Art Basel Miami: The Artist’s Hustle

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This past December 7-10, Art Basel descended Miami, Florida. In case you don’t know, it’s one of the premiere art exhibitions in the world. Also, the only location in the US it takes place in, is Miami. For nearly 50 years it has attracted creators, entrepreneurs, and the like at Basel Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Miami. This post however isn’t necessarily about the overall event.

No, this is about the talent you may enjoyed or missed. To be more specific, one youngman’s adventure to bring music to the public. Jefferson Joseph better known as bassist WiseguyJeff, spent the better part of the week working at Wynwood, Miami. Wiseguy invited me to see him perform the entire weekend and see local artist he invited as well. Considering I managed to miss a year of his shows, and need to experience more Miami talent, I took my friend’s invitation.

Now, what I experienced wasn’t exactly what I thought. I actually got to see more of Wiseguy’s world. I was able to see all the emotions that go with gigs; the good, the bad, and etc. Even the biggest and prominent of events can(will) have their bumps on the road. What follows is part an account of his weekend and the art.

Thursday 

On Thursday his first playing day; Jeff took stage near Hive in Wynwood. He was joined with long time band member MadMan and drummer extraordinaire JK. For hours, the trio provided alternative rock and fusion for the passing public. It was interesting to see people gather. I saw how the crowd grew from 2 listeners to a number of groups. They provided the smoothest of sounds and rock. I would like to add this wasn’t easy. No less than 50 feet away, there was another venue which was considerably bigger and louder. However the rock was appreciated. Also JK the drummer, is amazing and his years of experience was in full force.

Friday

Jeff’s adventures at Art Basel wasn’t over after this show. The weekend proper brought forth another aspect. He had to take on the role of music curator and promoter of sorts. As described to me, he had to ensure that his talented friends and collaborators would be OK.

So I decided to join Wiseguy earlier on Friday. As we met, he informed that his other venue had a slight problem. The problem? He had no power. Yes, the stage behind the liquor vendor, Fireball had no electricity.

The time was 3 PM, Jeff had been dealing with that since the morning. Speaking from experience, he assured me that this was merely temporary and he’ll get the power needed. Being concerned I asked about the acts he planned for the day. As a music manager, he told me that he would only mention that speed bump once they arrive. Because you always reveal “bad news” after the good. Also to the credit of the artists, they would understand (and they did).

We navigated the busy streets of Wynwood to head over to Hive again. Jeff had another act playing where he was yesterday. This band had a more smooth jazz feel to them. The passersby certainly was enjoyed their sounds. On occasion, I would ask my friend how he was doing amidst his work. He would always reply with; “I’m tired and sore dude”. Understandable as he has had to perform and setup stage by himself in the morning.

As we headed back, swimming through the busier than usual streets, he needed to find a temporary location. In between our conversations of murals being made live, I noticed his mind was occupied. Little did I know, he was taking inventory of the streets and flowing public. So he found an area that was small and cozy enough for something acoustic. Shortly after his discovery, he was contacted by the band Pandarama.

Pandarama, is a 4 man band from Miami with an interesting brand of music. From my time to listening to them I would call them an alternative band. We still need genres for references sake if nothing else right? So at the temporary location, the gentleman didn’t let the lack of power phase them. They shared a few songs, some covers and some original. What was impressive was how they still had that stage presence, with a small crowd. The public definitely took notice of their strong harmony and beautiful messages. Mind you, this was before they had electricity.

After some time wiseguy’s musical mutuals showed up as the night went on. As it was near 7 PM, Jeff began to scramble to search for power. During this time, I spoke with these creatives. I also was reminded the world actually is pretty small. Through his tenacity he was able to track down the production team. So finally, the venue was ready to go.

The first performer at Fire Ball was Alfreedom. A producer, performer, singer/songwriter, and entrepreneur. It does bare to note that he was in company with his team. Whether they were his family and or friends it was good to see his support right there with him. Now, Al appears to be a quiet youngman that tends to blends in the crowd. Once he started paying however that was proven quite wrong. His stage presence is what you could hope for with a solo musician. He created a welcoming atmosphere while singing warm songs in tandem. He also has a knack for incorporating on the fly beats into his set. Like his name implies we can create an environment to be free.

Following Alfreedom was Deshantin Accius. Deshantin is what I call an acoustic aficionado. Armed with nothing but his trusty guitar he took to the stage. Well I shouldn’t say nothing, he had his voice as well. I didn’t get the chance to speak to him much. I assume he’s been performing for years. As he treated the crowd to his melodic unplugged songs, it was clear he has a quiet confidence built from experience. A well trained voice and battle hardened guitar. Funny thing to note, before his last song, he broke a guitar string (many guitars were around). You have to lose yourself in the performance after all.

The stage then belonged to Izzy Rael. Izzy as an artist is a blend of the genres RnB and Hip Hop. He shared three recent songs with those in attendance. Izzy is also a multi-talented threat. Singer, song writer, and producer. His songs were silky and had one hell of a beat to them. I can’t stress enough he has a wonderful singing voice. As he shared stories of life, love, and passersby took notice of the almost imposing range of his performing presence.

Afterwards ,came a proper performance from Pandarama. With the gentleman fully into their element, they really let loose. The lead singer Panda, is a young man with an impressive singing voice. The percussion work by drummer Synder is at heart of all their songs. Steven, the band’s guitarist sounds very much like a student of the genre. Roberto was very pleasant on the ukulele. Altogether their sound is refreshing. Plus whom doesn’t love rock?

No offense to the guys prior but I think my favorite performance was from Cynfully Sweet. I have a hard time to describe what hearing her is like in words. For a word, her songs are refreshingly airy and honest. They are also powerful and thought provoking. I can’t avoid to say it but her music make you feel good. They are sweet melodies, I think anyone would enjoy as the crowd did that night. There was a point where she started rapping for one of her songs. Add lyrical proficiency to her repertoire.

After her performance, I shortly left as Wiseguy contemplated on the rest of the weekend. I didn’t really ask him but I sure he was pleased with the turnout, all things considered.

Saturday

An unforeseen cold front slowly made way into Miami come Saturday morning. The streets of Wynwood were more crowded than Friday. I mean Art Basel will do that. Folks were also bundled with sweaters. Being Floridians, we tend to over exaggerate where near 50 F is “super cold”. To friends/readers in much colder areas, I’m sorry.

Again, Wiseguy would be performing at Hive near Manawood, for the first part of his day. He was joined with musicians Sonata 9000 and Kalil. Both fellow entrepreneurs and skillful artist themselves. Sonata, a multi-instrumentalist, was on the keyboard. Kalil was at the helm with the drums. The trio provided harmony with jazzy tunes that ranged from classical to more fusion related. As the gentleman played more uptempo jams families gathered around and enjoyed the sounds. Kalil is a percussionist with precision. Sonata proved to be very versatile as he would switch it up to woodwind instrument in between songs.

In between breaks Jeff had to survey his duties at FireBall. Once again, we shuffled through at times annoyingly full streets of people. As we made way to Basel House, we saw previously empty walls become full on murals. Unlike Friday, Jeff took matters in his own hands to secure power and electricity.  It would be more accurate to say the production team knew that they dropped the ball…hard. Once the evening was fully upon us, Wiseguy had to check his bookings. In between killing time he was checking the equipment and acoustics. He also provided transition music with his own personal spotify playlist.

Jeff had to disappear and check with his bookings for a certain amount of time. Mind you I’m just enjoying the shows and not really helping(I think). As he left he handed me the aux cord. “You’re on DJ duty” he said as he disappeared into the street. So I did what I talk about, play music people haven’t heard. So I proceeded to provide an hour of music from mutuals, friends, and artists I discovered this year.

Multiple people did ask me if I was a DJ or music curator because they loved what I played. Note: Shortly after this post, I will create playlists regularly for enjoyment and discovery purposes. Also for some reason no one was getting phone reception in Wynwood, weird. As Wiseguy returned, even his musically talented friends asked me about the music they heard during preparation.

Enough about me. As the even grew colder, a youngman with an orange hoodie and his band made way to the stage. Then I met Starve Marve, guitarist Richi and drummer Rondon. Sorry, Richi is also a producer and multi-instrumentalist, opps. Marve’s a showman as he is a performer. While they were setting up he was entertaining the crowd with humor and wit. Marv’s music carries a strong message of identity and societal concerns to name a few. His lyricism and singing is powerful and fun. There were some technical issues. However that didn’t phase him in the slightest. So armed with his drum machine he proceeded to impress and entertain. Marve live is a must see.

Not to steal due from his band members. Richi is a very talented guitarist. He plays with an air of experience and confidence. Rondon on the drums was nothing short of solid.

Alfreedom took to stage after, armed in a green hoodie as it was considerably cooler than last night. He provided set of good vibes with his trusty guitar and smooth singing voice. As it got colder I decided to head on home and deal with the traffic.

Sunday

On the final day of Art Basel, it was noticeably colder. I joined Wiseguy later in the afternoon at Fireball. There Jeff was already to go and just waiting for the acts to come. There was a good moment of silence. So like any good musician Jeff used the time to practice on stage. It was the last day and I wanted to ask him about the experience.

Thinking on the matter, he simply said: “Busy” As if right on cue after he spoke, someone needed his attention.

Once again, I got the chance to see Izzy perform. Which, was great because I got hear his music again. As well as see him perform in better lighting. Less background noise form the other venue meant that Izzy got due justice sound wise as well.

Jeff then took stage with Madman and now drummer Rubi Ronin. The trio began to play an array of rock that was ambient, powerful and fusion heavy. Rubi’s drumming skills were hard to notice. He’s prowess is as wild and hard to miss like his impressive beard (it’s well groomed). Rubi was a wildman on the drums no doubt. Madman really is a sight to see err hear on the guitar. He warps sounds to the point of them being hypnotic. With Jeff always being on tune they all played great music together.

After enjoying the show I was stuck playing DJ again. Well, stuck is a negative connotation. It wasn’t bad, people love giving requests. I actually got new artist to follow from it.

Soon after, an artist by the name of Tharah took to the mic. Armed with a drum she began to sing very powerful ballads. Her music is very soul and uplifting. The subject matter of her songs are very intimate and raw. To be honest her music, speaks on years of experience, imparting  words of wisdom. I got into my feelings as she got more and more soulful. I don’t regret it, I thank her for it. It was enriching.

When she was done gracing crowds with her voice things became more poetic. Paradoxical Sage, an artist and poet (I’ll update his name once I get it) came on stage to perform. Being a spoken word regular and wordsmith by nature he was in his natural element free-styling with Rubi and Madman. It was cool to see that raw creative energy freeform live. There’s nothing like it.

Afterwards, I saw a performance from rock band No Traffik. Well half of the bad was there. Nonetheless it was a pleasure to hear them live. Their sound feels much like grudge rock bands of the 1990s. Meaning that deep songs of life are paralleled with smooth acoustic and electric guitar play. The lead singer and his fellow band member definitely entertained. Their music put me in deep thought and appreciation. When you think of Miami music you don’t really associate it with rock. So I’m glad my night ended with seeing No Traffik.

What’s Next??

After seeing Wiseguy off that Sunday I knew he wasn’t done. He had one more act to oversee and such. There were so many things I wanted to ask him about. There are also many things I didn’t talk about either. His frustrations of dealing with a clueless production team at times. The fact his venues were located near much larger and at times louder venues. Fire Ball was located behind a mini event across the street. Still Jeff made it happen.

Note: I highly recommend following all the artist mentioned. I’ve linked to all their respective accounts so you can follow them. Personally speaking I need to see each one of them live more often now. Also, I need to see more local talent.

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On a more personal level, I believe I’m friends with Jeff because he’s always on the move. He’s always thinking about what’s next, to better his craft. He’s always thinking of his next collaboration, exposure, seeing more talent, etc. What’s next for him I don’t know. I know he has a regular jazz gig at a restaurant(will get name later). I know that he already has the next Art Basel planned out.


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