The year is almost over, and if you aren’t living your best life yet, you’re being judged. Luckily there’s still time, since Miami’s Best Life Music Festival — a gathering that showcases local as well as national R&B acts — is taking place on Sunday, December 8. Although the event didn’t exactly promote the best quality of life last year after pushing set times back three hours and cutting a handful of artist’s sets (not to mention having to deal with attendees who passed out due to dehydration) they’re back again for another edition during Art Basel weekend.
This year, Best Life’s lineup includes pop and R&B singer Kiana Lede, DVSN, Emotional Oranges, and SiR. Representing the local talent, Savannah Cristina, Dyna Edyne and Teenear will also be gracing the stage.
However, even with the enticing roster of talent it’s commanding, what’s most interesting about this year’s iteration of Best Life is its Indie Room. It isn’t all that common for local artists to be able to put themselves in the running to perform at a music festival, and when it does happen, the results can range from the ongoing success of III Points’ encouragement and support shown to Miami-based acts to the questionable pay-to-play model used by Rolling Loud in 2016.
But someone has to care about the indies, right? Best Life’s curators Matt Krane and Jake Inphamous created the Indie Room in an admirable attempt to show love to the culture.
Separate from the main stage, the Indie Room will host smaller acts who will enjoy the chance to gain the undivided attention of festival patrons. Best Life determined the room’s roster through a contest. According to their Instagram, artists were required to submit their a demo, their social media information, and repost the main flyer for a chance to perform. Winners were announced via Instagram Live by YesJulz and 99Jamz’s Supa Cindy, and then promoted with a general flyer to congratulate the artists.
While we’re not shy of R&B events thanks to a growing demand for the genre in Miami, Best Life currently stands solo as the first and only R&B festival here geared towards millennials and your little sister. The festival has also distinguished itself by implementing an independent artist-oriented stage that not only staggers time slots for impatient guests, but also gives the less well-known acts of South Florida their time to shine.
“It’s important and something I feel all local artists can use,” says Miami-based singer SaintLee. She performed last year on Best Life’s main stage, but unfortunately had to make due with a shortened set due to unforeseen difficulties with the festival’s production.
“I think it’s a better idea to have a [specific] spotlight on indie artists,” she tells New Times over the phone. “It makes more sense. We deserve the time slot and respect just as the main artists [do].”
She adds, “I hope this time around we get the attention we deserve.”
Ledoux and the Broken is ready for his first festival performance.
Photo by Rancel Lopez
Over the last few years, South Florida has worked to put R&B artists on the map. Between local showcases and dance parties, there are ample opportunities for fans to find their new favorite artist. But a bigger platform can always provide an extra, possibly career changing push. Miami singer Kaylan Arnold says regardless of a stage’s size, she’s always ready to perform.
“I’m an artist and I’m always going to be an artist regardless of the foundation,” she says. After years of singing and playing instruments ranging from the guitar and drums to the flute, the particulars of the platform she’s performing on don’t make her break a sweat.
While Kaylan may be more established, upcoming artist Ledoux and the Broken is looking forward to making his first festival appearance at Best Life.
“For me, this was a goal of mine. says Ledoux. “I felt that my team and I have been working really hard on creating music and preparing for an opportunity; This is something I can check off my list as an artist.”
By emphasizing the independent artists on its lineup, Best Life is taking steps to establish itself as a brand that cares about the health and people that comprise Miami and South Florida’s local scenes.
“At the end of the day, I’m just a regular guy from Miramar that’s trying to put themselves in a place to help people,” says Ledoux. “Some may look at it as no fucking deal and some may look at it as the best thing that happened in their life. To me, It’s a part of my journey.”
Luckily, unlike many platforms that ostensibly help the underground, artists performing in Best Life’s Indie Room didn’t have to pay for a slot. Performer HIGHIMLS netted a place on the roster by submitting her work.
“Once submitting, it was a waiting game to the point where I forgot we submitted,” she says. “Randomly a few weeks later, I received a DM from one of my followers saying ‘Congratulations’ with the live video of SupaCindy and YesJulz announcing the winners.”
The handful of selected artists all bring something different to the table. Kaylan Arnold prides herself on her range and versatility.
“And I don’t mean by just by different genres” she emphasizes. “But being a musician and being able to bring different energies to the stage.” For Ledoux and the Broken — the only band performing on Best Life’s indie stage — the plan is to emphasize the art of storytelling.
“I want to carry out the message in my music and provide [an] experience,” Ledoux says, adding his choice to perform with a live band is a deliberate one that brings out the best of his creative abilities.
When Sunday rolls around, Best Life’s guests would be wise to keep their eyes and ears on the Indie Room; they might just discover the next must-see festival headliner.
Best Life Music Festival. With Kiana Lede, DVSN, SiR, and others. 1 p.m. Sunday, December 8, at Wynwood Factory, 55 NE 24th St., Miami; 786-360-3712; wynwoodfactory.com. Tickets cost $45 to $166 via eventbrite.com.
Cristina Jerome is a freelance music writer and event producer based in South Florida. She spends her time listening to R&B and making purple flower crowns. Follow her work on RnBae.com.