If you want to have a chance to see Wynwood, Miami as vibrant as ever, visiting Art Basel this past Saturday night was a good way to do so. We got the chance to experience this at the highest level, getting to see the show that III Points put on with ZHU at the Old RC Cola Plant. As we got there early, we got to see the crowd slowly build in anticipation to see one of the most promising careers in dance music. ZHU, a young Chinese American, built his fan-base through an emphasis on the music and an aesthetic that evolves around mystery and cultivation. Only then, did we start to realize that we were in for a treat that night.
The venue, a warehouse adorned with graffiti, was already filled with lights that helped create the vibe of classic industrial house music. The bars set up in opposite corners had magnetic colors plastered over them. Excited fans filled in ready to get their favorite elixirs and enjoy the night away. I don’t think there was a dull face in the room. As the DJ played his set to warm up the crowd, that excitement was palpable, and the crowd was zealous. As multi colored spotlights illuminated the crowd, they began to celebrate, congregate, and gather around. Not a moment of displeasure in sight. At times, the lights doubled as both stage design and the crowd’s personal spotlight show. The spotlights provided them the ability to create their own performances even if just for a moment.
After having conversations with concertgoers, stage operators, and getting to watch the crew and vendors work, we settled into our spots and focused on what’s ahead. The stage darkened and before we knew it, we had a performer with two back up dancers flanking him. “Hello, my name is Channel Tres. I come by the way of Compton, California”. Not a moment after, hard electro drum patterns behold you and Channel Tres goes into the first song of his EP, “Controller”. He captured the crowd’s attention immediately and the funk infused house music was a refreshing spin. In addition to that, he and his male choreographers performed with precision and energy. Before starting into his song “Jet Black”, he lets the crowd know how much he loves black things; a joke that tickled my fancy. Tres was so pro-black he could barely stop dancing about it. When he did slow down from moving it was to make sure he got his words out. He opened for Zhu with songs about appreciation of African-American culture and African-American women. Channel Tres' music manages to sing of inner city struggles and life on top of entrancing house instrumentals. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed it and gave him the respect that most openers would dream of. After performing his last song from his self-titled EP, he thanked Miami for his time and gracefully exited the stage. A performance that guaranteed a lot of people in that crowd will be searching his name the next day.
Hell of an intro, right? By the way we were all feeling in that moment, we knew the night was just getting started. Creeping up from stage left as the bad-ass light show was running wild was the man of the hour, Zhu. As he inched up to the tip of the pyramid that was center stage, his attire alluded a mysterious demeanor about him. The smoke mystifying the warehouse helped furnish his stage presence flawlessly. With his arms extended from side to side, as if inviting the room into his aura, the beat dropped, and the crowd melted into their own pleasure. With the final message from Tres behind, Zhu took us through the desert. He may be labeled as a silent artist, but he has a lot to say.
Having not been here before, Ringo’s Desert was a space of familiarity. Initially being surrounded by strangers, we all seemed to vibe hand in hand as Zhu guided us through each vibration. He knew to play hits his fans fell in love with from the time he stepped on the scene in 2014. But, that didn’t stop him from surprising us from time to time. Being the versatile artist that he is, he somehow turned Kodak Black’s “ZEZE” into a house BOP. I had no idea if I should pump my fist in the air with the rest of the crowd that I had become family with in the matter of an hour or if I should hit the Kodak. We all know what dance I’m referring to.
After his sublime ZEZE mix, he eased right back into his groove, but he wasn't alone. With a sax player to the left of him and an electric guitarist to his right, the crowd went crazy! With his hit album Ringo's Desert being released in April of this year, 8 months later, the masses knew "Save Me" word for word. Blasting "Love That Hurts", we all jumped up and down in unison so much that the ground shook for a whole 3 minutes and 1 second. Ultimately, our FAVORITE of the night was "Guilty Love". Pairing the crowd's energy with Zhu's vocals, I'm sure no one felt like we were in Wynwood anymore. His tune transported us to a massive dance party in the middle of nowhere. One with the music with no worries or cares, we all grooved to the same vibration. Smiles on our faces, fist pumping, hair swinging any which way, we had a taste of freedom, if only for a moment. Somehow the Dune team manages to bring every genre imaginable to life. Throughout Zhu's 2-hour set surrounded by art, we learned this group of creatives isn't just for the House lovers. They delivered something for everyone, which is what music is all about. They brought the house down and brought everyone together. By 2am, we were connected in a way we hadn't known before. So, thank you, Zhu. Saturday night was just another reminder of the power of music. Before we knew it, we made it out of Ringo’s Desert and to our wagon. Grabbed some tacos and made it to bed in time to not get stuck in the Miami traffic on “Route 95.”