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Interview: Travis Rodgers of Heart Festival

Miami's beloved club returns in new form

Heart Miami, in its short span of existence, was one of the city's greatest nightclubs, hosting legendary sets from the likes of Joseph Capriati, The Martinez Brothers, and more. After only three years, the club closed its doors, leaving a hole in Miami's nightlife. Recently, however, the team behind the club announced a new project to carry the club's legacy, Heart Festival. We caught up with one of the founders, Travis Rogers, to find out more about the new venture, and gain some insight into what the future holds. 


Hi, Travis. Thanks for sitting with us today. We've got some great things to talk about, but before we do, I'd like to start by asking, what life has been like for you the past 6 months, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I have a 22-month-old child, so balance that side of my life with something so opposite as nightlife and events is a bit challenging but at the same time, it makes everything more rewarding. Professionally things are great, the festival has been an exciting new project as well as doing our Relic and Ethics weekly events at Wynwood Factory.

I'm also curious about your history as a promoter and event organizer. How did you even get involved with the scene? What lead you to the career you now have?

It was all by accident. After a few years of college, I decided to take a year off because I was completely lost with what I wanted to do with my life. Obviously I spent a majority of that time partying and shortly into that run I realized if I worked as a local promoter bringing groups of people to a venue I could make a quick buck but more importantly save all the money I was wasting on covers and drinks. This was right at the beginning of the myspace era which I took advantage of, shortly after I got a marketing job in nightlife and met Louis Diaz who started teaching me about talent buying and here we are now.

The big news is that Heart Nightclub is relaunching as a massive two-day festival at the Wynwood Factory. For those who aren't up to speed, why did Heart Nightclub close after only three short years?

Downtown Miami is exploding with development and Heart was the first club to get singled out with the noise it generated in the late nights and mornings. We spent a lot of time fighting the battle which stunted our growth during the period. After about a year of fighting the owners decided the battle wasn’t worth the headaches so they closed the venue. A year after that Louis Puig decided to open Wynwood Factory.

Having to shut down a business you have put so much work into can feel defeating, to say the least. What was that period like for you and the team?

Most of the team probably took it harder than me. I had spent 10 years working at Club
Space and then 3 at Heart, both after-hours venues. Honestly, I was burned out and my son had just been born so I took about 8 months off nightlife right after we closed Heart. The break was needed for me to reset and get excited about the industry again. Afterhours and all the record-breaking marathons was very special for me but I’m happy to leave that in the past. Maybe for a fun a couple of times a year but I don’t think I would ever do that again on a weekly basis again.

With some of the most legendary nights in Miami music history, it certainly came as surprise to many when you shut your doors. Fortunately, your team has found a new outlet to curate and provide top-level talent to the city of Miami. Was a festival always in the cards? Or was this a reaction to the club closing down?

The festival was totally unplanned and by accident. When looking through all the talent options coming for Basel, it was tough to pick and choose. Literally, in probably a 15-minute conversation we jokily were like let’s book everyone and do a festival. 3-4 months later we announced Heart Festival.

A club is a special place with an atmosphere that is hard to recreate outside of its four walls, especially one like Heart. How have you and your team gone about trying to recreate that feeling?

This is the great thing about Heart Festival, is it takes place inside a venue and we are putting a 4 stage outside to spice things up. Plus, word on the street is we may have extended hours ;) so get ready for a possible marathon.

What were some of the biggest challenges your team has faced in the lead up to the festival? Anything you've not dealt with before?

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Our team consists of a lot of strong members who have all produce dozens of large scale events, it’s been a breeze for the most part.

There is an argument to be made about there being too many music festivals these days. What are some key features from Heart's legacy that you are looking to bring to the new festival to help set it apart?

Heart's main goal was always to provide a great musical experience and a comfortable setting. I think people will be happy with the setup provided as well as the balance of big names and emerging quality talent.

As the event organizer, it would be strange if you booked any acts you weren't pumped about, but are there any specific sets that you are extra excited to see?

I mean the obvious names like The Martinez Brothers, Sasha & John Digweed, Damian, Bedouin, etc always get me excited but I’m amped to see some acts I’ve never seen live before like Artbat, Guy J, Culoe De Song, Birds of Mind to name a few.

Surely, you've eaten at Miami's top spots. Where are some of the essential restaurants we must try?

Las Vacas Gordas is my number 1.

No doubt, planning and running a music festival is extremely stressful. When you feel overwhelmed and/or unfocused, what do you do?

Spending time with my family helps take the stress off.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a favorite failure?

Do I have a favorite failure? We all have them and they keep us sharp, not sure what my favorite would be but I don’t think I wouldn’t be able to produce an event of this magnitude if I hadn’t failed a ton of times.

What is the one thing you love most about Miami nightlife?

The music is what always draws me back and the friendships and relationships I’ve built along the way have been instrumental to my success and happiness.

Last question. If I want to run a successful club or event, in all of your experience, what would you say is the most important piece of advice you could give me to help me succeed?

Be a great problem solver. It’s essential to success in this business. 

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