Sunday, May 01, 2005

miami winter music conference week 2005

story & photos by bPositive ~ What is it about tropical locals that are so relaxing and rejuvenating? Whatever it is, South Miami Beach, sure has its share. It was the last week of March and I was returning there for my seventh visit to sample all the dance music offered during the annual Winter Music Conference electronic dance music conference.

The Winter Music Conference, a humble name, but an event that shapes the year of so many artists and fans of electronic dance music. During this one week in March nearly the entire dance music industry relocates to the small city of South Miami Beach, on Florida’s southeastern tip, jutting out into the Atlantic ocean. And, thousands of dance music enthusiasts from all over the US and around the world join them to hear the largest selection of national and international dance music stars to play in the US all year long. Many don’t even attend the WMC conference itself, finding plenty to attract them among the hundreds of music showcases going on during this special week. This year, the M3 Summit was upping the ante with additional events of its own.

Sun, surf, sand, palm trees and cool breezes, all wrapped up with some scorching dance music! What more could a girl want? After a two year hiatus that was not of my choice, I was going back and the week was going to be all the better because a group of 14 of my friends from St. Louis were joining me.

Tuesday, March 22

As soon as our taxi pulled up in front of our hotel, in the heart of the Washington Ave. club and restaurant district, I could feel that “Miami feeling” sweeping over me. It’s a feeling that makes you want to close your eyes and smile for no reason, or just let a little “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh,“ escape from your lips.

Within an hour, my friend Lad and I, M3 Summit badges in hand, were making our way on foot down “hotel row” to the Delano hotel to check out the “5Beats party” (Hosted by Real Tone Records and Sole Channel Music, in association w/ Sounds-Up.net ) and new, French production sensation Frank Roger and an impressive lineup of other deep house DJs I’d always wanted to see: DJ Alix Alvarez, DJ Mr V, DJ Deep, and DJ Spinna. The Delano proved to be a spectacular venue to kick off our week. Somehow in my previous six trips to SoBe, I had never managed to see the stunning interior of this Art Deco inspired hotel.

The stunning, minimalist interior design was on a grand scale with what seemed like three-story-tall ceilings with floor-to-ceiling white filmy curtains dividing the lobby, bar and other spaces from each other. Glowing candle light and huge mirrors created magical lighting. The inside bar was an interesting freestanding affair with unusual metal filigree work on bar and bar stools. Elegant female patrons with long, flowing outfits mingled with well-dressed, olive-skinned gentlemen in a display seemingly staged for our benefit.

A gigantic, swimming pool stretched ahead of us as we glided down the stairs from the back patio restaurant to the large outdoor pool patio area. Four-story tall Palm trees marched along each side adding to the surreal quality of the view. Unusual lighting effects drew our eyes to the pool. There we could see some hotel guests casually seated at an elegant wrought-iron table and chairs situated smack in the middle of the pool’s shallow end enjoying their cocktails as if wet feet were standard fare with drinks in their normal life.

For a Tuesday night, the patio was crowded. It seemed to be mostly music industry people, which was what we were hoping to find. We met some really nice people from all over the US and even Canada. It was heavenly to dance outdoors where the temperature was pleasant for shorts and sandals and the sound level was conducive to socializing.

We were quickly pulled into the deep house groove that was playing. It turned out this was Frank Roger (pronounced frahnk row-jay) himself. His set proved to be sinfully, deliciously deep and sensual. The perfect accompaniment to the Mojitos we were sipping and the heady scent from this flowering tree we were standing next to. Roger got people dancing and bodies working, but not TOO hard. Just enough to feel that sexy house lovin’ feeling and cause total strangers to start dancing together and smiling at each other. DJ Deep came on next and we stayed through quite a bit of his set. I liked Frank Roger better. Though he didn’t have the headlining spot, I really liked his House style. With his current productions hot on a lot of turntables, no doubt he will be a force to be reckoned with at next year’s conference events.

So many hot events to choose from even for a Tuesday night! By 11:00 pm we were forced to tear ourselves away and attempt to pick from the tempting list of events too numerous to even comprehend.

My St. Louis friends tipped the scales in the favor of the Magic Sessions party at Crobar. This annual event with L’il Louie Vega and Tony Humphries, veteran icons of New York house, usually sells out, so I had never been able to attend before. As a bonus, Soulfuric was holding their "Friends of Ours" event in Crobar’s upstairs lounge, featuring Brian Tappert, John "Julius" Knight, Jask, Ron Carroll, Grant Nelson, and others.

Crobar, if you haven’t been, is one of the world’s best club venues. The main room is impressive with three-story high ceiling and a balcony running around the second floor looking out over the dance floor. The sound system and lighting have been tweaked to perfection. The only element missing from my previous heavenly visit to this club was the jets of nitrogen gas blasting out of the ceiling at peak moments to cool the dance floor down. Either they no longer use this feature or it was determined to be the “wrong vibe” for a House event. We may never know. But, the nitrogen blasts were not in evidence at this event anyway.

We worked up a sweat to Tony Humphries in the main room and then went to check out the Soulfuric crew in the upstairs lounge. The room was not very conducive to dancing, but the minute we crossed the threshold, we were feeling the groove in this room! It was so packed it was hard to find anywhere to move, let alone see who was DJing. We found a spot near the top of the room and went to town getting our dance on. The record selector, reportedly, was Soulfuric’s own, Jask. I got to see him later in the week and was really grabbed by his track selection then, too.

Pretty early on, I met a couple really fun guys whose names I now forget. These two brothers were bent on impressing me with how good Latin men can dance, and let me say, I WAS impressed. I couldn’t have asked for better partners to work out the house grooves with. Their smokin’ moves just captured the essence of the jazzy, slammin’ strains that Jask was dishing out. The whole dance floor was jacking, picking up on Jask’s high energy brand of house lovin’. We stayed and danced for most of his fantastic, groovin’ set.

When L’il Louie came on, we regretfully were lured back to the main room. Louie entranced us from the first track. This man can play any style of house, though he is known for his sultry Latin House grooves. When he plays the main room, he notches the BPMs up a little to create a really high energy level on the dance floor that can not be ignored. The floor was packed and people were really seriously into whatever dance step was getting their groove off.

Between Kim and Trevor, two of my friends from St. Louis’s who are great dancers, as well as fellow House aficionados, and my two Latin dancing companions, the night was a whirlwind of twisting torsos, bouncing booties, flashing feet and smiles all around. L’il Louie delivered three or four hours of music that grooved your body into a complete frenzy.

At some point, the last record played and we dragged ourselves back to the hotel after our first night, already completely exhausted. So much for pacing ourselves!!

Wednesday, March 23

Wednesday started our Miami ritual of sleeping late and arising just barely in time for the afternoon poolside events. First stop was the Rest, Relax, & Recover BBQ presented by Gourmet Recordings at the Fairwinds Café on Collins Avenue. The delicious lineup of Hipp-E, Troydon, Olivier Desmet, Uneaq, Eddie Richards, and Nic Fanciulli.and the menu of fresh-grilled burgers and hot dogs and all-you-can-drink Sangria sounded like just the antidote to too little sleep.

The afternoon quickly heated up as the live House band Uneaq dropped one funky song after another. St. Louis dancers Troy, Jen and Ian were rockin’ it out on the patio and I quickly joined them. We were sad to miss Troydon’s no-doubt excellent set. After hearing him here in Kansas City at Frisky, I was hoping to catch him again, but it was not to be. Raoul Belmans of the Swirl People (Belgium) dropped in to say “Hi,” and I got to visit with both him and Troydon.

An afternoon rain storm took the humidity through the roof and postponed some of the DJ’s sets, so we made our way a couple blocks down the street to The Marlin hotel for the free Smart Bar party featuring DJ Heather (Fabric, Aroma, 20:20 Vision, Chicago), Kaskade (Om Records, San Francisco), Jazzanova (Sonar Kollektiv, Berlin), Justin Long (No Assembly Firm, .dotbleep, Chicago), and some others. What a sick lineup! We were drooling in anticipation.

Unfortunately, everyone else thought so too. So many people were jammed in this tiny hotel lobby that it was almost impossible to get inside. The music was hot, but the physical heat and humidity inside was too hot for us. We couldn’t even stand it long enough to try to get a free drink at the bar.

Those of us with M3 Badges then headed over to the Raleigh hotel for the free drinks at the Buzzin' Fly Sunset Sessions, the opening night event of the M3 Summit, which started at 5:00 pm. With a lineup featuring Ben Watt and Ian Pooley this was one of the highly anticipated events on my list.

The Sunset Sessions did not disappoint. The Raleigh’s pool area is one of the best in Miami. Another Palm-enclosed enclave situated seconds from the ocean, the Raleigh’s pool is small but scenic with a waterfall and curving lines.

We arrived too late for the free drinks, but just in time to hear some really sweet soulful house from live band, Manoo. Then a DJ I was not familiar with came on and proceeded to play some really wicked progressive house. We were all asking who the DJ was and no on e seemed to know, but eventually, I was able to confirm that it was Justin Martin.

The dance floor at the Raleigh consists of a smallish cement patio surrounded by wooden decks and sand that normally accommodate what looked like a restaurant area. Trees were everywhere throughout the area facing the stage, all intertwined with little, white twinkling lights. As the sun went down it became quite magical to look at.

There was quite a good turnout for this event, just about right for what the space could accommodate. Myself and my friends from Kansas City and St. Louis situated ourselves on the wooden part of the patio near one of the speaker stacks. The St. Louis people were still feeling their oats and soon let loose with some St. Louis-style dance moves, much to the delight of the many people dancing near us. Soon there were quite a few people watching, if not outright dancing with us.

It was at this point that I met Trey and his friend from Orange County, California. They were totally digging the vibe from our group and came over to dance by us. They were so cool and personable that I ended up talking and dancing with these guys most of the rest of the evening.

Ian Pooley changed the groove to one more in line with the soulful, upbeat House style that he is known for. He kept a close eye on the dance floor and held that good balance between frenzy and exhaustion throughout his 1 – 1 ½ hour set.

I don’t think we took many breaks through out this time, not even to get a drink since drinks are spectacularly expensive in Miami. Lad and I did split a gourmet pizza as an excuse to rest our feet since we had not had time to get any dinner before rushing over to the Raleigh.

About 11:00 pm, the music took an even more soulful and deep turn, and we looked up to discover that Ben Watt (from alternative rock band Everything But the Girl) had finally taken the decks. The next hour or so were really the highlight of the night for me, though I was too exhausted to dance much. I had been hoping to see Ben ever since coming across several live mixes of his on the Internet which were really rocking my stereo lately. But, I didn’t know what to expect from him. We grabbed lounge chairs and bobbed our heads in unison with his smooth and sweet House tracks that just seemed to get better as the set went on.

You know the saying about all good things, and the Sunset Sessions did indeed come to an end, quite a bit later than the scheduled time of 11:00. My watch said 12:30 as we were dragging ourselves out of the Raleigh’s confines.

Once again, it was almost impossible to choose among the 50 different events that would take us to 5:00 am, so we decided to go for the AS ONE party at Empire (formerly Goddess). This event, presented by, among others, Amenti Music and Aroma Records, featured: Apple Rochez, DJ Heather, East Coast Boogiemen, Iz & Diz, LawnChair Generals, Miles Maeda, Olivier Desmet, and Swirl People.

Goddess was one of the clubs that really impressed me during past trips to Miami, but most of the eye-popping stone sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses seemed to have been taken down or covered up. A massive wall of speakers dominated the downstairs dance floor, but did not deliver on its promise of exceptional sound.

We came in at the tail end of a jumpin’ set by the Boogiemen. We saw Heather lurking around waiting for her turn but found ourselves drawn to the LawnChair Generals who were playing upstairs. I had been dying to see Heather since she blew it up at Frisky in Kansas City about 2 years ago. So, I bounced back and forth between rooms for a while. This is not a good way to really enjoy anyone’s set and possibly, consequently, I never really got into a groove with what Heather was playing. It seemed a lot more minimal and bangin’ than I remember her playing.

The upstairs room was small and resembled more of a lounge area than a dance area. But, this did not stop the LawnChair Generals from killing it up there to a packed crowd.

I made a point of being back upstairs when Raoul Belmans of the Swirl People (Belgium) went on, towards the end of the night. Raoul has played several times at Frisky in Kansas City. And, while I was making a conscious effort NOT to see artists this week that I had already seen before, Raoul’s style was too good to miss out on. So, upstairs I went and, I was not disappointed.

Raoul came out swingin’ with some seriously funky tracks that had everyone’s bodies jacking insanely hard. Despite having to work around a coffee table and people sitting on a couch along the back wall, I was able to find enough room to get some serious dance on. A packed room of serious house-heads egged him on with screams of joy at nearly every record that he played. He used his time well and took us on a journey from slammin’ to jazzy and funky and back up again.

I walked out at 5:00 am thinking that this would have to be one of the best sets of the conference for me, and I can’t say that anyone topped it, though several may have tied with it.

Trey from Orange Country stuck with me until the end, and graciously shared breakfast at the famous News Café on Ocean Drive followed by a sunrise walk on the beach. Between all the great people I met and the music, my good memories of that night will linger for a long time!

Thank God for cabs. It took one to get my tired self back to my hotel and into bed for some rest before the upcoming busiest two day s of WMC week.

Thursday, March 24

Thursday I awoke with sore muscles of epic proportions from all the dancing and walking. But, there was no time for self-pity. A group of my St. Louis friends and I had a hot date with the 2nd Annual Shipwrecked Sunset Boat Cruise leaving from the marina at Biscayne Bay across the causeway in downtown Miami. This event, presented by House Division and Lust4House in conjunction w/ the Viva Agency Group featured: Johnny Fiasco (Om, Viva, Doubledown), Jon Lemmon (Viva), Lego (Pootin, Soulfuric), and Mark Grant (Blackstone).

Tickets for this event went on sale February 1. Fortunately, I had been tipped off about this event months in advance by one of my St. Louis DJ friends. I set a reminder on my computer. Five of us got tickets before they sold out the same day. Between my constant yammering about how fun DJ boat cruises are and Trevor’s recommendation for this event, we were all pumped as we sat in the cab on the way there.

The weather could not have been any more perfect, being in the low ‘80s and sunny all day. The boat was smaller than others I had been on for DJ cruises, but the crew made up for it with their helpful and smiling demeanors.

We boarded the boat and were treated to a light buffet of appetizers and fresh fruit while we waited for the upper deck to be opened up. Soon, we had stationed ourselves at the back of the upper deck and the cruiser was heading out of the harbor.

John Lemmon played an understated, but perfectly deep set to get everyone mingling and loosed up as we cruised past mile after mile of downtown Miami shoreline and what I assume was the back side of the SoBe island.

Lego unexpectedly came out with turntables blazing and soon had everyone on board dancing full-on for all we were worth. The breeze from the boat’s movement was not enough to keep the sweat from running down our faces as we danced and sipped cocktail after cocktail under the sun’s rays.

We all had a lot of fun waving at all the other boaters who were passing us on the way into the bay. They could probably hear the loud music and see all of us having the time of our lives. I can only imagine what they thought. I was just glad I was on the right boat that day!

Mark Grant and Johnny Fiasco were my favorites. Johnny played some sick, Chicago-style house and his set kept my interest throughout. Mark’s set may have even topped that. He played a lot harder than I was expecting. Very pumping set. Possibly one of the best I was to hear at the conference. By this time it was full dark and cool enough to dance all we wanted. And, the interesting array of dance headz that were onboard made the most of it!

The people on the cruise were part of the attraction for me. On past cruises, I have met kindred spirits from all over the world. Usually, these cruises can be counted on to only attract people who are as serious about their music as I am, if not more so. This particular day, we knew we were going to have a lively group when a party of about six people showed up just before we pulled away from the dock. All of them were dressed as one of the cast of Gilligan’s Island. We recognized the Captain, Mary Ann, Gilligan and the others. Their entourage came complete with a large life-saver painted with the name of the event. This group turned out to be from Tampa, as were quite a few other people we met. Everyone was really outgoing and friendly and eager to talk to each other.

It was hard to say goodbye to the ocean breeze, slammin’ beats and good conversation when we finally docked about 9:30 pm, but more Miami madness awaited us on South Beach.

The cab ride back was long enough to realize how exhausted we all were. I don’t even remember if we ate or what, but somehow we dragged ourselves to the club called State for the Moulton Studios' Closing Party. This event was Miguel Migs only Miami appearance and the launch of Jay-J’s new label, Shifted. Other performers on the night lineup included Julius Papp, Live Pa's from Lisa Shaw and Latrice Barnett and a slammin’ second room hosted by Chez recordings, featuring: Neil Aline, Matthias "Matty" Heilbronn, and Darshan Jersani.

State is large, and well-designed with good air conditioning, sound and exceptional lighting. With it being one of the larger clubs, I expected there might be a lot of locals there this night, but it turned out to be an event strictly for house aficionados. I ran into several old friends, such as Harry Self from LA, and met some interesting new people. The Kinky Malinky crew was there in full force and their friendliness completely topped off this night of wicked music. Special shout outs to David from Kinky Malinky who kept me on my feet, dancing and smiling right to the end.

Jay-J and Miguel both dropped track after track of deep, melodic, funky house that kept us all dancing deep into the night. Just when I would start to think “I can’t do this anymore,” they would play a record that would have me screaming and jumping up and down with joy. Another WMC highlight event, this was! I will be sorry to see Moulton Studios go. I hope they don’t leave that particular brand of House behind as Miguel and Jay-J move forward into the future. There isn’t anyone else doing it quite the way they are in the House industry today.

Eventually, the clock struck 5:00 and we dragged our weary bodies back to our beds with rhythmic beats of deep house kept us dancing in our dreams all night long.

Friday, March 25

Friday my first stop was a good lunch at the restaurant outside our hotel. A substantial meal of fresh fish, rice and beans gave me some needed energy as I headed over to the Nikki Beach Club for another of my usual favorite events, BBC Radio 1 - Live in Miami, featuring Pete Tong and a “cast of thousands” of luminary guest DJs who each play for about 30 minutes.

Nikki beach is one of the most inviting venues on the island, with its large palm-shaded patio areas and plenty of wood-framed beds and padded beach chairs for lounging. I was looking forward to enjoying the vibe of a throng of party-goers from around the world gathered together to help Pete’s radio audience in Great Britain ring in Friday night with some great music and the off-the-hook yells of the pumped up audience in Miami.

Well, in the two years since I last went to Miami, this event has clearly grown exponentially. I arrived at 1:00 pm after a mile walk, due to the shortage of taxis, to find a line that wrapped around the large parking lot, with estimated time to get in at nearly two hours. I worked “the magic” and managed to get in in less than 30 minutes, but even then I was not prepared for the mob scene inside the venue. Thousands of drunk spring breakers were packed into every inch of the large patio areas. The area near the DJ booth was impossible. I managed to wiggle right up to the front, but did not have room to dance or even breathe in the exceedingly humid air held captive under the roof of palm fronds.

The crowd was going ape-shit over ever track of a good set by Behrouz (If my source was correct). But, from there the afternoon just went downhill. I finally left two hours later, covered in sweat, hair matted to my forehead and unable to get into a rest room for love nor money.

Fortunately, the Opium Garden club was right down the way. I arrived to find that they were hosting the Aquabooty .05 party which had originally been scheduled to take place at the brand new warehouse venue, Nocturnal, in downtown Miami. However, Nocturnal had failed to get its permits in time with construction of the space running right to the last minute, based on reports I heard. The Aquabooty lineup was one of the most stellar of the entire week including Halo, Julius Papp, Roy Davis Jr., and Kerri "Kaoz 6:23" Chandler, Jask, DJ Spinna, and live House band Osunlade.

I was psyched not to have to pay $25 for a cab ride across the causeway to hear this stellar lineup. I was also psyched to finally be able to go to the bathroom without waiting in a one-hour lineup. I arrived just in time to catch five songs by my hero, Roy Davis Jr – five songs that brought me back to life, only to be crushed when I realized he was already done spinning. Due to the much smaller venue, the organizers were apparently forced to compress the lineup and try to squeeze everyone in in much less time than originally planned.

After Roy was over, I needed a rest. I happened upon DJ Mark Grant in the air-conditioned upstairs lounge. Mark and I chatted for about an hour. He always has such positive energy and a motivated approach to his craft. I have no doubt he deserves the success he is getting for his productions and DJing.

The highlight of the afternoon was a surprise set by Jask from Soulfuric. That boy banged the deep, funky house up on side and down the other where he was playing in the second upstairs lounge. If anything, it was even better than his set at the Soulfuric party. This man is definitely someone I hope to see play in KC some day soon!

My only criticism of the afternoon was that the upstairs sound system was so ungodly loud and harsh sounding that it was almost unbearable even with my heaviest duty hearing protectors in.

The Aquabooty event was over by about 9:00. We wandered back to our hotel, grabbed some food, a nap, a second shower and some fresh clothes. Feeling refreshed we headed out again to see if we could top the previous nights.

We got off to a promising start back at the Delano Hotel for the Pure Party, featuring: King Britt (Five Six, USA), Danny Krivit (718 Sessions, NYC), and I think Victor Duplaix (France).

Friend Trey from California joined us again, and we warmed up to some serene, groovy deep house. I could have easily been happy to stay there all night, surrounded by a large and welcoming crowd of industry deep-house heads. But, we all agreed that we were getting deep-housed out.

Fortunately, the folks at Chicago’s Dusttraxx Records had the perfect event, Sweat, awaiting us with an amazing lineup of many of our favorite DJs, especially including Doc Martin. This event, however, was to end up being very disappointing after they lost their original hotel venue and were forced to forge ahead in a small dark club with only a single room. We stuck it out for a couple hours during which none of the DJs we’d come to hear got to play.

By this time it was so late that there were long lines at couple of the other events we had on our list, or a longer walk or cab ride than we were up to. Club Bash was just down the street with DJ Sneaks Miami Rub Down Party featuring: DJ Sneak, Jason Hodges, Dj Heather, Brett Johnson, East Coast Boogiemen, LawnChair Generals and Miles Maeda. And, though it had a long line, we decided to make that our final stopping point.

So, that is how we came to hear another of the best sets of the week, the Lawnchair Generals tearing it up to an absolutely packed crowd on the patio. I have only seen a dance floor this packed one other time, at the Ovum party when they still held it the Living Room.

The Bash patio was maybe 30’ x 30’ and every square inch of it was totally full of house lovers shoehorned in and dancing for all they were worth. Amazingly, with everyone dancing in unison, you could actually dance pretty hard without hurting anyone. And dance hard we did, with hands in the air and yells of approval at every track. I was even lucky enough to score one of the LCG’s special Miami mix CDs before the night was over. Watch out America, the Lawnchair Generals seemed to be everywhere at the conference week events this year, and they tore it up so completely each time, that I am sure they will be among the most sought after by next year.

DJ Sneak was dropping the science in the main room. I was really digging what he was playing, and he is always one of my favorite House spinnas. But, this time the LCG won out, as his set drifting towards a little too minimal and bleepy for my tastes.

The walk back to the hotel is a blur, as is falling into bed at last. But, the final day of the main conference week events awaited us. So, we dutifully vowed to get what rest we could.

Saturday March 26

Saturday the sore muscles were back, as was a craving for some really filling breakfast food. So, even though it was early afternoon by the time we showered and left the hotel, we decided to make a beeline to my favorite SoBe breakfast eatery, the Penguin Hotel and restaurant. The Penguin, situated on Ocean Drive just down the block from The News Café and other Versace hang outs, offers a large, breezy verandah with an ocean view and a killer all-day-long breakfast for under $7.00. I highly recommend the Mimosas made with some of SoBe’s best fresh-squeezed orange juice and a generous portion of champagne, too! I partake of the brunch at this place every year and am never disappointed.

This particular day, the weather was perfect to sit out side and enjoy a leisurely brunch as we contemplated the listing of the day’s music showcases. The daytime was packed with really good events. The Kinky Malinky party at the Marlin Hotel was one I particularly wanted to hit, especially after meeting some of the DJs and the promoter at the Foundation party earlier in the week. Kinky Malinky is a famous British promotion crew that hosts a regular night at Pacha in Ibiza. I was also eyeing the Stompy party at the Whitelaw Hotel and a pool party with some Canadian DJs. I was surprised to see so many good events competing with the Ultra Beach Fest in downtown Miami. But, that was good news for those of us not attending that massive dance music festival.

We were all in agreement that the early evening was reserved for the M3 Sunset Sessions, and after that who knew! The event list for the evening featured more large events with high price tags ($25.00+) and not as much music that appealed to our group. The Ovum party looked good, but I was afraid it would reach capacity long before we were out of the Sunset Sessions. Besides, I had my heart set on seeing some French House on this trip to Miami and time was running out. Bob Sinclair was, conveniently, playing at Mansion later in the evening at the FUCK ME, I’M FAMOUS Party (another Ibiza staple). I had downloaded a FUCK ME, I’M FAMOUS mix off the Internet some time ago, just for laughs at it’s hilarious, tongue-in-cheek name. But, the mix had turned out to be quite good and I had really enjoyed it. With a name like that, it has to be a fun event, right? So, I tucked that idea away for later.

We decided to squeeze in some beach time during the early afternoon. Most of our crew of 14 from St. Louis and Kansas City met in front of the appointed lifeguard station near 13th Street and staked out some sand for the afternoon. For some of us, this was the first time we had actually gotten to see each other the whole week. For others, it was some needed down time after a crazy week and a chance to visit when there was no loud music ringing in our ears. The sand and surf soon did their work and we went back to the hotel a little more bronze and a lot more relaxed.

Somehow we had whiled away so much time that there was no chance of making it to any of the afternoon parties after all. We didn’t want to miss the free drinks pool-side at this last M3 Sunset Session. We arrived at the Doubltetree Surfcomber hotel (site of the Sunset Sessions that night) with an hour to spare. It took the entire hour to get one free drink since everyone else had the same idea.

That was one dandy drink, though – vanilla vodka and cranberry juice. Yum! I am a convert. I ended up drinking those the rest of the night and they were the perfect flavor for the deep, groovy sounds to come.

The final M3 SUNSET SESSIONS promised to be an exciting night of entertainment with Los Amigos Invisibles (live), Tortured Soul (live), and a special teaser set from Digable Planets. But, we were especially excited about the exclusive live performance by Cirque Du Soleil Musique, and another chance to see Louie Vega, this time with his live Latin House band.

Tortured Soul was on while I was still standing in line for my free drink, followed by getting in a line for a hamburger dinner hot off the grill. But, I could see that they really got the crowd jazzed up and their music translated well to the beautiful setting. The stage faced the sandy area behind the Surfcomber’s pool that open out onto the beach. The music was greatly enhanced by the setting sun and the soft sand to dance on.

Los Amigos Invisbles (from Brazil, I believe?) put on a high-energy stage show complete with video footage featuring subliminal (or not so subliminal) shots of beautiful, scantily clad T & A straight off the Brazilian beaches. But, they played so long that after a while all their Latin-inspired House music started sounding the same to me. Nevertheless, we were not alone in feeling the tug of the dance floor. The entire dance area was filled with people working it out to the sounds of Los Amigos.

The Digable Planets came on next and dew a large crowd with their clever rhymes and infectious beats. They put on quite an infectious show, with some of their vocalists throwing down some break dancing moves.

It was full dark when the Cirque Du Soleil performance began. It started with some specially choreographed synchronized swimmers in the pool, and then was followed by a highly-charged troupe of dancers performing to some wicked progressive house tracks spun by a DJ whose name I didn’t catch. I was disappointed that they didn’t attempt to bring some of the aerial acrobats they are known for, but they projected footage of acrobats on screens around the perimeter of the pool area, and the dancers were superb.

At last it was time for L’il Louie, spinning on turntables with help from several live percussionists. From the first drum beat, it was clear that this was going to be some seriously funky, groovy Latin House music and the highlight of the entire night! My memory is that the group played for close to an hour and half. Meanwhile, the sandy back area was full of jacking bodies and people laughing and smiling. The sandy footing was great because your feet and legs really didn’t get tired.

Our group danced until we were all drenched with sweat. The Florida humidity didn’t help. But, we couldn’t stop dancing because Lil Louie held us in the palm of his hand until the very end. As his set peaked, some break dancers joined him on stage (perhaps some of the Digable Planets, again?) and began throwing down some really dope moves. That only added to the wicked, deep vibe projected by the crowd which was still jacking their bodies with a freshness that only some good House and a good DJ can inspire.

As we were finally making our way out at the end of his set, we found out that the Spy Lounge across the street had cancelled the RECORD PLAYER’S BALL event we had been hoping to check out. So, we all split up to go to various other events.

Lad and I decided we needed some additional sustenance before doing any more walking or dancing. So, we stopped in at Rustic Pizza and took some of their famous pie back to the hotel to dig into. Afterwards, the long, busy week was catching up with me. I wanted nothing more than to lay down and quietly drift off into sleep. But, with only one night left of my vacation, I decided to head down to Mansion for the FUCK ME I'M FAMOUS party, and hope to see French House icon Bob Sinclar.

The party info purported to have the “Finest French house, Parisian chic and Ibizan expression, co-presented by NY's most celebrated club, Lotus. . . . with Cathy Guetta's wizadry, this could be the most glamorous party to hit WMC yet.” But, when I arrived at Mansion, it looked more like the usual Miami club ginos who were waiting outside than any international crowd of suave partiers.

The line was about 10 people deep all around Mansion’s door area. They had police barricades in place to keep everyone far enough from the door. I managed to squeeze right up to the front, but stood there for over 30 minutes without so much as a glance from the bouncer. I could see that I was in for one of the rituals of life at the larger or more popular Miami clubs. This is the ritual where you must either be a smoking hot 20 year old chica or her very rich 22 year old boyfriend driving daddy’s car and flaunting daddy’s money, OR you must liberally grease the palm of the imperious bouncer in order to have a hope of getting in. Apparently, my level of hotness was not enough to gain me admittance ahead of those with younger bodies and more money.

I quickly became disgusted with the whole ridiculous affair. But, decided to stick around and watch the theater production that the mansion’s staff put on for our benefit. First, the club’s manager came outside. He had a terribly pained look on his face. He pretended to chew out the bouncer who has just let in some of the beautiful people (after they cut in line ahead of people who had probably been waiting for an hour, of course). His soliloquy centered around how the club was way beyond capacity and he didn’t want to get in trouble with the Fire Marshall.

The bouncer, an imperious looking gay man like you can imagine guarded the door of the famous Studio 54 in NYC many years ago, pretended to acquiesce and then as soon as the manager’s back was turned, he sidled over to one of the more persistent young men who is loaded down with the stereotypic gold jewelry. The velvet rope dropped and the 22 year old and his girlfriend are soon on their way into the club.

The manager turns back around, as if he doesn’t see the two young people quickly making their way in the club’s door, and resumes his tirade, at top volume. What are they afraid of, I wonder? All of us proletariats bum-rushing the bouncer out of anger at being made to wait? The pageant was almost comedic to watch, as the manager’s cheeks’ got purple with pretend rage and meanwhile the bouncer kept letting his chosen in anyway.

To my amazement, the panoply was not over yet. A waiflike young lady with long brown hair and unusually dilated pupils jammed up next to me at the barricade and, upon being told that she can’t get inside, began to have what I can only describe as a nervous breakdown. Her friends and boyfriend didn’t seem disgusted by her appallingly shallow display. On the contrary, as if they are merely pawns in an insipid soap opera, they merely played out their meaningless dialogue and try to pacify her. After she started crying, I couldn’t watch any more and left in disgust. If not getting in the club is the worst thing that happens to her, I thought, she really doesn’t know how lucky she is.

My bed beckoned, and at last I could give in to the sleep that had been so neglected for the past week.

Sunday. March 28

Sunday was technically outside the boundaries of WMC and M3 events, but several crews were hosting events Sunday afternoon and evening. Some of my friends managed to make it out to Blue for the Aftermath Easter Bash featuring Justin Long (No Assembly Firm, Smartbar, Chicago), Jon Lemmon (Viva Recordings, Seattle, Agave), and some other good DJs.

Lad and I stupidly decided to give the Nikki Beach club another try for the Mixology Closing Party with Danny Howells and Dave Ralph. I’m not sure why I was willing to take a chance on that club again after the debacle that was the Radio I party. I can only say in defense of our stupidity that we were in the mood for something besides House and thought we’d like to see Danny Howells for the first time.

We arrived at Nikki Beach, and paid the $25 cover charge only to find the large outdoor patio area, once again, very crowded, and with no music of any kind. The DJs seem to have been moved into the small indoor club that is inside Nikki Beach Club which could only hold a fraction of the people that were there.

We could hear that the music inside was pretty good. But, we could hardly hear the music from where we were about 50 feet from the door inside. With the crowd that was jammed in there, there was no hope of actually getting inside, even assuming we would want to with the humidity level so high. At one point, we heard them announce that Derrick May had just come over to spin. The music got even sicker after that, what little we could hear of it.

We wouldn’t have minded not getting to see the DJs, but we were mystified as to why there was no provision made to pipe the sound outside. $25 is alot of money for just standing around sipping a drink on a patio that’s too crowded to even find a seat on. Eventually, I figured out that the club was most likely prohibited from playing music late on a Sunday night due to the large number of condos and hotels immediately next door to their location on both sides. Oh well! We’ll know better than go there again next time!

Monday, March 29 -- Homeward Bound

Monday dawned cloudy and chilly. I walked down to the beach, but had to scrap my plans to work on my tan since the wind was blowing hard enough off the ocean for the sand to sting as it hit your skin and there was no sun in site. Lad and I checked out and did a little shopping to kill the time before leaving for the airport.

When it came time to get in the airport shuttle, I just couldn’t bear to take off the tank top, shorts and sandals. So, I left them on all the way to Atlanta. There it was chilly enough that I was regretting checking my leather coat with my luggage. I ended up getting an extra, unplanned day of vacation due to getting stranded in Atlanta because of bad weather and cancelled plane flights.

Now I am back home in Kansas City, but that Miami feeling lingers on. If I close my eyes, I can feel the ocean breeze and feel the sun on my skin. I can almost taste that cocktail and see those palm trees, too. But most of all, I can hear strains of some beautiful, deep house music the likes of which I rarely hear in my neck of the woods. Because of the music I heard there, I will never be the same again. The many DJs and artists I heard in Miami challenged my tastes, my knowledge of music and my physical limits. There is no going back, but going forward is going to be even better because of the memories of that one week of Miami paradise.

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