What Does It Mean?

This past Saturday on a breezy yet warm night, the Nocturnal warehouse at 50 NE 11th Street in downtown Miami bubbled with flashing lights and pounding house music. On its rooftop lounge, club director Dade Sokoloff shuffled CDs into the mixer. He played Louie Vega's achingly beautiful Elements of Life and then inserted a rare collaboration CD between Paul Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim, all for the enjoyment of a handful of friends enraptured by a digital video display projected onto a canopy tent covering much of the lounge.

But Sokoloff, his wife, and associates weren't there to celebrate Nocturnal's launch after nearly three years of work. Instead, they drank beer and champagne, played with the club's "toys," and wondered about the week that wasn't.

"I spent the week trying to get the club open," said Sokoloff. He called the music festival popularly known as WMC "the worst week of my professional life."

Of the more than 300 bacchanals taking place during March 22-26, when this year's official Winter Music Conference was held at the Wyndham Resort, as well as for several days before and after those dates, Nocturnal's debut was the most eagerly anticipated affair of them all. Built over three years at a cost of an estimated twelve million dollars, the club had not only drawn many of the week's hottest parties but had also gathered a cacophonous buzz from a club crowd whose never-ending quest is to find new spaces to conquer and pillage.

The first sign of trouble was when Nocturnal's managers hastily canceled a "sneak preview" scheduled for Friday, March 18. The following Monday they moved the club's first official event, a Phuture party featuring cutting-edge techno and trance producers such as Tiefschwarz and the MFA, to Space.

Throughout the week, they continued to move some of the acts they had booked to other locations: Fatboy Slim, for example, was moved to crobar, while the Aquabooty party was taken to Opium Garden and turned into a free afternoon jam. Other parties, including Saturday's Contagious Musiq showcase with Rabbit in the Moon and many others, were canceled altogether. Sokoloff claims that all the artists and promoters were paid and that club owner Glenn Kofman lost "hundreds of thousands" as a result.

Oddly enough, the Nocturnal people never made an official announcement concerning its progress. So as it became clear to all that Nocturnal was having serious problems opening its doors, several conspiracy theories emerged. Some whispered notorious Space owner Louis Puig influenced the City of Miami to deny the club its permits, while others opined the police "busted" Nocturnal on some sort of offense. (What kind of "bust," you ask? Don't ask me; I'm only repeating the rumor.)

Sokoloff strongly dismissed both fantasies and explained that when Nocturnal didn't pass its roof inspection, inspectors required that he apply roof sealant and other finishing materials in order to ensure that it could withstand the weight of hundreds of people. However, he says that the club passed a number of other inspections, including ones for health and electrical permits. "You name it, we passed it," he says.

"Look, we didn't get it fucking finished. That's the bottom line," he continued, noticeably fried from a lack of sleep. So when will the damn club open? "Oh no, not that again," he laughs. "I'm not saying until it's finished."

In years past, there was one story that dominated the conference. In 2003 it was America's invasion of Iraq and its calamitous effect on a tourist industry still recovering from 9/11. Last year it was the arrival of the M3 Summit, a new conference that sought to woo back all the hipsters and record-industry folk who had stopped going to Winter Music Conference.

But this year's edition seemed diffuse and scattershot. While it's difficult to imagine a single nightclub becoming the talk of a weeklong event spread across two cities and involving tens of thousands of people, the Nocturnal fiasco was on the shortlist of conversation starters. Then there was the three-year-old Remix Hotel, a free confab for technology junkies. It seemed to yield a surprising amount of positive feedback among its 4856 registrants. Though that was only a slight increase over last year's 4800 attendees, more people than before seemed to be talking about the three-day event than before.

As usual, so many parties took place throughout the week that I can't make much more than general observations about them all. It seemed there were more VIP events than in years past. On Friday there was BBE Records' Real Music for Real People at the totally unreal Skybar at the Shore Club, where Questlove threw down Leaders of the New School's "Case of the PTA" and other old-school hip-hop classics. On that same night, a nondescript mansion on Pine Tree Drive was host to Sasha, who spun a furious tag-team set with James Zabiela and shocked many with his newly bald pate. As for those parties open to the public, Bugz in the Attic's showcase at Amika Monday, the Club Shelter event at Nikki Beach Thursday, Danny Howells's party at B.E.D. Wednesday, and the cool-as-fuck Revolver event at Pawn Shop Lounge Friday all received high marks.

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