Bio-Haque, the Art Basel Party From Grimes, Nina Kraviz & Sophie, Failed to Live Up to Its 'Luxury Rave' Title

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Grimes performs onstage during the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 20, 2014 in Chicago.

As a guest on Sean Carroll’s science and ideas podcast Mindscape a few weeks ago, Grimes gave Bio-Haque a plug at the show’s end (she called it a “capitalist postscript”), describing the event as a “luxury rave” and speaking excitedly about the AI meditation/art installation she had dreamed up for the occasion.

It sent already high expectations for the event soaring -- irrespective of whatever else was on offer at Bio-Haque, the triple-threat lineup, Grimes, Sophie and Nina Kraviz, was a dream. But for various reasons, the party -- which happened on Dec. 5 against the backdrop of Art Basel Miami -- failed to live up to the hype. Hosted at the old RC Cola Plant in Miami’s arty Wynwood district, little was luxurious about Bio-Haque, except for perhaps the drink prices.

The party kicked off with a 90-minute b2b set from Get Face and Gami. Sophie, Grimes and Kraviz followed, in that order, with their own 90-minute sets.

What we didn’t anticipate is that all acts would play DJ sets (something that the III Points promoters also failed to mention in their advertising for the event). Kraviz, best known for her DJing, was more understandable, but we were definitely expecting Sophie and Grimes to perform the incredible live shows for which they are known.

Instead, Sophie launched into a set that shifted between futuristic noise tracks, mellow R&B/pop and ‘90s Eurodance. (“Another Night” by the Real McCoy went down a treat.) It was fun, but Sophie seemed subdued, didn’t really engage with the crowd and barely danced. she said on Instagram that the set was all original music, minus one track, that she produced, mixed and arranged the set live using Ableton, but compared to what we know she’s capable of, the performance felt a little undercooked.

Grimes, in contrast, was full of energy. All smiles and dancing joyously for the duration -- whipping her hair around, jumping up and down -- she was a delight to watch, even if it wasn’t the live show we’d hoped for. A VIP-seeming crowd dancing behind her onstage added to the party vibe, and her set was a super fun one that included a couple of her own tracks including “We Appreciate Power” but focused more on power pop remixes -- her remix of Destiny’s Child “Survivor” was especially cute -- and boisterous tech house.

The sound cut out toward the end of the set, something that Grimes attributed to one of the CDJs being corrupted, but we were perplexed by the claim that it was her first-ever DJ set (who could forget her infamous Boiler Room appearance for Richie Hawtin in Ibiza in 2013?) Altogether she did a great job, but we were hoping to get a live preview of her upcoming Miss Anthropocene album and see her perform some old favorites.

We wondered how the dark, hard and often weird journeys preferred by Kraviz would be received after Grimes’ comparatively upbeat set, but we needn’t have worried. Kraviz is a master who reads the crowd well and knows how to shift gears quickly to suit the room. It wasn’t long before she launched into some rude psytrance-esque cuts and hi-NRG techno that was just the right way to end the night. Again a live set, like the one she performed at Coachella, would have felt more special, but her DJ sets are always a pleasure.

The RC Cola Plant, an industrial open-air warehouse space, was strewn with a few bars serving expensive drinks, a couple of food vendors, and a Ketel One Vodka hot air balloon that was apparently there for marketing purposes only. The only other attraction at this “luxury rave” was Grimes’ AI installation, for which we lined up for an hour. (Queues for the portable toilets were often nearly as bad.) Due to the long waiting time, the experience was reduced from eight minutes to just two and a half minutes and involved immersive visuals, headphones and a vest that vibrated occasionally in a manner more jolting than relaxing. A blurb outlined Grimes’ admirable intention for the project -- meditation for those who grew up in a cyber world and are not necessarily calmed by cliched nature sounds and images. We enjoyed our 2.5 minutes, though it definitely seemed more art installation than meditation, but waiting that long for a truncated experience was disappointing.

Overall, Bio-Haque felt like a missed opportunity. All artists played engaging, enjoyable sets, but proper live performances would have made it a transcendent gig -- hell, even a bit of B2B or B3B DJing would have taken it up a notch. There was space at the venue for so many other art installations and interesting experiences that would have helped the event earn the “luxury rave” tag, and they needn’t have been high-budget productions, either. All the ingredients for a knockout party were in reach. Instead, it was merely a fun night out that could have been so much more.