Fractal Beach 2018


Ah yes, the wonderfully weird and absolutely eccentric movement that is the underground bass music culture! I had the incredible pleasure of attending Miami’s own Fractal Beach–a relatively new festival held at Virginia Key Beach Park. This year, the art-friendly music festival celebrated all that bass music culture has to offer, from late night DJ sets alongside a giant inflatable octopus on the beach to yoga sessions led by professionals in a tent that simultaneously broadcasted the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Coming from a big city like Los Angeles, I’ve had the incredible privilege to attend numerous large-scale music festivals like Coachella and others, however, nothing struck me as profoundly as this past weekend’s gathering of (at most) 5,000 shining festival goers. Its small size astounded me, as a real sense of community unfolded throughout the weekend in the most beautiful way. If you’re curious what I mean by this, look no further than the incredible production team and sponsors responsible for creating the intimate nature of Fractal Beach’s four stages, a small handful of friendly food vendors, and interactive art installations you could actually experience without waiting in line. Hosting a diverse variety of sounds, Fractal Beach’s stages, aptly named after mathematically-occurring fractals like the Fibonacci sequence, the Mandelbrot set and the Sierpinski triangle, drew in a more than comfortable amount of dancing from the jammy to the house-y to the dominating and downright bassy vibes emanating from their “holier-than-thou” speaker systems. And I would be glossing over the biggest musical and production highlights of Fractal Beach if I didn’t give a huge “wook medal” to Incendia for their mesmerizing flames omnipresent at the Fibonacci stage and radiating from the interior ceilings of Incendia’s steel domes beside the stage. Incendia is a traveling artistic installation that fuses fire with stage design to engineer a uniquely mind-blowing experience; they always seem to pop up in the most low-key of ways at smaller festivals/events across the US.

As I took in the infectious energy of both pashmina-clad bass enthusiasts and mystical fire spinners alike, I began night one of Fractal Beach with the notable likes of DJ duo Nocturnal Status, Keota, KllSmth, Esseks and Thriftworks. Nocturnal Status’ dark yet engaging manipulation of tempo kept spectators on their dancing toes to prepare them for the long night ahead. Keota, previously unknown to me, brought the freshly curated “Space Bass” beats that have been permeating the underground electronic stratosphere for the past few months–if the select few solo middle-aged men I saw there were movin’ and groovin’ to what feels like an alien abduction, then you can and SHOULD TOO. KllSmth and Esseks, who have collaborated with the likes of Space Jesus, Liquid Stranger, Stylust Beats (also in attendance), Psymbionic and each other, also threw down the highly experimental onto the Fractal Beach lab rats. Whatever mutations resulted from their electronic powerhouse, it set the tone for a manic weekend. My personal favorite of the night, Thriftworks, who headlined Electric Forest last year, played an ethereal show that transported us all to a higher astral plane run by the Bizarre Beat-Maker from Berkeley himself. Night one also featured a showcase of young, up and coming artists organized by Dubday MIA at the Beach stage that didn’t disappoint. Clearly, although the entire weekend was filled with incredible music, I must say Friday was definitely my favorite.

Saturday was filled with more exploration of the festival itself, including the campsites I visited some friends in, a $3 ritual Kava bar, Grateful Dead-inspired falafel, the “Butterfly Dome Experience” and artistic reflective pyramids of light. I promised myself I wouldn’t lose my Birkenstocks, but they definitely didn’t stay on… Seeing the same familiar faces as the night before, glittery people exchanged smiles under the moonlight as fire dancers populated the shore where the monozygotic twins MZG mixed hip hop oldies and house music seamlessly. Over at the Fibonacci stage that night, Bassnectar collaborators and electronic pioneers Dorfex Bos, Levitation Jones and Stylust Beats dropped plenty of unreleased originals. The Widdler, another producer genius with long hair flow magic, also played while I explored the Butterfly Dome Experience, a netted dome full of native butterflies feasting on plates of fruit amidst live neon mural painting. It was a truly blissful end to Saturday, as they released the butterflies on the last day of Fractal Beach.

On Sunday, I arrived somewhat on the later side as to recover from all the beach festivities and lay low to end a gloriously small community gathering. Highlights of Sunday include Mystic Grizzly, Eazybaked, the Heavy Dead (Dead Tribute band!), Detox Unit, Zebbler Encanti Experience, Desert Dwellers (dare I say Burning Man feels?) and of course, the great Papadosio. Sunday was the day I finally fulfilled my apparent need to try Vegan Cookie Dough and make my last observations about the quirky, underground bass scene community that is often overlooked in South Florida but that Fractal Beach proves definitely exists, in the shadows that is.

Aaliyah Weathers