Inaugural Lights Out Festival is a Labor of Local Love

By Arielle Castillo

“The real EDM world is more about the underground.”

As early 20something promoters for the Opium Group and then MMG, Jeremie Akiba and Jeremy “JJ” Carpenter specialized in shuttling the beautiful people into even more beautiful clubs. At famously, tightly guarded weeklies like Wednesdays at LIV and Saturdays at Arkadia, the Jeremies made sure to keep the good times and bottles flowing for nightlifers who packed the venues to hear super DJs like Tiësto.

The catch was, of course, that (at least for male patrons), that experience came at a high premium. Eventually, all of this started to serve as market research for Akiba and Carpenter, who, this Saturday, reveal a production that’s almost the inverse of their recent nightlife industry experience: the Lights Out Festival.

The one-day afternoon and evening event marks the real public debut of Akiba’s and Carpenter’s company, Dementia Events, some three years in the making. It also marks an event type that, so far, has been strangely missing from Miami: a day-long electronic dance music event that brings both marquee names alongside locals, but at an entry fee that’s a comparable bargain. General admission for the festival, whose out-of-town headliners include Felix da Housecat, Felix Cartal, RJD2 and Felix Kenji, rings in at just $55 in advance for general admission.

“LIV is amazing, and it’s a beautiful place, but the real EDM world is more about the underground. It’s the kids that loves this music. That’s what really drives this music,” says Akiba, a Paris-born 25-year-old who grew up around Aventura. “It’s the people who want to see these DJs but can’t pay to get into LIV. Now they can see not only the one big DJ you’d hear at a place like that, but instead 35 DJs with 10 headliners. It’s affordable for a high school or college student, and you’re not killing your pockets to get in and enjoy yourself with all your friends.”

In other words, this is clearly a populist festivals for locals. Of course there’s the late July date, smack in the middle of what has historically been considered the city’s “slow season.” There’s also the location, the sprawling Soho Studios in Wynwood, a cavernous, blank canvas in an industrial pocket well off the usual beaten tourist path. But above all that, there is the clear South Florida scene love: an all-day stage featuring a hand-picked roster of about 25 area artists, from established names like Juan Basshead to the rising bass duo the Digital Breed.

“We’re going for the locals and the kids who come back from college in Tallahassee or Gainesville or Orlando. They don’t have anything to do during the summer in Miami, especially on a Saturday during the day,” Akiba says. “There doesn’t seem to be doing anything beyond a movie or going to a club and spending a couple hundred dollars.”

With that clear youthful bent for the festival’s intended audience, yes, the party’s general admission is open to ages 16 and up. (VIP areas are for only for those of legal drinking age, though). But that doesn’t mean the usual lacking candy-kid warehouse production values. Instead, Akiba and Carpenter promise top-class lighting, visuals, and other aesthetic extras, from visuals by pioneering area VJ Psyberpixie to MCing by Damian Pinto, best known to festival ragers as the official host and voice of Ultra Music Festival.

Akiba and Carpenter also promise their Dementia Events and Lights Out brand are in it for the long haul. In fact, the next Lights Out festival is already scheduled for the fall, and the pair plans to continue the event seasonally, rotating headliners and locals alike. “We’ll probably take, say, five of the locals from this bill, and then add a new 15 so they can get new exposure, too. And it’ll still be focused on the lights, sound, and production,” says Akiba. “When you walk in to this first event, you’ll be in awe. I can guarantee personally that it’ll be amazing.”

Lights Out Festival takes place Saturday, July 21 to 1 am Sunday, July 22 at Soho Studios, 2136 NW 1st Ave. 

Image of RJD2 by Dan McMahon