Poplife: Miami's Indie Party

by Humberto Guida
07.15.2010

When you think of Miami nightlife, you think of South Beach and all the house and hip-hop and glossy, fake plasticity. But there are plenty of indie and underground nooks and crannies if you know where to look… like somewhere off the Beach, north of Downtown in The Design District, Wynwood Art District and the nascent Midtown Miami neighborhoods. The nightlife in these areas is thriving now. Places that were once desolate and dangerous have been pioneered by Poplife throughout the last decade, taking over various venues up and down North Miami Ave.

I’ve been going out in Miami for a while. I grew up there and even though I live in LA now, I still make it a point to spend a handful of weekends back home, just to hit the clubs (it’s one of the things Miami does right). But while I’m often obligated to pass by the newest, biggest, most hyped, celebrity-laden hotspots, I typically end up at a party called Poplife. The weekly party has been running since 1999 when it launched inside a closet-sized art gallery in Coral Gables by a pair of couples who wanted a party that reflected their lifestyle and music taste. Since then, co-founders Aramis Lorie, an easy going Cuban-born eccentric who seems spacey but is really always lost in thought, and Barbara Basti, an on-top-of-it maven of all things cool, have made Poplife ground zero for Miami’s indie hispteratti.  

What you get at Poplife, aside from artists and scenesters and randoms, is good music. Whether it’s old-school hip-hop, obscure house, new wave, or electro-clash, the night is known for being the true alternative to the top 40 crap played in the clubs on South Beach. I started going to Poplife back in the day for their once a month “Miami Bass” night when they had just moved from the art gallery to a cavernous indoor/outdoor resto-lounge. The night was maestro’d by DJ Le Spam (aka Andrew Yeomanson, leader of Miami’s signature fusion band The Spam Allstars). It celebrated all the bass thumping, bootie-shaking, rampantly kitschy underground electro Miami produced in the ‘80s. I love that shit.

Poplife was also one of the first promotional vehicles to book up-and-coming indie acts, from Of Montreal to Le Tigre, Peaches to Modest Mouse, all of whom would not have come to Miami otherwise. I once hit some sauce with members of The Stills before they played a show at Poplife. One of them (I can’t remember which one) was so drunk he pissed himself before going on stage (I swear, I have footage…).

These days the Poplife contingent has set up shop in their new digs, a gutted out and clubbed up two-story façade in downtown Miami called Grand Central. A sweet stage and LED screen front an expansive dancefloor. Catch Aloe Blacc of HBO’s How to Make It In America at this spot on July 21st here. If you’re in Miami throw on your skinny jeans and check it out.

Here’s a quick Q&A with one of Poplife’s founders, Barabara Basti:

How does the new venue compare to the old ones Poplife has been through?
Grand Central is actually an event space as opposed to just a nightclub or bar. It is very versatile; almost the entire floor plan is movable. It is suitable for corporate events, as well as live music and parties. It has a full in-house sound system and staging, which make it the only venue of its size in Miami for live shows, so we have the opportunity to book acts that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Describe the party over the years. What is Poplife all about in 2010?
Hmmm. I consider Poplife to be a driving force in Miami, a way to open up the nightlife choices and subculture. We have pioneered the way for a vibrant downtown Miami nightlife scene. What used to be considered "underground" or "niche" is now a part of popular culture. We will continue putting on great shows and events and we are happy to be in a new venue that is suited to what we want to do.

How is Miami doing in general in regard to indie music? Are you bringing any notable acts to Poplife this year?
There is very much a "scene" now, where there wasn't before. We hope to have tons of great shows before the year is out and we have lots of great stuff coming up in the fall… Crystal Castles, for one, in September.

Visit epoplife.com for more information.

I can see you… but not like, in a stalker way or anything like that.
- HG

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