Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Weekend of New in Miami

Culture was alive this weekend in Miami -- combining something old with something new for a fresh mix of cultural entertainment.

New World Symphony PULSE
The New World Symphony transformed into a lounge setting during PULSE.

The New World Symphony and The New Tropic delighted Miami's young crowds this weekend with two vibrant events back to back on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Although the two organizations are unrelated, you'd think they almost did it on purpose.

The old saying "what's old is new again" couldn't have been more appropriate this weekend.

The New World Symphony put on quite a show with orchestra musicians performing alongside South Florida institutions Spam All Stars and DJ Le Spam, known for improvising electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop and dub.

The New Tropic Miami, a media and events organization that brings curious locals together, organized an interactive event at the historic Alfred I. Dupont Building in Downtown Miami as part of the launch of its new neighborhood guide. New Tropic called the event "Epcot for Miami" and it truly was -- with local food, drinks, music and organizations representing a variety of interests, from opera to science to grassroots organizations.


New World Symphony PULSE
Standing room on the ground floor at PULSE, up close to the orchestra.

I'll never say South Beach has a hold exclusively on sleazy nightlife again. And when I say sleazy, that includes ridiculously snooty and over-priced night clubs, too. New World Symphony put the kibosh on that one, for sure, with PULSE, which wasn't exactly your grandma's night at the orchestra. Consider this: it starts way after the senior early bird dinner special. Doors open at 9 P.M. House lights and last calls don't happen until after midnight. The symphony turns into a nightclub of sorts, with areas for dancing and plenty of cash bars to get your drink on.

They've been doing this for six years and if Friday's event was any indication, they're doing it right. The event was packed and that's a good thing, as it targets a younger generations of supporters through Friends of the New World Symphony and makes this an affordable night out on the town in South Beach. Forty dollars gets you in -- compare that to the cost of clubbing -- all with a touch of class.

Although PULSE offers a set program of music, it's nothing like a traditional, stuffy classical music concert. The boundary between performer and audience is blurred, making the performance friendlier and more intimate: ground floor seats are retracted for dancing and the space behind the main stage is opened for lounge-style seating in comfortable, cushioned bleachers. If you switched the soundtrack, you'd think you were at a civilized punk rock concert with a mosh pit -- minus hurling bodies, of course.

People stand, sit, mingle, socialize and come and go throughout the entire circular concert hall, which boasts enormous walls, shaped like sails, where behind-the-scenes video wizards project larger-than-life images. Even the orchestra musicians were part of this stimulating audiovisual experience; they wore glow-in-the-dark wristbands that changed colors in synchrony with the performance's lighting design.

New World Symphony PULSE
Stage lifts behind the orchestra spotlight soloists and small ensembles.

New World Symphony PULSE
Spam All Stars with DJ Le Spam in the background.

The program consisted of two DJ sets and musical performances as well as the world premiere of Ibakan, which The New World Symphony commissioned from alumnus Sam Hyken, co-founder of Miami's Nu Deco Ensemble. Hyken wrote the piece for five orchestra instrumentalists, DJ Le Spam and the Spam Allstars.

With its haunting melodies and driving percussion, Ibakan alludes to Afro-Cuban influences. The word means "constant" in Yoruba and features a canto for Obatala, a deity in the Yoruba religion, as well as a section in which each member of Spam All Stars improvised a solo with an Afro-Cuban groove.

For more information about PULSE and other programs, visit The New World Symphony.  More photos from Pulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony


Miami Land
A gilded sign for a new golden age of Miami at the Alfred I. Dupont Building.

No sooner did doors open, crowds formed a long line and kept trickling in throughout the night -- a surprising turnout because the whole city was in wash-out mode with a deluge of rain. That's a coup for Miami. No one ever goes out in the rain.

Miami Land took place in Downtown Miami's beautifully restored 1939 architectural gem, The Alfred I. Dupont building, originally a bank. This event celebrated a different kind of classic -- the city itself, which was founded nearby in 1896 with a population of 300 -- less than the number of people who attended Miami Land.

Simply put, Miami Land was an energizing way to spend an evening in which -- God forbid! -- you might actually have fun while learning something, free of charge. Florida Grand Opera featured a soprano performing with a local ensemble. The old bank's vault turned into a gallery with two video streams -- one projecting vintage footage and the other displaying slides about Miami's future.

Miami Land
Florida Grand Opera's soprano performed with local musicians.

Miami Land
Yours truly contributed #miamischlep to the ideation board.

Miami Land
Front page of the Miami Metropolis, 1913 on display in a swipe screen.

Among the interactive activities: New Tropic invited guests to post their ideas on blank 4 x 6 cards in a section of the space turned into a giant community ideation board. Moonlighter, a local company that encourages creative collaboration and personal manufacturing, let guests carve their own Miami signs out of cardboard in a maker faire booth. O Poetry, which was stationed next to a booth promoting the Miami Science Barge, asked guests to write short poems about art and science. Museum-style digital displays let guests swipe screens with slides about Vizcaya's farming history, the estate's underhanded accounting during the Prohibition era and more historical trivia.

No Miami-inspired event would be complete without food and drink reflecting the city's culture diversity. Nibbles included Venezuelan cheese pastries (tequeños) and tropical fruit samples of jackfruit and dragon fruit. Cocktails included a tasty saison brew from Biscayne Brewing Company, straight from Doral (yes, Doral) and New Tropic's own recipe in a spiced rum and coconut water libation. To top it all off, 3:05 Cafesito served Miami's most iconic beverage -- Cuban coffee -- which left a delicious scent trail.

Miami Land
Miami runs ... and runs on 3:05 Cafesito, the city's official coffee break.

Miami Land
Naomi Ross of #DiversityMiami was among several groups showcasing their causes.

Miami Land
Rebekah Monson, co-founder of The New Tropic, loves Miami!

Not everyone who attended was a New Tropic reader, but that's OK, because it's more than just an online media outlet -- it's also this -- a gathering of curious locals. One guy, a transplant from Mexico wasn't aware that a newsy magazine was associated with the event, but he did tell me where to get the most authentic tacos in Miami. See? Curiosity. Connection.

For me, it was refreshing to see folks gather to celebrate something about a city that often receives negative attention in comparison to older and bigger metropolitan hubs of the U.S. But warts and all, why cares about other cities? We're doing our thing down here in Miami Land and true to the New Tropic's motto: "live like you live here" -- not somewhere else. Be present.

Friday night at The New World Symphony and Saturday night with The New Tropic proved the city is as unique and fresh as ever in the cultural sphere. I'll take my old with the new anytime.

For more information about New Tropic events, visit The New Tropic. More photos from Miami Land.

Disclaimer: I used to write for The New World Symphony and currently write for The New Tropic. I love them both and so should you!

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