The Best of Rakastella 2019, an Oceanside Alternative to Art Basel Miami

Rakastella 2019
Christian Villareal 

Rakastella 2019

Celebrating its third year in 2019, the Rakastella Festival co-hosted by DJ Tennis’ Life and Death label and Dixon and Âme’s Innervisions offered revellers a refreshing, discerning alternative to the glut of flashy parties happening at superclubs across Miami during Art Basel week, where the music can sometimes seem to be secondary to table service for cashed-up punters.

As you’d expect considering its curators, the music at Rakastella -- the one-night event that kicked off on Saturday, Dec. 7 -- is top-notch, with historic Virginia Key Beach Park serving as a spectacular setting. Those who arrived at the 15-hour party early and stayed until the end were able to catch both sunset and sunrise on the beach.

Here’s what we loved about Rakastella 2019.

A Stacked Lineup From Start to Finish

There were no duds on the Rakastella lineup. From 3 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. on Sunday, quality music was coming at us from three stages, all located a short walk’s distance from each other but mercifully set up to control noise bleed. This also meant that, unless you were the intrepid type who was prepared to go all-in for 15 hours, you likely missed some good talent.

We didn’t quite have it in us to do a start-to-finish session, which was our bad, because it meant we missed earlier sets from the likes of Oona Dahl, Mor Elian, Eclair Fifi and Or:la. It’s the eternal festival conundrum: missing out on at least some of the action and feeling moderate to intense FOMO because of it. Thankfully, there was plenty left on the menu to sate us.

Christian Villareal 
Aurora Halal performing at Rakastella 2019.

Ladies to the Front

Rakastella almost achieved gender parity this year, and the list of female artists -- which included Marie Davidson, Jayda G and Aurora Halal -- was formidable. The singular Davidson was a highlight DJing on the Julia stage, though she was playing to a woefully small crowd as she was competing with Âme Live on the main stage. No matter: her darkwave techno and muscular electro tracks had those who were there enthralled, and she even got on the mic to sing over some tracks from her brilliant Working Class Woman album. Having recently announced her sabbatical from live shows and a scaling back of DJ gigs, it was a real treat to see her.

Likewise, Jayda G is such a delightful presence, all passion and soul. There’s nothing more invigorating for a crowd than watching a DJ feeling herself as much as she is the music, and she grooved for the duration of her typically disco set which included, as per usual, classics that more elitist DJs wouldn’t touch, like “Bus Stop” and “Shame” by Evelyn Champagne King. A Jayda G set is never not a good time.

Best of the Rest

Âme live is also a pretty safe bet, and the Innervisions co-boss played a house-driven set, sending the full tent wild with masterful builds and drops and some atmospheric tracks including those by Howling, Frank Wiedemann's project with Ry X. Meanwhile, Detroit deep house diva DJ Minx had the Where Are My Keys? Stage lit for her entire set, which was packed with jacking, soulful house and zero lulls.

It'd take a long time to list all of the quality music that continued through the night, but suffice to say that Call Super, Ben UFO, Aurora Halal, host DJ Tennis, Dixon and more all delivered the goods, as Palms Trax, KiNK and Aurora Halal surely did as well. (Trust, the FOMO was real.) The party finished on the main stage with a B2B2B featuring Danny Daze, DJ Tennis, Krystal Klear -- fresh from his set at Space, and playing the most fun tracks of all -- Dixon, Soul Clap, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Will Renuart and Oona Dahl. It felt a little disorderly at times, with DJs jostling for the decks, but the unruly vibe also felt appropriate at that time of the morning, and the crowd was unfazed.

Christian Villareal 
DJ Tennius performing at Rakastella 2019.

The Setting

You can’t go wrong with a party on the beach. The space of the festival itself was quite intimate, consisting of a grassy area dotted with the stages, some choice stalls selling boutique clothing and accessories and lots of cozy nooks throughout the site with seating and glowing lanterns. Sunrise was Rakastella’s figurative and literal golden moment, with many sitting on the beach to the rear of the main stage to take in the stunning view as the party came to its close.

The Vibe

Aside from the music and setting, what sets Rakastella apart from other festivals is the overall vibe. An unspoken No Jerks Allowed policy seemed to be in play, as we didn’t witness an iota of antisocial behavior among the 6,000-strong crowd. Miami is also where DJ Tennis resides for part of the year, and there was a real sense of hospitality to the party in the way he looked after the artists and ensured that revellers were as comfortable as possible with abundant facilities, excellent sound systems, easy-to-use barcoded wristbands to buy drinks and an atmosphere that was warm and welcoming. Trash cans and recycling bins were everywhere, and attendees were encouraged to respect the environment as much as the hosts clearly do.

Altogether, Rakastella was the Miami festival for those seeking an atypical Art Basel week festival, where VIP sections were unshowy and where the ambience, music and site operated in harmony.