The original running of DIY experimental music festival Death to the Sun occurred in September of 2009 at Harvey's by the Bay at the MiMO ("Miami Modern") American Legion outpost. It was a 12-hour local music marathon and, as curator Ricardo Guerrero describes it, "the ultimate farewell-to-summer party."
That first year, the legion raged from sunup to sundown. The festival proved to be a salient snapshot of garage, postpunk, and assorted other rock variants that had been not-so-quietly brewing in a city historically dominated by nightclubs and dance music. So, of course, there was a sequel, hosted last September by Miami's dearly departed 14th Street chill zone, BAR.
Well, it's DTTS season again, but Miami's best summer showcase has undergone a drastic change in formatting by moving two hours north to Lake Park.
At the beginning of August, Guerrero took to Facebook with a quick, vulgar status update informing the internet that, in so many words, he was dissatisfied with Miami's venue options and would be moving the festival to the recently opened DIY music venue and multipurpose arts space the Snooze Theatre in sleepy Palm Beach County city Lake Park.
Shortly after his minirant, Guerrero unleashed a more substantial rant in an interview with Crossfade. A bona fide shitstorm erupted in the comments section, and from the white-hot angry, persistently serious nature of many of the posts, you would never think any of these people were talking about having fun.
Though Guerrero admits that at the time of the interview, he "played ball" with the hyperbolic, shock-oriented, clicks-and-hits-obsessed blogosphere ("It's almost like New Times has a gasp counter," he joked) but ultimately regrets "getting trapped in the web of sensational journalism."
While all press is good press -- and the lead-up to this year's Death to the Sun is certainly infused with an extra spark from the venue change and the internet drama/hype -- the trolling and circular debate was a big, dumb distraction from the point: rock 'n' roll at the end of summer.
Guerrero made his first foray into the world of local music in 2005, via Animals of the Arctic, his synthy postpunk project with frequent collaborator and 90s Teen guitarist Alex Puentes. He describes their sound as the product of "going out, getting wasted, and listening to all these bands that sounded like Gang of Four."
Since then, his main focus has become This Heart Electric, a solo project inspired by superfandom, at age 16, over Trent Reznor's one-man-in-the-studio approach with Nine Inch Nails. Guerrero was obsessed with the idea of total self-reliance and describes this early incarnation as "psychedelic goth pop."
In recent months, the project has refocused from its original incarnation as a one-man version of Animals of the Arctic (a little colder, less funky, but still ultimately gloomy synth punk) and ultimately into a sparse rock band. "I started channeling my love for analog and the '50s," Guerrero says of the new upbeat-and-breezy This Heart Electric, "and started recording on an eight-track cassette recorder."
While This Heart Electric's acoustic-and-stoned garage-pop is a year-round affair, its breezy summer sounds are the perfect representation of Guerrero's once-a-year tribute to the hottest season of the year. "I always loved these summer festivals that happened all over the country," he says, "but I was never able to afford going to one. It seemed like these shows were very unattainable to me. So I decided to make my own."
Ricardo's initial inspiration for Death to the Sun -- a small-scale Miami-style emulation of epic summer rock festivals like Bonnaroo -- highly influenced one of the event's key features. He explains, simply, "No cover. A shit ton of bands."
A lot for a little is almost always a good thing, and that's without even getting into quality, which DTTS is packed with. The festival has stayed true to its roots as a thorough local music survey, and with the move to Lake Park, the lineup has appropriately incorporated acts from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties alike.
The bill provides a certifiable who's who of new music from South Florida. Of course, Palm Beach reps hard with a Weird Wives permutation, Rainforest Wives, and the assorted, eclectic rock expressions of the Dewars, Guy Harvey, the Band in Heaven, and Universal Expansion.
The Miami metal scene will be sending two delegates: transcendental sludge duo Holly Hunt and black-metal trio Slashpine.
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Though largely a survey of newer bands, noise legends Kenny Millions and Rat Bastard will perform solo sets sure to wipe your slate clean.
As the show starts promptly at 5 p.m. and is slated to go until the line between late and early is blurred, these are only a small fraction of DTTS's proper farewell to heat, late nights, road trips, and, in South Florida, infinite mangoes.
Death to the Sun III. With 90s Teen, the Band in Heaven, Bulletproof Tiger, Curious Hair, the Dewars, Dino Felipe, Family Treasures, Fourier, the Gun Hoes, Guy Harvey, Holly Hunt, Kenny Millions, Kid Khameleon, Love Handles, Luma Junger, Manny and the Mangos, Matilda Lights, Meat, Möthersky, Palmeto, the President, Rat Bastard, Relaxxx, Ritz Riot, Skeleton Warrior, Slashpine, This Heart Electric, Toad Eyes, Universal Expansion, Unstoppable Death Machines, the Viking Funeral. Saturday, September 24, at Snooze Theatre, 798 Tenth St., Lake Park. No cover. Click here.