Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Basel 2011.12.01 Nas with Theophilus London at Richochet and Special Disco Version (James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem) at Grand Central Miami, FL

It is beyond reason that this December is my cherry popping for Miami's most comprehensive city-wide art and music event of the year. Art Basel is a six day whirlwind of galleries, guerrilla artistry, intimate private parties and unique live music throw downs. Due to scheduling conflicts, last night would be my only shot at getting a proper taste. I would argue I got the whole food pyramid plus dessert. Fellow music and art pseudo-connoisseur Joan Rivers would be my cohort for the night and we were slipping into a North Miami Avenue parking spot some where around 8 PM. The plan was to not really have a plan, but rather to wander and exercise our options as the night progressed.

Within the first ten seconds of breathing in Miami city air, our good friends Tracy Block, of the recently launched, and Lauren Perlstein, of the infamous, were sauntering down the street next to us with smiles and cocktails. We joined them as we made our way to Seven, which as it turns out, was closed. Many of the major galleries were closed. Having no back up plan we continued on with the girls to Graffiti Gone Global in Midtown. Despite a rather weak display of street art, no where near resembling graffiti up to par, we did score some stellar gift bags that included a personal sized bottle of 1800 tequila. Not too shabby.
From there we somehow got pulled into a VIP showcase of an architect titled Economy and Ecology. The vibe wasn't exactly catering to a lowly writer in sneakers, but we took advantage of the access, and a lot of the work he had put together was worth a look. Ditching socializing for the pursuit of art, Joan and I made our way to Wynwood in hopes of catching some real graffiti and street art. Every corner was buzzing and unmarked doors granted access into half a dozen impromptu galleries. The works got better and better as we approached the Wynwood Walls. A jazz-funk quartet was playing a back alley stage but the table wanted five bucks, so we passed. I noticed a stack of artist Marc PaperScissor's cards sitting there and figured he had to be around. As we turned back into the chaos, we ran right into Marc slinging his inventory on the corner. The backdrop at this point was an outdoor house DJ party and a team of ruthless Occupy Miami protestors being belligerent in the street. The people watching was prime.
After we left Marc we pushed into the maze of large painted walls that comprise the fittingly named Wynwood Walls. A few impressive motifs were scattered throughout, but many seemed lackluster at best. The interior galleries on the other hand had some of the best we saw all night. A intricate red and black two piece set showed off an insane amount of detail, and a very neat use of rubiks cubes stood next to it. I was taking pictures of the better edifices when I came upon artist Brandon Paul and his crew. He had been set up at the Moksha Art Fair with half a dozen new pieces so we discussed his thoughts on the event. His feedback, like everyone's, was very positive and we parted ways after hashing out details on a custom piece he is going to do for me. Leaving there we followed the drunken and disorderly, that clashed entirely with the pretentious vibe of Midtown, and landed ourselves in a live mark up competition that pitted American and European creatives in a duel to produce the best wall using thick sharpies. In my humble opinion the Americans were winning.
That same building was filled with amazingly good pieces including a standout psychedelic muscled man-baby. Time was flying so we made the game time decision to head back to the car in hopes of catching some music. On the way, we were very popular among taggers spraying paint on back alley walls. We found out it was the bottle of tequila that was the attraction. We swiftly directed them to the posh side of town, and stepped into two more galleries on the walk back. One of which had some awesome New York takes on super heroes, and another had an intense collection of copper metal sculptures. Reasonably fulfilling my art craving, we hit the road towards Grand Central.
The line was long. Stretching around the corner, it was five people thick and at least two hundred people long. I guess that's what we get for chancing the hipsters wouldn't show up early for a free show featuring the electro-dance rock gods James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of the legendary LCD Soundsystem. I pocketed a beer and we rolled the dice on getting in. Things started taking a dive when I realized I had forgotten my ticket print out, and as I went to recover it on my phone, the damn thing died. Joan was unable to locate his entry form. After a good thirty minutes we had only progressed about two thirds of the way. A scout returned with news that they had shifted entry to one-in-one out. Having no proof of entry, and no guarantee of getting in, we opted out and jumped in the car to hit Ricochet.
Despite being a fraction of the size, and in a more choice Midtown location, there was no line to get in. Of course, it was an invite-only party with the likes of Nas and Theophilus London billed to perform. I had to pull a string or two to get in the door. Calling in the favor was the best decision I made all night. The beautiful lounge was comfortably full and Theo was on the intimate stage rocking the room. I walked around and couldn't help but think what a hidden gem this venue was for now, but would probably soon be a hot spot. London closed with "I Stand Alone" before jumping into a humorous full band dance party to Jay-Z and Kanye's "Niggas In Paris." A good sign that people were getting loose. The crowd was mixed, as would be expected, but the vibe was surprisingly good.

A set break allowed us to maneuver forward and we were within arms reach when Nas was ushered in by his posse. The crowd went berserk and the cameras started flashing. There couldn't have been more than 125 people in the entire room. For the next hour Nasty Nas put on an amazing medley of greatest hits with the help of DJ "You Shouldn't Have" and a live percussionist. The room pulsed, fans rapped along to hits "If I Ruled The World," "Hate Me Now," "Got Ur Self A Gun," "N.Y. State Of Mind," and "One love" just to name a few. His delivery was completely on point, flow in perfect unison with the beats and he switched between instrumentals with ease while hyping the crowd.

It was everything you would expect from one of the best rappers of all time, and it just happened to be unfolding five feet away. The set list spanned his whole discography and catered towards the true old school fans. When there was room the heads nodded to the staple beats and girls danced for the Big Apple rap king. Getting into the weekend festivities, Nas even produced a hilarious live painting that transformed into a mutated facial expression with a blunt in mouth. The promoters stopped the show for a minute and auctioned the piece off for $14,000. Yeah, it was that kind of crowd and that kind of night.
Riding a contact high after a "One Mic" set closer, we bailed out of Ricochet and went back to try our luck at Grand Central. This time the line was nearly non-existent and we were in. As fate would have it, our make-shift after party would be hosted by the boys of Special Disco Version - and they were bringing it. It appeared the young hipsters had gone hard for the first four hours, but pockets of the dance inclined were still going strong as Murphy and Mahoney assaulted the club with deep cutting dance punk and their signature electronic delivery. We danced our way around the room and ran into friends that were equally enthralled by the performance. After an hour of grooving with them we decided to call it quits just before closing time.

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