During Art Basel, Miami Beach becomes a circus of art lovers from around the world scoping the latest creations in every medium — especially music. Here's a sampling of the most engrossing musical events of this year's festival:
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1
The Electric Pickle hosts some of the best Basel music the city has to offer, kicking off Thursday with Portland electropoppers YACHT.
In 2009, the duo of Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans stepped into the indie-music spotlight with their fourth album, See Mystery Lights. The record earned an 8.5 rating on Pitchfork.com, and Rolling Stone gave it 3.5 stars.
The group's 2011 follow-up, Shangri-La, however, received mixed reviews. While the Los Angeles Times loved it, NME loathed it, calling Shangri-La "hippy-disco good vibes" music. We got the same vibe but thought the album rocked. Regardless, you'll love YACHT's live set, which is a multimedia delight that borders on a religious experience. — Victor Gonzalez
James Murphy and Pat Mahoney's Special Disco Version
LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy's personal day planner probably has the first week of December perennially empty, except for a short, four-word phrase, presumably written in fat, blood-red block letters: Art Basel Miami Beach.
Last year, mere months before officially and finally disbanding his adored dance-rock band, Murphy and LCD Soundsystem made a special trip to SoBe for a private, invite-only performance at MoCA's Basel bash.
And now, the DFA Records' exec and former LCD frontman is headlining another arty party in Miami, along with garage-rock gang Black Lips, solo disco-house dude Midnight Surfer, and a "surprise guest DJ." Murphy himself will perform at Grand Central on December 1 under the Special Disco Version moniker along with ex-LCD bandmate Pat Mahoney.
The project is essentially a two-man Soundsystem spinoff. But it has also been an occasionally wandering club event, making stops in San Francisco, Chicago, Dublin, Belgrade, and Canada. — S. Pajot
When French electro-pop outfit Yelle last visited Miami in 2008, it gave the city a one-two punch, performing at the Polish American Club and then returning barely two months later to appear at Art Basel Miami Beach's Art Loves Music event. Does Yelle have a little crush on the Magic City? Perhaps. After all, the trio returns for a date at the Fillmore Miami Beach, which falls right in the heart of Art Basel festivities.
Anyway, the band's American success is a total oddity. Most record execs will tell you American audiences won't stand for foreign-language tunes. But Yelle has somehow enjoyed moderate success in the States with songs sung entirely in French.
This year, the band released its sophomore effort, Safari Disco Club, which includes choice cuts like the title track and "Que veux-tu." The album doesn't veer too far from the successful formula found on debut record Pop Up — meaning great beats, a touch of electro, and seemingly happy lyrics, even if you aren't entirely sure what is being said. — Jose Duran
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3
Arguably one of the best parties last year, Basel Castle returns for another night of awesome music and kickass art at Overthrow Castle.
The Overthrow, which seems to have been a little quiet lately, has amassed a lineup that includes live performances from Yelawolf, Penguin Prison, and Bastard Lovechild of Rock n Roll (AKA Blorr) as well as DJ sets by the Rapture, Tamara Sky, Heroes x Villains, Damaged Goods, and Troy Kurtz.
Yeah, that's right — a DJ set from the Rapture. So if you didn't catch them live at Grand Central this month, you aren't going to have another opportunity. Still, with performances by Yelawolf and Penguin Prison, the party looks promising once again. The works of Ron English, Sam Flores, Tara McPherson, Jeremy Fish, Mark Bode, and Greg Mike will be displayed during the event. — S. Pajot
Tom Tom Magazine's Art Basel Showcase
It's a proven fact that the hottest thing in rock 'n' roll is a woman on drums. Tom Tom Magazine, the only print publication focused on female percussionists, will bring a notable showcase of lady drummers to Churchill's Pub for Art Basel Miami Beach.
Most of the bands set to perform are South Florida favorites like Holly Hunt, the State Of, and Snakehole. But there are also a couple from Gainesville, one from New York, and one from Austin.
The mag's founder and editor in chief, Mindy Abovitz, has been a drummer and beatmaker herself for the past 11 years. The South Florida native worked as an engineer for East Village Radio. She plays in a variety of bands. She even has her own side projects — Chica Vas and More Teeth.
Her band played Basel in 2007 at Locust Projects. "Me personally, I love art. I feel like art and music are connected in so many ways." And Basel, Abovitz says, "is a great opportunity to showcase women doing their thing." — Liz Tracy
GZA performing Liquid Swords
After the Wu-Tang mothership crashed full force into pop culture with the release of the 1993 gangsta rap classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the first order of business was to send out the pods. Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon each yielded tremendous amounts of acclaim from across the commercial-to-underground rap spectrum.
The GZA's Liquid Swords, which dropped in 1995, received significantly less fanfare compared to other Wu crew records. But the decade-plus since its release has seen a snowballing appreciation for the previously cult classic.
Of the myriad distinct personalities and narrative signatures within the Wu-Tang fold, GZA (AKA the Genius) may be the most understated and straightforwardly lyrical. Where the rest of the group — save for RZA — built characters around different kinds of vulgar intensity (be it Meth's hard and nasty gangsta-isms, ODB's manic hysteria, or Raekwon's delicate narratives), GZA brought the Wu into a realm of cerebral at street-level rumination. More than any other Killa Bee, the Genius provided a complex and totally relatable first-person perspective.
And at this Basel, he'll perform the entirety of his magnum opus within the exceptionally intimate confines of the Stage. Don't miss the GZA. — Matt Preira