Since landing on the crystalline shores of Miami’s Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in December 2017, Rakastella has grown from a starry-eyed house and techno event hoping to leave a mark on Miami’s oversaturated Art Basel musical calendar into a full-fledged 16-hour marathon of a festival. In the process, it’s set a worldwide standard for balancing impressive underground bookings and panache production in service of assembling an unforgettable event.
Rakastella means to ‘make love’ in Finnish, and that’s exactly what happened when well-respected house and techno imprints Innervisions and Life and Death partnered up to create the one-day event. The 16-hour party was a natural progression from the annual Life and Death Art Basel soiree, which label head DJ Tennis threw in tandem with Miami-based promoter Becks Lange for six consecutive years.
“For year seven, we decided Miami was ready for something different,” Lange explains. “DJ Tennis, Âme, and Dixon spoke, and after many long brainstorming sessions, Rakastella was born.”
Lange has been a fixture in Miami’s underground scene for more than a decade, working as a party promoter as well as a talent booker in order to bring distinguished artists and rising stars alike to the Magic City. Her company PL0T has produced both immersive art events and club nights featuring the likes of Seth Troxler and Soul Clap. As the head of Rakastella’s booking efforts, she served an instrumental role in bringing the festival to life in 2017.
Each year, Lange strives to grow the festival organically by presenting artists she and her coconspirators truly love and support. This year, every artist except cofounders and renowned selectors Âme, DJ Tennis, and Dixon is a newcomer to Rakastella, fulfilling Lange’s goal of booking as many debut acts as possible to compile consistently dynamic lineups. The inaugural festival lasted 13 hours and showcased a lineup including Axel Boman, DJ Koze and Octo Octa. Last year’s roster set itself apart by venturing into more leftfield bookings such as Apparat, RY X and Young Marco, and this year’s bill stands to ve Rakastella’s most multidimensional offering to date. The 16-hour romp will host appearances by Life and Death head DJ Tennis and Innervisions ringleader Dixon, as well as DJ sets and live performances from some of the most respected and diverse names in dance music including Ben UFO, Jayda G, John Talabot, Mor Elian, Kink, and Miami native Danny Daze. German house architect Motor City Drum Ensemble will make his hotly-anticipated Miami debut at Rakastella, further cementing the festival’s commitment to curating unprecedented bookings.
“We book artists we believe in, no compromises,” Lange explains. “We’re always looking to push the sound boundaries and striving to bring something different to Miami. We want fans to keep the Rakastella experience in their hearts for a lifetime.”
Âme and Dixon go back-to-back for a very early morning set during Rakastella 2018
Photo by Lauren Morell
As the festival has grown in size and notoriety — drawing successively larger, more international crowds in the process — so has Lange’s commitment to Rakastella’s sustainability initiatives. Launched in advance of last year’s event, the “Keep Her Wild” environmental protection campaign was the most environmentally-minded undertaking launched by a Miami electronic music festival yet.
To up the ante for 2019, Rakastella’s third installment will mark the first time a Miami event of this kind completely eliminates single-use plastics and Styrofoam onsite. The festival engaged Miami’s first sustainable event consulting company, Ascendance Sustainable Events, to help Rakastella strategize additional ways to reduce waste, implement an improved recycling program, and run a “Leave Only Footprints” litter-prevention campaign powered by volunteers.
“As a Miami-native, I’m so happy to finally see our local festivals making bold moves to respect the environment they’re operating in,” Ascendance Sustainable Events founder Vivian Belzaguy said. “The electronic music community is so influential these days that sustainable choices really go a long way in shifting how people behave during and after the event. We need that more than ever right now, for our city and for our planet.”
Onsite volunteers and a well-trained cleaning crew will work around the clock to keep the grounds and shoreline clean. The festival’s commitment to protecting the environment even extends beyond the 16-hour affair, as Rakastella will team up with Ascendance and Debris Free Oceans to host a post-party beach cleanup on Tuesday, December 10 at 3 p.m. to make sure Virginia Key Beach stays as scenic as it was before the event.
“It’s a festival that’s meant to leave our home better than we found it,” Lange says. “Our whole team knows how lucky we are to host our event at the incredibly beautiful Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, and we understand just how special and sensitive the venue is.”
Rakastella is also diversifying its immersive amenities this year, adding a Hi-Fi Tea Garden curated by local DJ and Terrestrial Funk label head Brother Dan, who has been involved with the festival since day one. The Tea Garden will be a peaceful oasis away from the festival’s hustle and bustle, welcoming visitors with organic tea blends and vinyl sets from surprise DJs on a Danley sound system.
The VIP experience is offering lounges, complimentary massages, a private mixology bar, and hors d’oeuvres at sunset cooked by famed Miami chef Andres “Billy” Garcia. And all attendees will enjoy the debut of a brand-new lighting and stage design by Montreal-based Irregular, who is famous for his installations at the Mutek music festival and Bains Numériques in France. Irregular will bring cutting-edge designs and a kaleidoscopic visual experience to the festival’s multiple stages, including a new stage built in in partnership with the Electric Pickle and ATV Records-affiliated party series Where Are My Keys?
“We’ve learned a lot since year one, and every edition is a chance for us to improve and build a better version than its predecessor,” Lange says. “We are always working to create an experience that will blow patrons away.”
It’s easy to see how Rakastella has quickly come to be regarded as the must-attend closing bacchanal to Miami Art Week. Lange promises attendees will find even more to love about the gathering both this year and in those yet to come.
Rakastella. With Ben UFO, Dixon, Eclair Fifi, Kink, Marie Davidson, and others. 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, December 7, in Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; rakastella.com. Tickets cost $56.25 to $225 via residentadvisor.net.