Winter Music Conference
Miami Beach, FL
March 25-29, 2008
As of this writing, Philadelphia weather is in that uncertain and precarious state between winter and spring: the sun tends to shine almost every day now, but stray into the shade or catch a gust of wind when you’re not expecting it, and you’re going to feel an all-too-familiar chill. It’s one of many adjustments I’ve been forced to make since returning from Miami on a straight-up cold Sunday morning, wearing shorts and sunglasses and ready to cry.
Winter Music Conference 2008
Now, a few weeks removed from that initial shock, and with serotonin levels back to normal, I’ve come to terms with the good (weather, landscape, architecture, and, oh yeah, music), the bad ($$$), and the ugly (club rats and douchebags) that made my trip to the Winter Music Conference such an unforgettable experience.
But perhaps the most significant thing I took from WMC—and probably my biggest excuse for putting off writing this review for so long—is the feeling of inspiration I got, and still have, from seeing so many talented DJs and producers in one place, something which cannot be properly explained nor done justice with mere writing. Rather, it’s my own DJ sets that have been my primary output for this exposure. Not only has my experience of the conference broadened the range of the actual music I dig for, it’s given me exciting new ideas about how to present that music in a club setting. If you have even a passing interest in dance music, whether from the perspective of a DJ or a dancer, scrape and save and make plans early to set aside the last week of March and go for broke, because there really is nothing else as wild or uplifting as the experience of WMC—not in this country at least.
In any event, this is the kind of manic babbling that’s made this write-up almost a month overdue, so I mustn’t get derailed, especially this early in. No, the point of this is to give you full coverage of WMC, if such a thing exists. Personally, I doubt it. With literally hundreds of events and parties spread across Miami Beach and the downtown area throughout the week, an undertaking of that magnitude would require a team of reporters working out of a state-of-the-art command center (or situation room, if you will) with full internet access, GPS capability and radio communications, a fleet of high-performance convertibles, unlimited VIP access, and insider contacts at every bar, club, poolside cabana, and yacht in the city, not to mention a bottomless supply of food, water, alcohol, and narcotics (uppers mostly, for practicality’s sake, but after all, variety is the spice of life).
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and unabashed laziness, all I’ve got to work with are some scribbled, mostly illegible, notes, and some outstanding photography courtesy of the two friends who accompanied me. So without further ado, here is my improvised diary of the 2008 Winter Music Conference in Miami Beach, an event I’m sure will go down as the beginning of a long and lasting love/hate relationship. I certainly can’t think of any other reason I’d want to spend a week in Miami, home of the $8 bottle of water.
The Miami Beach Resort & Spa on Collins Ave.
We’re well-rested and ready to go on Tuesday morning, after arriving yesterday evening and shopping for bread, peanut butter, jelly, water, and liquor to stock our hotel room. We’re on the fourth floor of the Miami Beach Resort and Spa, the official hotel of the conference, with a sideways view of the pool area if you crane your head out the window.
Downstairs, the lobby no longer resembles the tranquil scene from last night, the calm before the storm. Now, convention delegates are everywhere, checking in at the front desk, lugging suitcases and DJ equipment, heading out towards the pool with flip flops and towels. In the banquet room adjacent to the lobby we retrieve our badges and a coveted press pass for myself, and flee to the beach.
After a few hours, we hail a cab out on Collins (it will take us a little longer to achieve the presence of mind required to figure out the simple bus routes) and head south.
Basic NYC Beach Plaza Kickoff at Beach Plaza Hotel
Simon Baker in the headlights
Miami Beach appears to be at least 90 percent composed of hotels, and they’re almost all gorgeous. The Beach Plaza is no exception, with the DJ setup right smack in the middle of a subtropical garden.
This is also where I first notice that nearly everyone spinning at the conference uses CDJs rather than turntables, though a pair is usually present just in case. Not that I’m bothered by this; while I like seeing people use vinyl because it’s fun to watch, I’m no purist about it. As long as a DJ isn’t using one of those ridiculous iPod mixers, I’m really concerned only with what’s coming out of the speakers.
But I digress. I have chosen this showcase as our afternoon activity because I want to see the talent from Leftroom (Marc Ashken and Matt Tolfrey) and get a minimal fix. Apparently so has the guy break-dancing. In fact, a decent number of people are up and moving for a Tuesday afternoon, so we oblige and dance to most of Simon Baker’s set, which features some great tracks from his own Infant Records.
Incredibly, there seems to be some kind of disagreement between the promoters and the Authorities over the noise level, which is still not resolved by the time we leave to get sushi (my last meal for about 36 hours).
Wave Music Party & Hallucination Unlimited at The Pawn Shop
The Pawn Shop
FYI, it’s an approximately $21 cab ride from our hotel to the downtown area on the other side of the Biscayne Bay, but, conveniently, every place we will go to on the mainland is all contained within a radius of only a few blocks.
We arrive at the Pawn Shop around 11, only to find it deserted. The lighting is terrible, and softcore porn is being projected on one of the walls. The place is also littered with raver-kitsch eyesores, like the hollowed-out school bus covered in graffiti that’s more useful as a test tube for trapping cigarette smoke than as a place to sit and recuperate.
The crowd starts to slowly filter in, and Tedd Patterson delivers an awesome upbeat house set, getting everyone fired up for François K. The master does not disappoint, starting off housey but gradually working his way into techier regions, only to finish us off with a disco blowout.
In the other room, though, Cobblestone Jazz is the standout of the night. The trio of Danuel Tate, Tyger Dhula, and Mathew Jonson plays true to its name with a mixture of jazzy techno and house, and the energy is infectious. After Radio Slave’s spaced-out minimal techno set causes a veritable mass exodus of weary clubbers from the first room, these warm sounds seem to give everyone the second (or third) wind they need to get to 5 a.m.