Marco Carola’s Music On conquers Day 1 of No Sugar Added at Nikki BeachIMG 3114

Marco Carola’s Music On conquers Day 1 of No Sugar Added at Nikki Beach

For the last three years, No Sugar Added has been the go-to alternative for Miami Beach revelers looking for sanctuary outside of the crowded streets of Biscayne Blvd and wood-chipped arenas of Bayfront Park. This year, in addition to appearances from Defected, Ministry of Sound, Tiësto’s Musical Freedom, and your very own Dancing Astronaut. No Sugar Added played host to Marco Carola‘s infant Music On label. Carola himself commanded an ever-impressive six hour set, and fans of the Italian techno king’s label were also delighted by Silvie Loto, Marco Antona, Joseph Capriati, and others.

For more than twenty years, Marco Carola has served as a global ambassador to a pure techno sound. From humble beginnings in his hometown of Naples to five studio albums and well-respected compilations, Carola remains a bit of a reassurance that a DJ and producer’s focus can still really be “all about the music,” as his Music On label professes. Maybe you’ve heard us gush about his sets in the past or maybe you’ve experienced some of those marathons on your own. For any brave fan or curious techno inductee, seeing this man work his subtle magic on a crowd is, however, a right of passage.

Nikki Beach is an interesting hybrid — one part straight up festival, one part Miami pool party, and one part exclusive nightclub. On Friday, cabanas, day beds, straw huts, white umbrellas, and colorful orange blankets scattered the venue. Revelers were free to saunter around the tent, lounge in a cabana, imbibe, and socialize. Beginning his set at 5 p.m., Marco adopted an unusually buoyant mood, and his percussive tricks aligned with a tech house sound more than usual. It was par for the course–bouncier rhythms and more listener friendly bass lines could be more easily digested by the uninitiated. Last Friday, Nikki Beach may have well been Cafe Mambo Ibiza or Amnesia’s Terrace. The girls danced, the sun-kissed and shirtless men smiled.

Continuing on with his tech house tapestry, Carola gently mixed Redondo’s “All Them People,” Ante Perry’s “No Changes” (name that sample), and Lewis Boardman’s mind-boggling “I Can’t Breathe.” Dancers kicked up white sand, cabanas full of locals and foreigners alike pulsed along with the warm bass. Even Marco himself, usually a stoic stage presence, was enjoying himself on stage. He took time to move away from the decks, chat with friends and fans, and pose for photos — a marked departure from his usual serious self.

As evening continued to blanket the South Beach sky, he got back to his own basics with a bit of harder techno, more pronounced builds and effects. It’s like he turned off sunny afternoon Carola autopilot and returned to the normal persona — a producer and performer who inspires awe in quite an abundance. Even in a reduced role, Carola can’t help but to be himself. Despite providing a low key and repetitive background beach soundtrack to many at Nikki Beach last week, his track selection still shone. For a man who can pull off seven or eight hour superlative hours of subterranean techno out of his sleeve, he showed an impressive body of knowledge for the fairer side of tech as well.

For a moment, I sat down to take it all in. One woman tapped me on the shoulder and almost with bewilderment asked me how I could stand to not dance. “How long have you been a fan?” I asked. “My husband and I are from Miami, we do this once a year. But I have a 21-year-old, I know how this should go for you,” she replied with a knowing smile. She was right, but the same applied for her too — age, experience, color, or creed was irrelevant at NSA.  Music On’s mantra echoed again in my head — “It’s all about the music.”

Matt Medved contributed to this article.

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