This article originally appeared in PureHoney Magazine. Check them out here.
In 2020 with the pandemic at a peak, Bryan Cuan-Garcia came home. The Miami native had spent several years in California and elsewhere working in event production — a trade devastated by Covid-19. Back in South Florida, feeling depressed and unsettled, Cuan-Garcia reverted to a favorite activity from his teens: checking out local bands.
He immediately liked what he found online. “The caliber of stuff coming out of Miami is just insane. A lightbulb went off; how can I merge my technical and corporate experience and link local stuff with the community?”
Enter Wet Mango Fest, an online-only live music bash streamed last June on Twitch. Working on a shoestring, Cuan-Garcia and producing partner Lesly Montes bartered their way into a lineup: play five songs at our Internet festival and we’ll create new video content for you to use as you please. More than a dozen hometown bands including Surfer Blood and Afrobeta signed on and performed via remote over two days.
“We all just wanted to make something really nice during the pandemic,” says Montes, who used to produce the Riptide Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale and counts Miami’s Ultra festival as a client.
Around 2,500 individual streamers tuned in to the first Wet Mango Fest. The event returns to Twitch on June 18 with a bigger budget and concertgoers invited to a non-virtual site: the SkateBird Miami skate park. Twelve acts including singer Julia Bhatt, rockers Never Loved and lo-fi punks Las Nubes will perform, joined by skateboarders Zion Effs & Friends for a skate exhibition, and stand-up sets from comedians Brittany Brave, Luis Diaz and Matt Ross.
Brave, an old friend of Cuan-Garcia’s, also moved back home (from New York) during the pandemic and found a way to succeed in a strange time. Cuan-Garcia, for his part, sounds ecstatic at how things have worked out as he helps to grow South Florida’s up-and-down live local music ecosystem. “I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time,” he says.