The Winter Music Conference:
03-23-06 ; 03-28-06;

Look at this dude... all work all
the time! What's up man? Sorry I haven't introduced myself, I'm Ben." "I'm
Jamie," I said loudly, realizing the booty bass being spun behind me
necessitated I speak up. "Nice to meet you." I closed my computer and looked
at Ben and his girlfriends from across the coffee table. I was sitting in the
lobby of the Wyndham Beach Resort in Miami Beach, Florida. It was 3:30 PM, day
two of the five-day Winter Music Conference, and Ben and his girlfriend were
sipping off an oversized bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne and rolling on
ecstasy. Welcome.

The Winter Music Conference has gathered the major players of the electronic
music world in Miami to network and party for 21 years now. What first started
in 1985 as a meeting of 90 delegates has grown into a weeklong assemblage of
over 4,500 DJs, panelists, artists, label reps, journalists, club owners, and
some just straight-up dance-ballers. During the day meetings and seminars are
held discussing a wide assortment of pertinent topics relating to the politics
of the industry, while at night (and all through the day as well, actually)
clubs, bars and beaches around the city host a wide assortment of DJs and live
acts. The culmination of the conference is the Ultra festival, the largest
event in Miami that week. This year the concert played host to intriguing
veteran names such as Prodigy, DJ Hell, Richie Hawtin, Josh Wink, and Carl
Cox, as well as rock bands such as Hot Hot Heat and the Killers. A closer look
at the lineup, however, revealed a who's who of cheeseball techno — Paul Van
Dyk, Arman Van Helden, Paul Oakenfold, DJ Dan, and a couple names I've heard
of but really know nothing about (Seb Fontaine? Junior Sanchez?). Oh, and
Perry Farrell. Ha. The point is, the lineup was sort of a "what the
fuck?"-style 1992 rave with a pinch of "hmm, what's cool now? OH! Indie rock!
Who wants to get paid?" amalgam. Needless to say, even with a free ticket, I
didn't make it to that event.

But never fear, the long weekend provided highlights aplenty, many of them to
be found in the up-and-coming (and supposedly dangerous?) Miami Design
District. Thursday night kicked off with a bang at the SoHo Lounge, where New
York's favorite partying pharmaceutical rabbit (Oxycottaintail) and NYC
arbiter of cool (Turntablelab) threw a joint party. In the Orange Room (the
walls are orange, silly!), DJs representing Philly (Ultraviolet, Low Budget of
Hollertronix), NYC (Egg Foo Young) and Baltimore (Aaron Lacrate, Scottie B),
spun a mix of hip-hop and Baltimore breaks to what seemed to be a large number
of New Yorkers and confused drum n' bass kids making their way through a sea
of hands in the air to the Infrastructure Room next door. The crowd upstairs
was more from the northeast as Fixed/Making Time party faves JDH and Dave P.
were spinning an indie/electro set in between live acts.

The first live act of the night I caught was Modular Records' dance punk-y
Australian act The Presets. On paper it looked like something I would be into
— drum machines and synths! Live though, while the energy was certainly there,
it somehow came off as sort of blah and unoriginal. The Presets consisted of
two dudes, one on drums, the other on some synths and a drum machine in
addition to his affected voice. Sound familiar? Even if it doesn't, you get
the idea. It was fine/fun, but really not much more.

up was much-hyped Philly raunch-rap diva Amanda Blank, a close affiliate of
the whole Milkcrate/Hollertronix crew. So close, in fact, that she's all over
the recent B'more Gutter Music mixtape and Spank Rock album. On stage she
actually looked a bit nervous for someone that is rapping about telling guys
to "suck her fucking dick." Her hype lady was sporting a tape measure belt,
and both women were wearing matching leotards and sarcastically talking about
how cool bulimia is. Now, I'm just as into irony and sarcasm as the next bozo
— I read Vice and make jokes about fags around my gay friends — but
something didn't feel right about the vibe they were giving off. It just
seemed a bit disingenuous. The throwback haircut with lines on the side, the
AK-47 gold chain necklaces — I could just see these girls walking around my
high school cafeteria. One day they're ravers, hip-hop kids the next, always
trying to find out where the coolest parties were that weekend just to talk
shit about those parties the next week. Maybe I'm just reading too much into
it. Maybe it just reminded me of all the shitty cred-obsessed, petty aspects
of myself, and I'm taking it out on these hardworking party girls. Either way,
the show was hype. At times Blank's flow gets a bit too sing-songy, a clichéd,
"bad-ass" white girl trying to keep up with the beat. But my god, when she
flips it double-time over those electro breakneck speed Baltimore beats, she
spits on par with anything Lady Sovereign has released since leading the
white-girl rapper train down the tracks. Her flow was made for this Twista-style
quick talk, and if she can somehow refine the rest of her rapping, she could
have an illustrious career on her hands. After she performed Spank Rock played
a surprise one-song set. He had the liveliness of the good-natured, energetic
club dweeb that he is, weaving and bounding about the stage rapping his
new(ish) single "Rick Rubin" articulately and on-point. This guy is primed for
a take over.

After an interesting Saturday afternoon spent on South Beach gawking at the
mix of dazed ravers and pink drink-swilling spring breakers, I headed back to
the Miami Design District for the Revolver party. This party was more of an
offshoot of the M3 Summit, which was also taking place in Miami this weekend.
Oh, did I forget to mention M3? M3's lineup was definitely more up my alley
than the WMC's collection of acts. It's a progressive mix of up-and-coming
acts which looked something like a mini Sonar Festival (Barcelona's prime
progressive musical gathering), without the euro-left field bent: Jamie Lidell,
Lady Sovereign, Vitalic, and DJ Marlboro to name a few. M3 was held on South
Beach at the Surfcomber Hotel, where acts played all day into the night on a
stage on the beach. But, alas, no ticket meant no entry to the actual event.
Fortunately, the Revolver party held at The Pawn Shop featured two M3
performers and DFA label mates, the Juan Maclean and Hot Chip. Also scheduled
to play live that night were Booka Shade, The Presets (again) and Soulwax (the
live performance incarnation of 2 many DJs — also scheduled to spin records
that night). I didn't stay until 6 AM, when the event finally ended, but I
heard that the Soulwax/2 Many DJs combo never surfaced. Luckily, French
crunchy-electro princes Justice and Get Physical label stars M.A.N.D.Y. spun
perfectly danceable disco house until I couldn't open my eyes any longer.

The only live set I ended up actually seeing that night was Booka Shade, who
went on at the reasonable hour of 2:45 AM. Booka Shade are Get Physical's
biggest label stars. Their 2005 hit "Mandarine Girl" combined new disco with a
slight minimal bent that's all the rage in their adopted home of (you guessed
it!) Berlin. Their live show consisted of two dudes banging on some electro
drum pads matched with hammering synths. Meanwhile, the guy who said stuff was
rocking a Bobby Brown cordless mic (!). Honestly, I found the majority of
their set to be quite boring; however, I was extremely tired, standing
in the back, and hadn't heard any recorded material other than "Mandarine
Girl" (which I was convinced they were segueing into every five minutes). The
poor experience was much more a reflection on my physical and emotional state
than the performance by Booka Shade. When they finally played "Mandarine
Girl," I was awoken from my slumber. That tune is a dance floor staple.
Anybody that is a fan of older disco, DFA stuff or the newer minimal sound
coming from Germany should pay attention to Booka Shade and the Get Physical
label. This will be a crew to watch in the coming years.

Friday left me so tired that I had to take it easy Saturday. Sunday I headed
to The Purdy Lounge on South Beach for one last dash of dance. The Rub
(monthly Brooklyn dance party starters) spun an amazing set on four
turntables. These dudes were at the forefront of the mash-up craze a couple
years ago, but smartly they have toned down the novelty mash in recent months.
Playing no song for more than two minutes, DJs Ayers, Eleven and Cosmo Baker
played a vast array of danceable music, but mostly stuck to what they do best
— straight thug heaters. Plus, I got to hear some more Miami booty bass —
finally, some 2 Live Crew to wrap up the experience. -Rezound


Kevin Sam

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