SAFE Celebrates 5 Years of Good Dance Music and No Velvet-Rope Nonsense
Diego Martinelli, co-founder of the thinking-person's dance music promotion group SAFE, isn't afraid to admit that the beginnings of the company were rooted in a little selfishness. It was the mid-'00s, and he and co-founder Ramon Crespo (pictured) wanted to replicate the experience of truly underground parties they had stumbled upon during heady trips to Ibiza and other clubbing centers worldwide. "I guess Miami was missing a consistent, properly organized, and fully musically motivated underground dance music night," he says. "We literally decided to produce the gigs and nights we ourselves wished existed."
What they strove to create was as much about a vibe as anything else — no velvet-rope nonsense, and an atmosphere truly welcoming to both a diverse crowd and to leftfield artists who'd never get a set on South Beach. When SAFE officially started in 2007, Crespo and Martinelli were among the first to bring many techno and tech-house artists to Miami before those genres really gained a larger foothold in the city. Over the years, too, SAFE parties have continued to feature regular Miami debuts by artists from abroad, or rare, one-off gigs by performers otherwise not on official tours.
"We're total weird music rats. You could also say we've taken a much more personal approach to procuring talent. Many of the artists we've broken, we'd been into for ages before we grew the balls to fly them out," says Martinelli. "Lots of those fly-ins off tour happen because the artists became very good friends of ours and love coming down to play; some other times we get lucky. People have gone off their routes completely to come play for us."
Beyond just personal friendships, though, artists and revelers alike appreciate the feel of a true SAFE party, something akin to a secret get-together with like-minded friends. "The true identity of SAFE is a dark, little room, with a low ceiling, good acoustics, and a powerful full range sound system tuned for an audiophile," says Martinelli. "The people are the final and most important component. Reaching a level of intimacy in the nights is a very powerful and gratifying thing. The smaller the room, the more honest everyone is, specially the DJ. The energy and vibe are everything."
That spirit continues to SAFE's official fifth anniversary celebration this weekend. Rather than turn the affair into a warehouse blow-out, instead the group has taken over Electric Pickle for the weekend, spreading out the music from tonight through Sunday night. International names like Claude VonStroke, Maya Jane Coles, Koze, Omar S., James Holden feature on the bill, as well as assorted longtime local SAFE residents and friends.
All of this reflects an evolution for both SAFE and the Miami music scene that Martinelli sees as positive. "Musically, there's something for everyone now in Miami, it seems," he says. "For us, evolving is natural and necessary, we embrace it. We are music lovers and enthusiasts before all else, and we crave being challenged by new sounds constantly."
SAFE Miami's Fifth Anniversary Weekend. Thursday, August 30, to Sunday, September 2. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami.