Winter Music Conference 2008: Wednesday
After running home to get my forgotten cell phone, having an airline representative ask me “Is yours one of the flights that was canceled?” and somehow jabbing myself with an in-flight magazine with enough force to draw blood, my Winter Music Conference 2008 trip began with a bit of foreboding or maybe just Get Smart-style clumsiness. All that was pushed away when I run into a music biz chum in the airport who invites me to “come kick it at Diddy’s place with Fat Joe” a couple nights from now. Sounds like a plan, just keep me away from the new magazines if you don’t want bloodstains on the forty-thousand dollar carpet.
Diddy or no Diddy, there’s a sense of importance around this year’s WMC that exceeds the "Adult Spring Break" reputation with which the fest was becoming saddled. It felt a bit stale and safe a few years ago as if the ’90s dance establishment was riding out the end of its term. Since then, young upstarts like MSTRKRFT and Boys Noize kicked dance music into a higher gear with a harder, hookier club-ready sound. There's evidence that the pecking order has changed now as both relatively young acts are playing the massive outdoor Ultra Music festival this weekend. But old school never sounded so good here. And I, for one, like to balance those edgy late night eardrum-punishing sessions with some easygoing afternoons. If all else fails, there’s the laidback, ganga-infused Stone’s Throw picnic, which provides a welcome contrast to South Beach’s over-the-top, look-at-me decadence.
Unfortunately, Miami isn’t cooperating with the game plan today: its cloudy and strangely windy–not exactly perfect weather for the rooftop parties at the Townhouse or the new Gansevoort Hotel. By the time I’m fueled up with a mammoth-but-just so-so Cuban sandwich, the evening parties are in full swing.
At the Sagamore, former Chicagoan Shaka 23 is warming us up with disco, electro and Kraftwerk remixes–her audience seems to be entirely composed of models and DJs. I catch my first glimpse of a guy-with-orange-trousers-and-white-blazer, drop $14 on my first cocktail of the week and feel that Welcome to South Beach slap in the face. But lucky for me, there’s some kind of limited open bar at the Tommy Boy showcase which is on the roofdeck of the Hotel Victor. Baltimore’s Ultra Nate, known mainly as a vocalist, attacks her set ferociously as the sun goes down–delivering house classics and fresh-out-of-the-box tracks to muscle-y, vogueing dudes. Soon, I learn they are members of New York’s House of Ninja, one of the legendary vogueing cliques. And yes, there are legendary vogueing clicks.
Ultra’s energized selections get the party (at left) bumping for Bob Sinclar, a French star who barely spins in the States, to saunter in with two camera crews following him. Sinclar's charisma and rep draws a more diverse crowd of beautiful people—my first woman in a full sequined body suit and Pharrell’s gay doppleganger are both sighted—and soon, he’s launched into De La Soul’s “Saturday” then into modififed disco and his signature tropically-infused house.
Things are well in hand when I make my move back to the Sagamore where DJ Pierre—a Chicago legend who’s still pushing himself creatively—has just taken the reins at a pool party (pictured above). He opts for the tried and true instead of hitting us with new acid-inspired tracks. It’s evidence of a DJ spinning for context rather than expectations. In other words, Pierre reads the crowd and reads it well. It’s a somewhat chic beach party, not a techy headbanger. Even so, a guy dances with a shirt in his mouth——okay, not so chic.
After a breather, its off to Studio A for the Downtown Riot 2–the annoying and expensive cab ride is worth it for this bill, which includes the red hot Switch (at right). The partiers eventually catch on to Drop the Lime's odd hybrid of diving ravey bass and electro before Annie Mac, a BBC favorite—coincidently her show is called “Switch”—steals the fire with everything from neo-rave to DJ Funk. She goes bigger and broader and the crowd reacts. If I blinked, I’d swear I was at some giant outdoor festival. Sinden comes on and bounces from underground hit to banger. It’s not quite the rager that Justice’s set here was lsat year, but remember, it’s only 2am Wednesday. Perhaps it’s a good idea to save some precious party juice for tomorrow?
Thursday… Digitalism at the Raleigh, Kompakt at the Pawn Shop? Can a guy get a tan here or what?