton not only met Korniloff’s condition, he hit Miami Art Week’s sweetest spot, right between the heart and the mind.
“I tell people Banksy is just like Jesus… do you expect to see Him at Art Basel this year?”
That was New York and Southampton gallerist Stephan Keszler sharing the stock response he gave to the people who asked whether or not Britain’s most infamous street artist was lurking about town for that madness called Art Basel. Keszler wasn’t implying Banksy is as big or even bigger than Jesus, mind you (or even that he’s bigger than The Beatles); it was simply a quick way to point out the rather ridiculousness of the question. As all the world knows, Banksy has largely made his fame by not showing his face—ever. And to think the masked man would suddenly decide to unmask simply because his works were being exhibited, is about as absurd as thinking 12.21.12 will be the day the Christian deity decides to finally pull off the long-promised Second Coming—never mind that the minute either one of them does reveal themselves, it’s all over.
Keszler was the main force behind the extensive collection of Banksy on display at Art Miami and its adjacent CONTEXT art fair throughout the just-wrapped Miami Art Week. Consequently, he got questioned about Banksy a lot. But Keszler’s rapid-fire reply wasn’t only practical, it was also apropos. Most folks inquired about Banksy in the hushed and reverent tones generally reserved for saints or other such eminences. And even if the guerilla muralist hasn’t can’t quite be called a deity, it’s clear the cult of personality he’s cultivated is reaching proportions that are now near Biblical.
Adding perceived insult to apparent blasphemy, is the fact that the first two murals Keszler acquired came directly from Bethlehem, after a couple Palestinian entrepreneurial types had some trouble unloading the walls they’d torn down. “They were trying to sell the walls on eBay," said Keszler. “Can you believe it? I told them, Banksy or no Banksy, you can’t sell three tons of cinderblock on eBay; that’s not even remotely possible. But I may be able to help get the murals off your hands.” Those murals—“Wet Dog” and “Stop and Search”— were indeed rescued by Keszler, and at considerable effort and expense. That’s likely why he initially put ‘em up for six-figure sale at Art Southampton, summer sister fair of Art Miami.
Done in cahoots with British gallerist Robin Barton and the London-based Bankrobber Gallery, with whom Keszler’s been selling Banksy prints since at least 2009, the showing (and the salvaging) proved to be more than a mite controversial. Both, because the artist’s official Pest Control refused to authenticate the works (though the outfit doesn’t authenticate any of Banksy’s street art), and because some believed the murals should’ve remained on the West Bank (despite each having sat scattered and unseen in a stonemason’s lot for years).
Freed from their price tags (though major museums have reportedly made inquiries about their acquisition) and shown in support of Keszler’s just-launched IPXLU, the murals joined five other rescued street artworks in an exhibition entitled “Banksy: Out of CONTEXT”. As at Southampton, the usual array of crybabies made their usual complaints. Yet for the vast majority of the 60,000 plus who attended Art Miami and CONTEXT throughout Art Week, the onslaught of Banksy proved to be overwhelmingly edifying. “We would never have seen these works anywhere but on the internet,” said one slickly-suited Jane, speaking on behalf of her tricked-out pals. “And I don’t care what people say. We’re standing face-to-face with some of the most iconic images of this decade—images that for all anyone knows may have been lost forever. What the hell is wrong with that?”
I don’t know, but I’m betting if Keszler did get a chance to confront Banksy, he couldn’t have said it better himself.
She’s a hard-charging kitten with a whip smart kick; she’s wile-eyed and sly—the femme fatale exemplified. And many a man would give many a thing to have her break his heart. She’s got riot grrrl swagger, starlet era grace, and a face that holds truth to be self-evident—or else. She’s cool, she’s keen, and she fronts a real mean team (and yes that’s a direct reference to one of the greatest songs ever). She is Emily Haines, of the band named Metric, and together they are the pitch perfect measure of 21st century rock. So when the fearsome foursome took the stage at Scope in the middle of a mad Miami Art Week, the wow was beyond palpable.
Put on in conjunction with VH1 as part of their You Oughta Know series and a little assist from the good folks at Fiat, Metric’s Scope Miami Art Fair stand was another one of the many, many pleasures that pop up during what’s commonly called Basel. It was also one of the most sublime. And when you’ve got a week of sonic wonders—which included everyone from Scott Weiland to Daniel Johnston—that’s saying something indeed. Then again, when you’re talking about Emily Haines, saying something is pretty much a given, as is the fact that the something said will be slathered in superlatives each and every time. Miami had been abuzz about Metric’s Scope showing long before Basel, and the consensus was “can’t wait” all the way.
Yes, the band had floored The Fillmore Gleason just a few months back; and yes, everybody and their best friend’s brother seemed to be at that show. If anything though, that only increased the anticipation. See, contrary to superstition, there’s no such thing as too much of a great good thing—especially when that great good thing can rock the wind right outta you. So it was no surprise that an over-capacity crowd thronged to Scope for the force of nature that is Metric, or that the crowd wowed every moment of the storming.
Beneath the sun-drenched days and star-filled nights, Miami is at heart a city of extreme weather, and Miamians dig their storms. So too do the thousands upon thousands who descend upon our town for Hurricane Basel, and whose descending instantly makes them honorary citizens of what, for one wild week, becomes scene of the Greatest Culture Storm on Earth. As every Miamian knows, the best place to be when the storm blows is smack in the center of its eye. It was there, at Scope, at the foot of the stage in front of the Category 4 force Emily Haines, that Metric proved you don’t need no stinking barometer to know when you’re fully blown away.
The rumors started circulating a month or so ago—a rash of feverish whispers, that at the time, felt like nothing more than wishful thinking. Even after local media ran semi-blind items on the matter, the news seemed too good to be true. When the cat from Spinlab officially tipped me to the occasion, I allowed myself the luxury of believing there might indeed be some serious substance to the murmurings. Still, it wasn’t until I was two feet away from the stage, that the reality fully kicked in: Scott Weiland wasn’t just coming back to the MIA; he was coming back to play an intimate joint named Ricochet. And I was one of just a handful of folks fortunate enough to be there for the spectacle.
Okay, so it wasn’t much of a spectacle. It wasn’t much of a show either—not in an arena way anyway. But it was a rock show. The down and dirty mix of rumble and roar from which all rock springs, and to which all rock stars are indebted. Since Weiland has always been the kind of rock star who, even at his most glam, kept respect for his roots, the stripped bare affair made seemed to perfect sense. For the die hard fans of Weiland’s solo efforts, the Ricochet staging undoubtedly proved to be a perfect (and rare) occasion to hear their hero sing many of the songs that represent his life after the demise of both Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. The largest part of the 200 folks in the sold-out crowd seemed quite content simply to hear and see Weiland sing, no matter what he sung.
Of course, Weiland will never rid himself of the fact that he is much more than the sum of his solo parts—nor should he. A particularly trenchant take of “Barbarella” closed the show, providing ample evidence that the later output can stand alongside anything he’s ever performed; just as a particularly feverish version of The Libertines’ “Can’t Stand Me Now” showed he can still stand and deliver. But it was when the 80-plus minute set was over, and Weiland and his mates returned to blister through STP’s “Vaseline” and (I think) Velvet Revolver’s “Dirty Little Thing,” that the crowd got the full wow they’d wanted all along.
With the lights and the cameras and the thousand-strong throng, one might’ve gotten the impression that there was a riot goin’ on in South Beach last night. With the ubiquitous velvet ropes and de rigueur red carpet though, the impression would’ve instead led one to believe it might’ve been more of a star-studded grand opening. Well, there was indeed a bit of a riot goin’ on, and yes, it came occasioned by a star-studded grand opening. Thing is, for many a with-it Miamian, the grand opening was more an opportunity to pay tribute to a hotspot they’d already been hitting for months. Yep, you guessed it, we’re talkin’ about the official unveiling of SLS Hotel South Beach, and the exquisite inn’s attendant bacchanal.
Stunningly transformed by Philippe Starck on the site of the landmark Ritz Plaza, this is the place where top shelf chef José Andrés has brought about The Bazaar, where Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi has teamed for Katsuya by Starck, and where the penthouses have been designed by none other than Lenny Kravitz (pictured, at left). The inn’s also sibling to SBE’s equally shimmering SLS Beverly Hills, and as such it attracted the crème de la crème of the bi-coastal set.
Among the maddening crowds were of course the aforementioned Starck, Kravitz, and Andres, in addition to Sam Nazarian, CEO of the hotel’s parent SBE. Also on hand was Rumer Willis (and her merry “band of hooligans”), who may have come to play but whose pairing of combat boots with a white silky dress was what most impressed The Daily Mail. Not being red carpet types we didn’t catch any sport stars (but in a sporting town such as this we’re sure they were well represented), and we didn’t spot any other bold-faced names either (but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there too). Then again, with a glittering throng such as this one, playing spot the celeb just doesn’t do.
What does do is Hyde Beach, the singlemost swingin’ new joint to open on the Strip in some time — or at least since FDR was unveiled across the street at The Delano last November. To some degree it actually seems to be FDR which Hyde is slowly supplanting. Whether that’s by accident or with intent is anybody’s guess. For months now the smart set has been hopping back and forth between the two, so we’re thinkin’ there’s still room for both. But Hyde also happens to be the joint that teamed with the World Champion Miami Heat with Hyde at American Airlines Arena, just like LIV did with the Dolphins, and that gives the name an even more rarefied air. Come to think of it, rarefied is kinda just the perfect word to sum up the wow of SLS South Beach itself.
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If Radiohead were a book, they’d undoubtedly be a literary novel; something lauded by both critics and independent booksellers and, perhaps most importantly, cherished by the type of folks who aren’t afraid of spending time alone, undoubtedly reading literary novels. While there’s (still) something to be said about those who (still) write literary fiction, not to mention folks who (still) find solace in open books, the twain don’t make for a great night out at the arena. Which is to say that Radiohead’s Miami showing would’ve made for great headphone, but it sure didn’t make for great spectacle.
The night began, as many a dynamite Miami night begins, at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar [http://wynwoodkitchenandbar.com/], which, like its nearby sibling Joey’s and its adjacent Walls, is the kind of spot that puts the hot into any evening. This being but an early stop, we opted to back our booze with a swirl of chef Miguel Aguilar’s bar bites. Then it was over to the Arsht for the wham bam boom of Million Dollar Quartet. For some folks, a quick nosh and a crack re-imagining of the night four rock ‘n’ roll legends collided would be an eventful enough evening. Not us though. We’re the type to let our million dollars ride. Good thing, too, because it took us right over the causeway to The Setai, where we had a feast not even money could buy.
Yeah, I know the ol’ bromide: everything has a price, and pricey eateries are no exception. But that’s just numbers on a menu. When head sommelier Dwayne Savoie sends over champagne unbidden and executive chef David Werly comes to the table and proceeds to personally put together a special five-course meal, you enter a realm above and beyond mere numbers. See, that kind of graciousness cannot be bought — and neither can that kind of cool.
Just as there’s no figure large enough to encompass the multitudes conjured in Floyd Mutrux’s and Colin Escott’s magnificent Million Dollar Quartet. You know the story: one December night back in 1956, legendary star-maker Sam Philips somehow coaxed Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to come back into his Sun Records Studio for a little songfest. They sang gospel. They sang blues. They sang country. And they sang rockabilly. The rest, as they’ll always sing, made musical history.
There’s a damn good reason why Million Dollar Quartet is still running in Chicago three years after its debut, and why its 500+ Broadway performances have been followed by an Off-Broadway stint that continues to draw crowds to this day. It’s the very reason why the musical is now also pulling in full houses from Seattle to Miami. Yep, you guessed it: the show rocks. And it rolls enough legacy into 90-some-odd minutes to knock the proverbial socks off anyone who’s ever cared about the way the world sounds — now and then.
Rocking with royalty was a pitch-perfect prelude to the regal meal we were served in The Restaurant at The Setai. Like I said, sommelier Savoie started us off with a toast (of Tattinger’s), which set a stellar stage for chef Werly’s wily dine. The Alsace-raised Werly, who got his first togs at Paris’s Hotel Ritz and London’s Montes (under Alain Ducasse), made his North American bones at Le Cirque in New York (twice), Mexico City and, finally, Vegas, where he picked up his own Michelin Star and Five Diamond Award AAA. I’m still swooning from the sublime sate of it all, so I can’t accurately recall all the delectables that made their way to our table. But I do distinctly remember main coursing through The Restaurant’s fabled Peking Duck, which left me feeling like one of those privileged ex-pats who appear in the novels of Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham.
Mention should also be made of our server Marlon’s impeccable service, which came with no small amount of rightful pride. The cat was delighted to bring forth each and every course, something few staff members in any eatery seem to be able to honestly muster these days. I tell ya, it was almost as if he enjoyed the meal as much as we did.
Of course that’s an absurd and utterly impossible proposition. As much as all of The Setai staff delighted in our dining, no one could conceivably enjoy the experience as much as those doing the experiencing. Really. And while The Book of Cool might counsel a less breathless report, I believe the remarkable should be shouted about from rooftops. In some ways I almost wish we’d arranged to attend The Setai’s upcoming “Midnight in Marrakesh” New Year’s Eve Soirée, which is undoubtedly where the best of the jet set will be ringing in 2012. Then again, my gal pal and I were privy to pretty much the very same wine and dine ourselves, and we didn’t have to contend with any madding crowd either. So, as far as I’m concerned (and I’m sure Linda A will concur), we already got a million dollar hop, skip and a jump on what promises to be one platinum New Year.
Last Saturday night Miami’s Electric Pickle was once again the scene of some real keen spin, and in a town that counts itself a veritable Mecca for all the world’s wiliest DJs, that’s saying something else indeed. In this case the dizzy came courtesy of a racket-maker known as Heartthrob, who joined Ghostly pal Ryan Elliott in a Blkmarket party that served as a kinda homecoming for both ex-pats. I’m exaggerating a bit of course; neither DJ is actually from the MIA, but the two Americans call Berlin home these days.
According to Heartthrob, who’s been based in Berlin for three years now, Germany’s capital is quite accommodating to foreign creatives. “It’s incredibly easy to get a visa in Germany,” he told me in the parking lot adjacent to the Pickle’s packed back patio, where Elliott was hitting his spin. “And after living in Paris for so long without one, it’s nice to not have to worry about paperwork.”
Paperwork isn’t the only pragmatic reason the cat born Jesse Siminski has for basing himself in Berlin; the city also houses the headquarters of his longtime label, M-nus Records, with whom he’s been affiliated for nearly nine years.
“[M-nus chief] Richie [Hawtin] and I met in New York,” he recalls. “Me and my friends Magda and Troy Pierce were making the most of minimal music when he moved into the neighborhood. We’ve been family ever since.”
For a man who maximizes the minimal, being a part of the M-nus family was certainly a career changer. It also put Heartthrob in even closer contact with an international network of artists and agents and other assorted like minds, including Graphite Media head Ben Turner, who handles Hawtin, as well as Rob da Bank, Tom Middleton and some of the biggest names in both brands and festivals. It was Turner who put Siminski on to Miami’s electro-minimalists organicArma, and organicArma who in turn put me on to Siminski.
“Ben played me organicArma’s ‘Love is Not it All’ and asked if I’d like to remix it,” said Siminski. “I told him I’d not only like to–I’d love to!”
That remix, which was featured on the special edition of oA’s Under Duality LP, became a sort of calling card for the Miami band. And since it was the first (and so far only) time Heartthrob put his wits to a Magic City outfit, it also gave oA some serious street cred. This being the 21st century however, neither band nor remixer had yet to meet. That where yours truly came in.
“Man, that guy is sharp,” said organicArma leader dhArma, after his and Siminski’s pre-set chat. “I could talk to him all night and still not know even a fraction of what he knows about music.”
My plan had been to get Siminski over to oA’s Awarehouse, where both stage and studio await. Unfortunately the rigors of world travel and the very lateness of the evening had Heartthrob a mite weary. But the two soundslingers did click–like proverbial clockwork.
“Jessie will be back. And when he does we’ll have him into Awarehouse” said dhArma. “Meantime he’s gonna send stems so we can open source the original remix. We’ve also scheduled a ‘live’ session between him and me on acoustic drums. I can’t wait!”
Now and future trackings with maximizing Miami minimalists aren’t the only thing Heartthrob has on tap, of course — neither is minimalism.
“I’m about to launch my own label,” said Siminski. “It’s called Isnisnt. Just like that. The first release will be just myself, under my actual name, Jesse Siminski. The second release will be with myself along with Troy Pierce with remix by Nsi. We’re looking for a release in March.”