[28 April 2009]
This is the last year I’ll be doing this. Writing about Winter Music Conference, that is. I will almost certainly be attending again next year—though even that was cast into doubt while I spent the better part of Wednesday morning hung-over, sipping Tanqueray, in my hotel bed, locked into a cycle of what-does-it-all-mean neurotic introspection, before shaking off the bad noise in my head with the inevitable, resounding self-admonition: You bought the ticket, so take the ride.
Billy—friend and photographer—left the room to get coffee, no doubt convinced that, after just one day, I wouldn’t last the week. By the time he returned, though, I was checking emails and poring over The List, the 100+ page encyclopedia of every party taking place the week of WMC. I was still making cocktails, but no longer in an effort to merely cope. These merely helped the rejuvenation process.
In hindsight, I suppose my existential mini-crisis was only too appropriate for the fool’s paradise of Miami Beach. This is not a town of substance or, as its one-time outlaw cowboy mayor Alex Daoud put it, “Miami Beach is a non-place populated by rootless people.” I’m certainly no elitist (except of course when it comes to music) but after leaving the protective sphere of the Shelter party on Tuesday night, the evening quickly turned into a bad trip for me, an unrelenting tide of whack people doing whack things. Everywhere I looked, grown men and women were behaving like animals let loose in the streets, acting in ways that are simply not tolerated in more civilized societies.
Of course, it didn’t take me long to remind myself that next to nothing in Miami Beach is actually grounded in reality; rather, one comes here to escape from it. Once you get that sorted out, it’s easy to blend in with the rest of the degenerates and start getting serious about what you came here to do in the first place. As a partygoer, I am more than capable of this. As a journalist, on the other hand, I feel that I’m on my last legs here. One can only read (and write) so much about decadence and depravity; it is something that has to be experienced firsthand.
Tuesday March 24th
Funky Couture and WMC presents… Island Sessions Boat Party at Tikki Beach Boat
Aside from the crew of Italians (from Italy, not New Jersey) who immediately picked me out of the crowd as one of their bros, the most memorable thing about this party was Eric Kupper. My favorite track he played was “Into My Life (You Brought the Sunshine)” by Elements of Life, and he certainly did just that. Deep grooves, positive vibes, and not a cloud in the sky, not to mention a fine, rich sound system—we couldn’t have asked for a better, chiller way to start the Conference, so when Kupper disembarked after his set we did the same, not willing to take a chance that the soon-to-launch cruise around the Biscayne Bay would be even comparable to what we’d just witnessed.
Shelter Party at the Shelborne Hotel—Shine Nightclub
This party was unlike any other we attended at Conference, and arguably the best. Absent were the hair gelled guys, rave casualties, and electro hipsters that made up the bulk of the partygoers at WMC. Instead, middle-aged blacks and Latinos, true dance denizens of the highest order, many of them apparently hailing from New York where Shelter’s headlining DJ, Timmy Regisford, is a certified deity. After seeing him for the first time I can tell you, dude is house music. I literally was incapable of standing (perhaps for other reasons), let alone dancing, as Regisford, shirtless and ripped, turned out classic after classic: “Son of Raw” by Dennis Ferrer, “Plastic Dreams” by Jaydee, Ralphi Rosario’s “You Used to Hold Me” and on and on and on. The absolute peak came when he completely cut the master during Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and a thousand voices became one to sing the chorus right back to him. House Music indeed.
Wednesday, March 25th
Do You Wanna Boogie? at Bentley Hotel Rooftop
The first of a handful of parties we attended to show DJ Dirty some Philly love. Also, the first sighting of “work it out, work it out, work it out” Jam Master Jay on roller skates, and it wouldn’t be the last. We stopped to check out a few other places on the way over here, but they all shared the same problem: They were inside. Outdoors is the only place to be in Miami Beach until the sun sets, and rooftops are ideal, particularly when there’s a fantastic ocean view and a warm breeze. We made some new friends and spent the day relaxing to a soundtrack of deep house, the perfect way to recharge for another night.
Bang! Bang! at White Room
Downtown Miami looks nothing like Miami Beach. Rather, it bears more of a resemblance to the abandoned parts of Kensington, Philadelphia’s run-down former industrial center. The White Room was equally unappealing to me as a music venue, with bad sound (which may have been largely due to certain DJs pushing the mixer too hard) and a weird layout that resulted in some serious bottlenecking in the patio section. The Nadastrom homies still managed to turn out an engaging set of tasteful electro house that finally got the indoor crowd moving.
Ovum with Josh Wink at The Shelborne Hotel—Shine Nightclub
I wish we had gotten here sooner. Josh Wink is not someone you pass on, even though he did play a crazy marathon set in Philly a few months prior, but we missed him at the Ovum party. Fortunately, we made it in time to see Steve Bug play his first jaw-dropping set of the week, with the Carl Craig remix of Martin Buttrich’s “Stoned Autopilot”, my personal BIG tune of the Conference, as its centerpiece. This is a guy who really knows how to work a big room, which he would prove again on Sunday.
Thursday, March 26th
Luciano & Loco Dice with Martin Buttrich at The Shelborne Hotel Pool
They must have known we were coming, because not five minutes after arriving at the Shelborne pool Loco Dice and/or Luciano (I couldn’t tell which) dropped “Big Fun” by Inner City, and the place went bonkers. These two have a real Lennon/McCartney-type relationship, in that they’re both very talented individuals, but together they push each other to even greater heights. As far as DJ tag teams go, you don’t get much better. Incidentally, this was our last visit to the Shelborne this year, and they deserve props for the job they did booking talent all week long.
Objektivity: The Martinez Brothers, Dennis Ferrer & Friends at SoBe Live
We headed over to Sobe Live early, with the intention of getting wristbands and then backtracking to the Buzzin’ Fly party at the Shore Club. While showing our IDs, however, the bouncer informed us that there would be no re-entry, so we shrugged and proceeded inside. This was easily the best split-second decision of the week, for Objektivity ended up being, along with Shelter, my favorite party of the Conference, without a single lull. FilSonik got things started on the dance floor, and Argy kicked it up a notch or two with a tight vinyl-only set (and by the way, the only DJ I heard play Moodymann’s “Freeki Mutha F cker” all week), but it was Karizma who really got people bouncing off the walls with his signature brand of slamming, Baltimore-influenced house. Dennis Ferrer followed with mix of established and future classics, including a beautiful blend of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and Cajmere’s “Brighter Days”. And the charismatic Martinez Brothers closed out the night, demonstrating a knack for using classic percussion sounds that ranks them as one of the most exciting production teams in house music today.
Friday, Match 27th
Dirtybird & Mothership WMC 2009 Showcase at The DoubleGrand Waterclub
I just don’t see how any hotel in this town could double book a WMC event and a wedding for the same day. And guess who was telling who that they were being too loud? Personally, I would love to have this crew play at my (hypothetical) wedding, but I guess not everybody appreciates that sort of thing. In any event, what had potential to be one of the killer parties of the Conference was… well, still pretty damn awesome. Both labels were consolidated onto one deck and took turns bumpin’ the Void Acoustics soundsystem (as much as the father of the bride would allow, anyway). Guido Schneider absolutely murdered it, but everyone on the bill brought some fire of their own. Talk about the happiest day of your life.
Amenti Music & Lazy Days present “Freeform” at Love Hate Lounge
By the time we all met up back at the hotel, showered and changed it was almost midnight. Not exactly a problem on a Friday night in Miami Beach, but we still felt a little aimless walking around, trying to decide what to do. The night felt suspiciously like a bust, until we found DJ Heather playing some of the best funky house music I heard all week at Love Hate. Heather plays like a rock star too, feeding off the crowd and dancing just as hard. An under-the-radar gem of a party.
Saturday/Sunday, March 28th/March 29th
Afternoon Delight 2009 at Beach Plaza Hotel
The very first event I attended at WMC ‘08 was at the Beach Plaza Hotel, so I was very happy to spend a day in its lush courtyard again this year. Like I said, it’s all about the outdoor day parties, and this one had maybe the friendliest vibe of any that week. Groove Junkies and Terry Hunter were the standouts, and our hometown Philadelphia boy DJ Dirty was on hand to bring the day to a close. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t make it to Sundae the following afternoon, but by all accounts it was the best party this crew had put together over a consistently awesome week for them.
Aquabooty | Miami vs NYC | Innervisions | Jump n Funk at Skybar at the Shore Club
I would seriously love to inquire about rates at this hotel when next year’s Conference rolls around, as it has hands-down the most beautiful pool area of any I’ve seen in Miami Beach, but the fact that bottles of water at the Aquabooty party went for $9.50 doesn’t exactly suggest that I’d be getting a good deal. The trade-off, of course, was that the music here was worth far more than what they were charging at the door. We started off with the cosmic and beardo classics being dropped one after another by Harvey, alternating with the serious deep house vibes being put out by the Innervisions crew, including another big tune I heard everywhere at the Conference, the one I still can’t identify, with the vocal hook “why do we dance?” Do they even have to ask?
Sunday School for Degenerates
The party to end all parties, or at least the one that forces you to take an extended hiatus from nightlife after causing so much damage to both physical and mental health. A 24-hour party is a marathon, requiring as much discipline as any involving an actual foot race, and I spent months in training for this one, resolved that to approach it with the mindset of anything but that of a complete degenerate would be doing it a disservice. I hadn’t planned it exactly this way, but I skipped going to bed after Aquabooty and took a cab straight to Sunday School, now in its sixth hour or so at Ice Palace. Now, in the aftermath, I’ve read a lot of message board complaints about the Ice Palace not living up to Sunday School’s traditional home turf, the now-defunct Pawn Shop. That is a load of bullshit. It was a pleasure to have the Pawn Shop’s raver-kitsch interior replaced by what looked more like a miniature airplane hangar, and the outdoor area was far more comfortable as well. I even stopped to lie down on the grass and take a disco nap, before being shaken awake by the venue staff telling me “you gotta look alive.” Seth Troxler got the outdoor area started at eight o’clock in the morning with a beautiful Antony Hegarty a cappella layered over a pulsing minimal track. Later that afternoon, Steve Bug and Joris Voorn took turns murdering everyone indoors, while outside the rain came and went all day long, one fifteen minute blast after another, causing near-stampedes to get inside or under the school bus parked in the courtyard. By the time Cassy got on to close the night, I was running on about 40 hours with no sleep and ready to collapse, but I made sure to dance to the finish line for her set, which was as great as I had been expecting all week, though bittersweet because I knew there would be nothing else to hear once the music stopped. A cool drizzle broke out immediately after the Ice Palace cut the sound, which turned out to be a foreshadowing of what was waiting back home, in the real world. For now, though, it was a welcome sensation. I had made it.