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WMC 09: Ultra Part Deux

WMC 09 - Prodigy

WMC 09 – March 28

Highlights from Ultra Day 2

--Dutch trance hero Armin van Buuren rocking the main stage with racing beats that had people literally running to get closer to the speakers, while ravers pointed and marveled at a young guy in his own world dancing provocatively in a gold thong, a wreath of flowers on his head, and nothing else.

--Roni Size followed by Goldie playing booming, rapid-fire drum 'n' bass that had feet flying in one mass blur.

--Crystal Castles lead singer Alice Glass writhing and shrieking onstage to the Canadian electronica duo's fierce, futuristic indie-dance tunes, overlooking a sea of probably a thousand people moving wildly.

WMC 09: PVD at Space

Paul Van Dyk

WMC 09 – March 28

This is one of the most highly anticipated events of the season - Paul van Dyk at Club Space. The pounding beat draws us into the venue, forcing us to move our feet and nod our heads in time to the rhythm.

We enter the cavernous main room and the bass is so powerful that it passes through your body, shaking you from head to toe. The space is packed with bodies, moving together in sync. Looking up into the darkness, you see crystal chandeliers surrounded by no less than 80 disco balls. Flashing lights cut through the shadows, revealing the German musician, high above the crowd, swaying back and forth between his instruments.

A melody breaks loose from the hard beats, swirling around the room and leaving behind the heavy bass line. Transcendental strings provide a counterpoint, intensifying into a crescendo - and with a flourish, the DJ drops the beat back into the mix, leveling the crowd with another series of chest-pounding thumps. Obediently throwing our hands in the air, the audience jumps up and down: one part applause, one part plea for more.

A bright light flashes momentarily - revealing the flush, excited revelers for a split-second. Back in dark now, a loud hissing accompanies a flood of dense fog that fills the room with a burst of cold air, as if the ceiling has been ripped off to reveal an arctic night sky, cooling down our hot, sweaty bodies.

The DJ smiles wide, diving back into his laptop to prepare the next movement of his symphony.

For the rest of the night, his hypnotic message is devoured by the ecstatic onlookers, united by sound. As day breaks, we emerge from the club content, with a newfound energy that propels our tired legs home.


WMC 09: Triple Trouble

WMC 09 - Laidback Luke

WMC 09 – March 27

Friday night’s lineup at the Remix Hotel was selected by our own Michael Hammersly as the best of the week, and he was right on spot.

From the early set by the Martinez Brothers, to the final set by Laidback Luke, the crowds never stopped dancing. The final three DJs of the night topped off the evening. Louie Vega started things off at 7 p.m. with a mixed set that included his gaggle of sexy dancers in bikinis flowing through the crowd, getting everyone moving.

Then came DJ Sneak, who is a dead ringer for rapper Fat Joe (but in looks only). The rotund mix-master played an amazing set that went from deep house to latin house to old school to funky break beats. He had the crowd anticipating his next sound (no wonder they call him Sneak).

WMC 09: Afternoon Delight

WMC 09 - Jazzanova

WMC 09 – March 27

An afternoon of adventure during WMC. Turntables on the Hudson was grooving with a set by Jazzanova at the Delano. Great atmosphere with a typical South Beach vibe -- lot's of flesh, buff dudes and girls in g-strings bikinis. For those who prefer deep house, this was their gig.

Same vibe/atmosphere at PashaNYC pool party at the Royal Palm. Hotel. The house was a bit more progressive, so there was a lot more dancing among the same beautiful people.

Over on Lincoln Road, the Grooveparlor set at Segafredo Originale was pumping. It's an outdoor cafe/bar, so not a lot of people, but lots of passers-by stopped to groove to the music. Some old school sounds and vocal house had the small crowd really into it. Good place to sit back with a cold drink, which is exactly what I did.

WMC 09: A different shade of Oakenfold

Paul Oakenfold

WMC 09 - March 27

British superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold -- who arrived in Miami on Thursday and spun that night till 5 a.m. at Mokai -- had a night off from behind the decks Friday. But instead of going off and doing his own thing, Oakie decided to do something a little different.

He teamed up with 944 magazine and Jose Cuervo's "Live Notoriously Well'' campaign for an event to help kick off the Platino Penthouse at the Sagamore Hotel.

The entourage stormed into Love/Hate in Miami Beach (the joint made famous by the Miami Ink crew) and randomly picked out two guys for a night of VIP treatment. They scored a limo ride to the Sagamore with Oakenfold for free table and bottle service all night.

WMC 09: Ultra begins

WMC Ultra 2009

WMC 09 - March 27

The Ultra Music Festival, the fabulous freak show that has highlighted WMC for the past 11 years, kicked off late Friday afternoon at Bicentennial Park, the perfect place for dance-music fans to roam from tent to tent, stage to stage in search of the right groove.

It's also a chance for those with an outrageous fashion sense to show off: Hundreds of revelers were decked out in garish, futuristic Day-Glo colors, space boots, wigs, masks - you name it. It's a people-watcher's dream.

Early birds got a treat, as techno and house pioneer Josh Wink, who has performed at WMC for the past 17 years, filled one of the main tents from 5 to 6 p.m. with deep, penetrating bass. Also hot were the booming beats of Loco Dice vs. Luciano, the trippy tech-house of Kevens and old-school beats of DJ Romero. 

WMC 09: B-Live takes us back

Bacardi B-Live WMC 09

WMC 09 - March 26

The '80s were back in full force at the Bacardi B-Live Pool Party at Blade at Fontainebleau Miami Beach.  Asymmetrical haircuts abounded, Richard Simmons shorts covered plenty of behinds, neon bikinis left and right.  A crew of boys even went as far as to bring back the high top fade, Kid 'n Play-style.  One of them was rocking a Gumby, the lopsided high top that imitates the noggin of our favorite little green ball of clay.

There was plenty of crack, just like in the '80s, but not the kind you're thinking of.  The crack at this party was peeking over the tops of the models' miniscule bikini bottoms.

All this reminiscing gets you thirsty, so Bacardi was taking care of everyone with mojitos, daiquiris, Cuba Libres and a specialty bar where the mixologist asked us, "If you could go on vacation right now, where would you want to go?"  My co-worker said "Puerto Rico", so that was an easy one.  The mixologist came back with a fresh concoction filled with lemon juice, ginger beer, mint and, of course, Bacardi. 

She should have faked him out and said something like Detroit or Albuquerque.  (I wonder what Detroit would taste like in cocktail form? Actually, no, I don't.)

So while we are sipping on our Puerto Rico-inspired beverages, who do we spot but the ultimate '80s DJ, DJ Jazzy Jeff, off in his VIP corral.  He looked just like he did when I would see him as Will's irresponsible, yet lovable friend on "The Fresh Prince." We missed his set and I couldn't get over it the rest of the evening.  

Watching this model's pasties fall off didn't even make it better.

WMC 09: Simple surprises

Paul Van Dyk WMC 09

WMC 09 - March 26

A few events Thursday perfectly summed up the essence of what Winter Music Conference should be:

At the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach, the Armani Exchange Sirius XM Penthouse party was a classy, energetic but elegant bash with cutting-edge beats, tasty hors d'oeuvres passed around (potato puffs!), and free Fiji bottled water, Heineken and Belvedere vodka drinks. German electronic dance music legend Paul van Dyk (he hates it when you call his music "trance," but that's really the closest explanation) kicked things off with a fairly chilled-out set, at least compared to the main-room mania he inspires at his favorite big-club haunts like Space.

Afterward, a young, blonde DJ from L.A. named Yvonne Black (nope, we've never heard of her, either) absolutely slayed everyone with filthy tech, tribal and progressive house beats, including the coolest dance version of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" imaginable. Patrons including celebrity DJs Tracy Young and Paul Oakenfold comfortably migrated from the outdoor rooftop -- which overlooked the Raleigh pool, the ocean beyond that, and the crazies hopped up on goofballs at the Shelborne pool next door -- to the intimate but not-too-packed indoor bar area. An incredibly cool scene.

The Remix Hotel, normally known as the National a couple doors to the south, was almost as fantastic (open bar would have helped, though $7 per beer is far from outrageous by SoBe standards). The DJ (couldn't tell who he was, but he looked similar to our beloved local hero Ivano Bellini because of the lack of hair) commanded a huge stage out back beyond the pool, with mesmerizing visuals on the 20-foot video screen behind him. His mixes - best was a thumping version of "Funky Town" - reverberated behind the stage throughout the walkway all the way back to the hotel, creating a happy cacophony that had the whole area buzzing.

On Lincoln Road at Lenox Avenue, the music outside Segafredo cafe created constant, spontaneous, joyful dancing by people passing by. A DJ spun jazzy, soulful beats while a live trumpet player provided some tasty improv during the breaks in the vocals, jamming among the dancers, who ranged in age from 3 to probably 83 (one elderly gentleman was really getting his groove on with an undulating young woman).

If the megaclubs and their obscene cover charges (if you can get the doorman to look your way) and thousand-dollar table service turn you off, seek out scenes like these.  

Just walk around town, to the SoBe hotels or up and down Lincoln Road - you never know what you'll find.


WMC 09: Some talent with your coffee?

Ben Watt DJ

WMC 09 – March 25

Opening day of Winter Music Conference and I decided to hit up several spots, including the Armani lounge at the Raleigh Hotel (always a solid networking party with some good vibes – more on this later), and the Ultra Records party atop the Gansevoort South (for the first hour of this event imagine the White Room or Vagabond had the roof ripped off and all their regulars were hanging poolside, grooving in their neon 80s fashions.)

Then I passed by the Shelborne Pool Party, which we captured in all its glory in a previous blog post. But it was the Café Bustelo store at the Gansevoort South later that night that provided the best find! There, spinning for just over a dozen people, was DJ Ben Watt, noted for his Deep House chill grooves and for being one-half of the duo Everything But The Girl. (Remember the song Missing from 1995 – that’s him!)

As he played from 8 – 11 p.m., just a handful of fans gathered and had some coffee or water and just sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the vibe. Now I have to admit I didn’t know too much about Ben Watt, and CoolGirl had to pull him up on Facebook to verify that it was really him, but as Roberto told me, “Imagine if in 10 years Tiesto was playing here. That’s how big this guy is, and how amazing that he is playing right here!”

As he played, people streamed by on their way to the hotel rooftop or the nightclub Louis. They would look in and see a DJ playing, surprised a coffee shop would get into the WMC act. But no one stopped, and probably didn’t have an idea of the talent that was spinning.

Watt, from London, said he arrived in Miami today, and wanted something to do when he got off the plane. (He’s booked to play at the Shore Club on Thursday night.) So he agreed to do the gig at the coffee store. When he finished his set (right at 11 pm sharp) he got a standing ovation from the 13 or so people, chatted with some, took some photos, and then walked off to his hotel. No bodyguards. No public relations people. Just one guy and his laptop.

Only in Miami (during WMC).

WMC 09: Bring on the VJs

WMC 09 VJ Challenge

WMC 09 March 25

Ten top visual talents from across the globe competed head to head in a VJ challenge as about 200 spectators looked on at WMC 2009.

Hosts VJ Psyberpixie and Felix Sama introduced the rules and, alongside judges consisting of Lars Schlichting (DVJ Vision-Advanced Visual Stimulation), Dan Tait, Johnny Duece (DVDJs) and myself (Experience Jockey), had the unenviable job of ranking some of the best visual talent on display at the Winter Music Conference - VJ Challenge. Click here for photos.

Two VJ booths contained a pair of interlinked Pioneer SVM-1000 mixers - stage left featuring 3 DVJs, stage right featuring a sole DVJ and space for laptops and accessories.

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