Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Eleven on a Tuesday morning from New York City to Miami, and already a sizable number of the plane is disrobing to reveal their “I’M IN MIAMI BITCH” shirts in extreme low-brow anticipation of the next few days. Does this bode well? I was full of doubt and worry as the plane landed.
Home to the infamous Spring Break, where 19-year-old Americans binge drink for the first time and bling culture takes on nauseating levels, Miami also plays host to one of the Americas’ biggest dance music events: Winter Music Conference . A few hundred thousand revelers and industry types from around the world descend onto the city for some late winter sun and dancing each year during this five-day event. Now in its 25th year, the WMC is brimming with parties catering to all walks of life and musical preference. Here’s a short list of some of the best things we saw as we people-watched in this weird city and stocked up on enough vitamin D to last the London summer.
While this WMC marked 25 years of the event, the Detroit dance music community is also celebrating 25 years of Detroit Techno throughout 2010 in a series of parties called D25. The heavyweights of Detroit Techno came together to represent their community in this extremely special event set in the intimidatingly beautiful Shore Club. Three DJ booths were flanked either by giant illuminated swimming pools or palm trees whilst the crowd ranged from excitable musos to tall and tanned models. The music tied together perfectly as the DJs kept paying homage to each other throughout their sets. Moodymann played Carl Craig’s remix of the Junior Boys. Kyle Hall played Moodymann’s “Shades of Jae.” Monty Luke played Theo Parrish. Kevin Saunderson played Kenny Larkin.
Three DJ booths were flanked either by giant illuminated swimming pools or palm trees. Two guys braved jumping in the pool and were immediately kicked out.
The feeling of a close knit respectful community was definitely in the air among the musicians, and everyone’s set showcased their individual flavour of Detroit Techno. As Stacey Pullen pounded out a closing set of 909 mayhem, two guys braved jumping in the pool and were immediately kicked out. Boo – I’d been hoping for a bit more of that sort of thing. As posh as the venue was, I’m definitely looking forward to the D25 event being planned for London at Fabric where things will hopefully get a bit messier and the drinks won’t cost a sobering $17 plus tips. Either way D25 further cemented my love of all things techno from the Motor City, and I walked out feeling incredibly lucky to have witnessed so many of my favourite musicians and DJs playing and collaborating in one very special evening.
Ultra is, for many, the main event of the WMC. Over 12 stages were scattered throughout Miami’s Bicentennial Park, a crowd of 100,000 danced to the biggest names in commercial dance music, making it a festival unto itself. Although the music wasn’t really to my personal taste, there was no arguing the stunning level of production put into this event, along with its sheer size. Spring breakers in their incorrectly punctuated Miami shirts threw their hands in the air side-by-side with day-glo ravers to the likes of Tiësto, David Guetta and Carl Cox. Surprisingly the crowd was very well behaved and the energy was incredible. For me, the most impressive and intriguing stage was the Root Society Dome which brought a taste of cult festival Burning Man to the WMC. Burning Man has always been somewhat insular and, after seven successful years in the desert, the Root Society crew have decided to break out and show non-Burning Man types just how great their party is. I’ve always been a bit wary of how scarily into Burning Man people who’ve been to Burning Man are, but after a few hours in this crazy dome with its impeccable sound system and zany art installations I have nothing but respect for these artists and their fanatic dedication to their festival. I hope to see the Root Society Dome, and other Burning Man exports, continue to roll out to different parties and crowds.
To be fair the driver was smoking a blunt when we got in and kept offering it to us so his patience was fairly unending.
A nice contrast to something the size of Ultra and the rest of the WMC is a good house party. The kind of party where booze is laid out for grazing and strangers actually speak to each other because weirdos and sleaze were never invited in the first place. Where chairs and “Please do not enter” signs lead us away from the bedrooms, and people are actually fairly respectful of the whole thing. This is exactly what Darius Syrossian of Breakoutaudio and his Leeds-based crew threw alongside Amsterdam’s We Dig.Music and Toronto’s Roots + Wings labels. Set in a well-designed villa that had been rented out for the week by eleven Brits, we were treated to Steve Lawler, Lauhaus, Darius, Kabale und Liebe, and a host of artists off these labels on a decent sound system in an open plan kitchen/front room. The crowd of mostly Europeans and Canadians never really exceeded more than fourty people. Brilliant. Deep House and Tech House reigned supreme as eople relaxed and mingled throughout the villa and its hammock studded yard. Getting to the party proved to be half the adventure as our first taxi driver didn’t understand the top secret address, and we had to walk through some dodgy areas before another cab picked us up and put up with our slipshod attempt to follow the Blackberry GPS system.
To be fair the driver was smoking a blunt when we got in and kept offering it to us so his patience was fairly unending. Anyway, big ups to the promoters for pulling this off without the villa owner knowing and to the neighbours for being miraculously oblivious.
Live indie music at WMC? No way! Way. Offered specifically as a respite from all the bass heavy electronic music of the week, a few promoters bravely put together a lineup of Los Angeles’ Nite Jewel and Brooklyn’s Tanlines and gave us a nice break from the norm. We arrived to a chilled crowd that was also very much up for it and warmed up from the openers NightWaves, Palm Trees, and MillionYoung milling about and taking in the newly opened venue. Tanlines sounded great live and were a ball of energy on stage with their driving tropical beats and soaring vocals. Nite Jewel brought the tempo down as the crowd relaxed to their slowed-down disco sound. We left with Tanlines’ beats still in our heads as we headed back into the WMC musical vortex of bass, records, and laptops.
Wolf + Lamb throw some of the best parties in NYC so it’s no surprise that their WMC party wasn’t any less than spectacular. A crowd of mostly New Yorkers, with a fair few Bostonites thrown in, braved the post Ultra Festival traffic to get to the Electric Pickle for late night partying in the club’s two amazing small rooms and garden terrace. Juan Atkins, the only D25 artist that wasn’t exclusive to the Shore Club party, blew us away with a banging set ranging from Prosumer & Murat Tepeli’s “The Jam” to Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real.)” Unfortunately he went on early so the room wasn’t that full or dancing as hard as they should have been, but that wasn’t the case when Trus’me followed a few hours later. He lived up to his name as one of the current kings of Deep House as he played the shuffling grooves of contemporaries Motor City Drum Ensemble and Linkwood, which got everyone dancing. Downstairs NYC disco stars Runaway and Metro Area’s Darshan Jesrani kept the crowd going into the wee hours.
Miami is unarguably totally fucking weird
The only type of party we hadn’t been to yet was an outdoor day party so we headed down to the Basic NYC All-Stars event in the 30 degree sunshine and were treated to one of the best sets of the week by West Coast house music legend, Doc Martin. Even after seeing so many veterans play throughout the week, Doc Martin blew me away with two hours of beautifully crafted diverse music conveying the depth and passion of 24 years of DJing. From Yam Who’s brilliant rework of Arthur Russell’s “Wax The Van” to Robert Owens, Doc Martin provided the perfect soundtrack to the weather and very quickly got a dedicated
crowd of daytime partygoers shaking off their hangovers and dancing the afternoon away. The small crowd of House Dancers jacking and popping in the corner were the icing on the cake to this perfect last glimpse of WMC. On the way out we were almost run over by a pimped out Cadillac, hydraulics in full effect, blasting out … guess what? LMFAO’s I’m In Miami Bitch.
All things come to an end though and we left the WMC on Saturday wanting to stay longer while cursing that we were missing Tim Sweeney’s brilliant looking Beats in Space party that night back at Shore Club. The sign of a good festival is not wanting to leave and there was much discussion of a villa rental for next year as we were thrust back into the below freezing weather in New York City. Result!
While Miami is unarguably totally fucking weird, admittedly no one actually yelled “spring break!” in my face and there were no sightings of MTV or wet t-shirt contests. There was always a constant feeling that all that stuff was there, but it wasn’t hard at all to step around it. Okay so maybe I was sharing a hostel room with an exotic dancer from Ibiza, two Californian ravers who were horrified I’d never been to Ministry of Sound, a fifty one year old who somehow got in later than us every morning, and a pharmaceutical hocking bartender from Wisconsin that yelled at herself when she took too many of her wares… but they really weren’t THAT bad. Reputation definitely exceeded reality and there truly was something for everyone that made up the widely diverse festival crowd. So does WMC contend with the upper tier of the European dance music festivals? Definitely. Was it incredibly international? Totes. Is it still different than the European festivals? Completely, but it was more than refreshing to see another continent’s take on the whole thing. Personally I’m hoping that LMFAO re-records an “I’M IN BARCELONA BITCH” version in time for Sonar … kiddin’ on.