|Miami WMC 2009 in review
RA looks back at the week that was in Miami during the Winter Music Conference.
Miami is Miami. There's really no other way to put it. And that's exactly why we love it. At what other dance music festival can you experience the best and the worst of humankind separated by only a few minutes?
But whether you love or hate the spectacle that is WMC, it's difficult not to respect it. Each year a huge number of artists, journalists, photographers and ravers gather together to celebrate the one thing that we all love—the music—in a week-long string of parties that would try any sane person's stamina. Luckily, RA only employs the slightly unhinged, and thus below we have reviews, photographs and general thoughts on all of the goings-on in Miami this year.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
WMC Wednesday - March 25
WMC Thursday - March 26
WMC Friday - March 27
WMC Saturday - March 28
WMC Sunday - March 29
WMC Day 1
Wednesday, March 25
Welcome to Miami at Nikki Beach
Despite the sampling of events on Tuesday, WMC kicks off in earnest on Wednesday with the aptly titled Welcome to Miami. It's here that you're immediately confronted with the two different conferences that go on each year. Outside you have the tanned, bleached and toned; while inside you have the pasty, natural and…er…less toned. Oscar G vs Nick Curly; Tom Novy vs Heidi. The two crowds mix freely, but it was hard to see a more fitting moment than when a skinny, lobster-red sunburned reveler got up on top of the speaker inside during Heidi's excellent wide-ranging set. It ain't always beautiful, but it sure sounds good. -- Todd L. Burns
No Fit State at Indra Lounge
Finding the well-populated party at this year's WMC was the challenge: For each discerning genre enthusiast, there were only a few at any one time. Air London's No Fit State, we quickly found out, was not that party. Playing to a mostly empty room from a perch impossibly high above the ground floor, James Priestly valiantly fought through a set plagued by fiddling engineers trying to perfect the highly touted Void Acoustics soundsystem. We couldn't be bothered to stay and find out whether it was finally fixed, but a friend told us when he stood on the second floor—at the DJ's height—the sound was nearly perfect. If only there was room to dance up there... -- Todd L. Burns
Ovum at Shine
Claude VonStroke once told us that if you find a good party in Miami, you should never leave. He's right. And, on Wednesday night, that event was Josh Wink's Ovum bash at Shine. Playing a typically eclectic set, Wink made all the right moves over the course of his performance and enjoyed a star-studded audience that included the likes of Luciano, Loco Dice, Hernan Cattaneo, John Digweed, Anja Schneider, Three, Will Saul and Lee Jones—among many more—for what turned out to be one of the best straight-up club sets that we witnessed during our time in the city. -- Todd L. Burns
WMC Day 2
Thursday, March 26
Scion presents: Thursday at Gansevoort Hotel
Erol Alkan: Complimentary sandals not pictured
For a group of event planners backed by a soulless multinational corporation, Scion really puts a lot of taste and thought into their free events. This one was no exception. The setting was the Gansevoort's beachfront with its crud-free white sand and chill cloth pavilions, the music was bass-forward electro by Alkan and the complimentary swag bags contained swag worth having. Particularly the sandals, which no one ever remembers to bring to a beach party, the CDs containing music I might actually want to hear and the memory card. No points for the belt, however—corporate branding needs to stop at waist-level. All told, the perfect start to a high-energy weekend. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Luciano & Loco Dice at Shelborne
Back-to-back sets are a beautiful thing, and Luciano and Loco Dice are two of the best. In isolation, Luciano is stuck in a rut, playing Cadenza-brand tribal minimal, but when pushed by Dice he pulls out all sorts of things from his record box. And that was very much the case for this lengthy set at the Shelborne on Thursday afternoon. The duo put on a clinic of rolling grooves that set the bikini-clad masses alight for hours on end, weaving in old classics among the upfront material. If there's a better venue than a pool in Miami for a set from these two, we've yet to see it. -- Todd L. Burns
Booty Breaks vs Hot Cakes at Ink Nightclub
Cooking up hot cakes in the back room
The main room of Ink at this party represented the Booty Breaks, and took a long time to fill up, despite the long line of hopefuls out front. So it was left up to the back, where presumably one went to get the Hot Cakes, to hold things down. Baby Anne (who should go light on the makeup much more often) and Sir Kuts turned in fine sets, while the main room took its sweet time to finally get kicking, though by that point there was still no sign of Magic Mike. Instead it was Slyde, slinging more hot cakes in the back, that knew exactly what to play: This party was one for rambunctious 5 AM raunchy house, dubstep and LMFAO's "I'm in Miami Bitch." Needless to say, he delivered. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Get Physical Sunset Party at Sony Rooftop
The most hotly anticipated party of the conference?
Was there anyone not planning on attending Get Physical Sunset Rooftop party? Judging by RA's roll call for the event—a hefty 191 ravers—it was the among the most anticipated events of the conference. But like Circo Loco, it befell a similar fate: As Damian Lazarus finally began his live set after setting up his gear for nearly 90 minutes, the cops appeared right behind him and let him know that he needn't have bothered. In a WMC that seemed to have more than its fair share of parties broken up by the police, this might've been the unkindest cut of all. (Heidi and Lee Curtiss, though? Fantastic.) -- Todd L. Burns
London Bass at Black Sheep
Skream lit up in neon
The big question for us at RA was "Is Miami ready for dubstep?" I still don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that some Miamians definitely are. The Black Sheep was the perfect venue for the London Bass party: zero attitude, high-calibre sound booming system and a backlit display behind the DJ booth designed for the young and stoned. The sound was heavy, loud and loose, with Skream and Mala taking turns blowing eardrums and filling trousers, while a room almost exclusively filled with dudes all nod heads seemingly made of concrete and attempt minor acts of levitation. Most definitely a musical highlight, with Skream and Mala's crowd-exhorting shouts in-between tracks a special treat. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Resolute Goes Miami at The White Room
The first solid party that I attended after I got into Miami, Resolute Goes Miami proved that numbers were going to be down at this year's WMC. It had all the right elements: A monster line-up that ran 22 hours, a decent venue and a reasonable price. During my time there, I heard Ryan Crosson and Shaun Reeves play excellent sets on the outside patio. However, Anja Schneider was playing to a total of four people inside during the same slot. Despite some sound bleeding between outside and in, it was a shame: Her set was well worth hearing at this gritty (by Miami standards) party. If only more people had been there to appreciate it... -- Christopher Thomarios
WMC Day 3
Friday, March 27
The Freaky Tikki at Tikki Beach Charter
Boat parties are always a bit of a crapshoot. Get on one with someone you don't really like that much, and you could spend the next five hours having the most awkward conversation of your life. And if the music is bad? Forget it. We heard rumors of The Leeeeky Tikki being one of the best parties of the conference, however, so hopes were high for Steve Bug and Anja Schneider's morning cruise. The conversation and tunes didn't disappoint: Schneider played an on-point selection of warm-up tech house and Bug's final 40 minutes were full of future and established classics. Among the ambitious promoters throwing multiple parties this year, listed came in a close second to the ever-reliable Made Event. -- Todd L. Burns
Don't Worry. Everything Is Going to Be Amazing. at 500 Brickell Avenue
Seth Troxler loving the red vinyl
Located high atop a downtown apartment building, this afterhours/mid-day party was just what the doctor ordered. It was a haven from all the masses on South Beach, where attitudes ruled and regrettable tattoos were aplenty. The atmosphere was very relaxed, with Massi DL playing some laid-back house as we walked in to an audience full of the remaining souls from the Minus and Resolute parties lounging about and enjoying reasonably priced drinks from a pleasant bartender (a rarity at WMC). It was a good mix of people—some dancing, some chatting, some sleeping, some just lounging. All in all, the best afternoon party I attended in the most out of the way of place. Isn’t that always the way? -- Christopher Thomarios
Cheap Sunglasses at Electric Pickle
We have no idea
We unfortunately weren't at Cheap Sunglasses long enough to say, but we heard that Matthias Tanzmann played one of the best sets of the conference before the party was ignominiously shut down ala...well...just about every other party at WMC. In that spirit, we'd like to take a moment to share other unsubstantiated rumors and gossip in this space: Guido Schneider was a revelation at Dirtybird and Mothership, Lee Burridge's rocking boat party nestled up alongside a decidedly bored and industry-heavy crowd on the Sasha & Digweed boat, Johnny D was just about everywhere, Beatportal editor Terry Church had the best outfit of the conference and we're still not sure if Seth Troxler ever went to sleep. -- Todd L. Burns
Body & Soul at Mansion
"Ain't no party like a Body & Soul party."
This, to one little Jersey boy, is New York City. Long strands of balloons hanging from the ceiling, nothing but tightly-packed dancing bodies, a hand slowly rolls the record to a complete stop, no excess glamour, no fronting. Danny Krivit, Francois K and Joe Claussell taking turns, each moving the party in a slightly different direction and sounding different notes on the deep house scale, but always with harmony in mind. This is jazz as house music: cool, discrete, passionate, sincere, sometimes overly sentimental or noodly, but always with nothing but your best interests in mind. "Ain't no party like a Body & Soul party," I hear one gorgeous muscle boy exclaim in the lavatory. Amen. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Secretsundaze at Ecco
Location, location, location. Give Secretsundaze credit for taking a chance on a venue that wasn't near much of anything—and one that had never hosted a party—but their ambition may have been a bit too much for their debut at WMC. Ecco was stunning visually, but way too large: We caught Charles Webster playing to approximately three people on the dance floor, ducked out while Dixon began to only a few more and then raced back from the Spectral party to see the Secretsundaze guys come on and play six records in total to the 30 people left. James Priestly unleashed The Mole's "For the Lost" to maximum effect, but this was one of those "vibe great, crowd thin" situations that was all too common this year. -- Todd L. Burns
Spectral Sound at Grass Lounge
Audion rocking the palm tree vibe
If there was a better party vibe-wise than Spectral Sound's The Return of Losing It at this year's WMC, we'd be surprised. We arrived late—just as Matthew Dear was taking to the stage—and you could just tell that the relaxed venue and promise of some new Audion tunes had people amped up for his performance like few others at WMC. And, despite the unconscionably loud soundsystem, things only got better from there. Dear played a very long live set—something I can only assume he was forced into via Konrad Black not bothering to show up. Nonetheless, given a bit of tightening, future Audion sets should be concise bombs of neatly torqued material that doesn't so much reflect a progression from his past work as much as it sounds like a further consolidation of established ideas. -- Todd L. Burns
ULTRA Day One at Bicentennial Park
Lesson number #1: Never go to a rave alone. What would be intriguing in mixed company becomes irritating when alone, and the amusing slowly mutates into the appalling. Still, the very level on which ULTRA operates is enough to create some kind of positive response. I mean, the name is all in caps for a reason. Day One was the populist side of ULTRA: Bloc Party, the Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta all took turns on the main stage in preparation for Tiësto. Kelly Rowland appeared to everyone's surprise to sing the new Guetta track, which was a nice touch and certainly a heartfelt one from a dude who sounded more pumped to be playing the event than any one else the whole weekend.
Roni Size did a live drum and bass thing, Richie Hawtin turned in a thoroughly professional performance and Carl Cox played his usual boxy set. All pretty much par for the course with ULTRA, the main interest on the first day being the increased level of peripheral, secondary events being attempted. An eco-village? Light pen graffiti on the Carl Cox tent? A guy dressed as an anime Viking with a neon headresss? All of these events registered far more than most of the music going on. -- Mallory O'Donnell
WMC Day 4
Saturday, March 28
Crosstown Rebels presents Get Lost at Electric Pickle
The afterhours set seems to be the perfect venue for a DJ like Damian Lazarus who excels in bringing in offbeat picks to his sets ala his underrated 2008 mix for Soma. Unfortunately, after a full day of partying we didn't make it to the point where he presumably started dropping Moloko mixes of Pulp or Burial tunes, but we did hear him play a pitched-up version of The Mole's "For the Lost," which once again turned a crowd inside out. (Aside from Jamie Jones's "Summertime," it was undoubtedly the tune of the conference.) With tired eyes and heavy feet, I headed back for a few hours of shut-eye before Lee Foss could strip down to his usual tank top. -- Todd L. Burns
Cecille & Oslo Showcase at Victor Hotel
Finally, a pool party that was close to where I was staying, had a fun line-up, and didn't get shut down due to noise violations! Early on Seth Troxler was keeping things light and heavily vocal-laden, but when I returned later in the evening to catch Cassy, who was another unannounced special guest, we heard that due to exclusivity restrictions, she wouldn't be playing. No matter: Nick Curly was manning the decks on the other side of the roof, followed by Christian Burkhardt, who represented the Oslo Label. The roof was heaving—and by heaving I mean the damn thing was actually bouncing—the entire time I was there. Applause goes to the listed folks for throwing quality events all week with ZERO issues. -- Christopher Thomarios
Innervisions & Aquabooty at Skybar
Skybar, to put it simply, is beautiful: Multiple pools, tree-lined walkways, and open spaces for lounging about—even if the enormous central pool only served as a treacherous mote for some of the more intoxicated folks in attendance. (I suppose the outrageously priced drinks helped to keep the area safe.) When we arrived, Frank Wiedemann of Âme and Marcus Worgull were playing a nice selection of deep and tech house back-to-back out at the pool. (One thing you can always expect when any of the Innervisions artists are playing are unique records that are always venue appropriate.) The combination of a lovely venue, glammed-up crowd, astronomically priced drinks and good music made for what amounted to a "proper" WMC party. -- Christopher Thomarios
Miami Zoo at PS 14
Dino Felipe: Pouring his heart out with a Stella in hand
This was one party both easy to get into and difficult to leave. Things swung into full-on mode with Otto Von Schirach's live set, during which there might be onstage at any point a 19th-century geisha, a half-naked Notorious Nastie, a dude in an alligator mask, a full-on skeleton and so on. Dino Felipe took the stage next, and while some people step out into the crowd, Dino just sang from inside it—as likely to grab someone and pour his heart out as he was to do anything reminiscent of traditional live performance. After talking astrology and WS Burroughs with Dino out front, we regretfully headed out into the downtown world. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Get Physical After Dark at Studio K
Just a taste of how bad WMC can get...
Twice now I've been to Winter Music Conference, and twice I've tried to get into the Get Physical show on Saturday night. The first time they wanted $40 at 5 in the morning, this time the guy with all the guest list info was next door at the party that was getting busted up by the cops. Meanwhile, even Pier Bucci couldn't get in, and a cop is screaming through a megaphone at a girl on the street to get out of the street you with the handbag right now, which she probably would be doing if she wasn't totally drunk, confused and being screamed at by a cop. The stretch of sidewalk across the street is littered with clubbers from the event which is getting shut down next door, and all is noise, broken glass, confusion and poor drunk, rolling club kids who really just wanted to party. -- Mallory O'Donnell
Om Records at Karu & Y
Peter Kruder: The consummate professional
Karu & Y is somewhat confusingly laid out for a super club, but its amenities make up for it: great decor, a sweet back deck with water features and miniature dorky bridges and vaguely translucent bathrooms to titillate the inner voyeur in all of us. We arrive late to this egalitarian exception to the downtown post-Ultra posefest so all we catch is the end-of-night moves, with Victor Duplaix turning in a mismatched set as the police come to shut him down, people spilling drinks on each other and Kruder & Dorfmeister playing a musically unimpeachable but personality-free set in the main room. It has all the trademarks of a good gig grown long in the tooth, though, and that's why I'll definitely be there for next year's show. -- Mallory O'Donnell
ULTRA Day Two at Bicentennial Park
With friends in tow, life gets at lot easier at ULTRA Day Two. Of course, it doesn't hurt that nearly all the artists I'd actually want to see are stacked on Saturday. Traffic and a late start keep us from Tiefschwarz vs. Mandy, but who the hell planned such quintessentially late night music for 4:00 in the afternoon anyway? Cut Copy, who opted for more lucrative shows in Orlando this weekend rather than nightclub spots in Miami, turn in a solid set. They seem to rather stress that they are playing live, a little oblivious to the fact that much of this weekend's electronic talent has chosen to do the same, but their energy is solid and positive, and the crowd really begins to respond, primed for the nights' festivities.
Booka Shade killed it for their main stage slot, giving the heat-stoned crowd a totally necessary revitalizing set that sounded especially stunning on those gigantic speakers. We wandered around some more, enjoying all the freaks, until we were pulled into a MSTRKRFT set that completely destroyed any previous opinion I may have had of them. Of all the acts at ULTRA, they seemed most to understand the completely over-the-top vibe that was required of them, and acted accordingly. Brilliant, bracing, hard-pumping, fist-waving music that had the whole earth shaking with happy, bouncing ravers. Inevitably, Prodigy's long-delayed turn on the main stage suffered in comparison. I don't think anyone I've ever known had much respect or liking for Prodigy (apart from that first album), but I would have hoped that they would have shown Miami something more than the perfunctory, truncated and even more dated-than-you'd-have-thought-possible experience they delivered. Thoroughly missable. All told, though, day two really gave ULTRA ticket-buyers value for their money—especially when you consider the fact that seeing two nightclub shows downtown or on Washington Ave. would have cost roughly the same as your Saturday pass. Pound for pound, it remains among the biggest and best raves in the country.
-- Mallory O'Donnell
WMC Day 5
Sunday, March 29
Sunday School For Degenerates at Ice Palace
Despite—or perhaps because of—some bad weather, Made Event's Sunday School for Degenerates was yet again a highlight at WMC. As Stimming was launching into his Chilean folk singer-sampling hit "Una Pena," a few drops of rain began to hit the heads of a relatively subdued crowd, eliciting an audible "ohhhh!" Rain began in earnest a short time later, leading a stampede of revelers inside to hear a back-to-back set from Adultnapper and Tobi Neumann, but our favourite from the early afternoon came just a bit earlier when the relatively unknown Swede Ida Engberg dropped uncompromising techno for a few hours on an unsuspecting audience. Per usual, Made Event's strategic planning made what could have been an ugly afternoon into the perfect ending to another year in Miami. -- Todd L. Burns
Carl Cox at La Folie D'Amour
Carl Cox and "friends"
After five days of non-stop techno, we couldn't help but be intrigued by the prospect of Carl Cox playing a disco set at the intimate La Folie—a typical Miami Beach bar where the focus was on table service, a Corona set you back $9 pre-tip and dancers stood over the DJ booth. Luckily Coxy, the big charismatic man that he is, immediately broke through the poor first impressions by getting on the microphone to hype up the next retro disco classic he was plucking from his hard drive. As the crowd loosened up, we realised we had found a gem. -- Sam Louis
Published / Tuesday, 07 April 2009