The Bitch

Seven-Year Kitsch

Two hours! Good thing it wasn't a Heat game people were trying to get in to see. AAA employees and contractors working the party were spectacularly unhelpful. Journalists, roadies, and pass holders of all ilk were shuttled from gate to gate to gate by uncooperative AAAgents, with one imaginative crew chief claiming the press was not allowed to enter the arena at all.

For those who did get inside, the absolutely unadorned arena was set up like a high school gym dance. Predictably, annoying adults stepped on the fun, making the kids turn the volume down on that crazy music and absurdly turning the house lights on every few minutes. (Smoking, on the other hand -- cigarettes, cigars, and nontobacco -- was encouraged by lack of enforcement of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.) Hernan Catteneo almost single-handedly rescued the event with an energetic jam, but DJ James Lavelle of the group UNKLE played one of the worst sets of the entire conference, an inexplicable clunker that sounded like Kansas mashed up with REM.

The Miami Heraldreported Monday that 60,000 people attended Ultra; Andrew Fox, CEO of Track Entertainment and one of Ultra's major underwriters, said it was more like 45,000. Tim Schmand, executive director of the Bayfront Park Trust, said the number actually was "31,000 and change through the gate." Why did nearly 7000 people bother with the hassle of trying to get into the after-party at all?

Well, after a two-decade run of high-energy but socially fluid WMC parties and concerts and six bouts of Ultra, the creep of Miami social stratification finally caught up with conference. The Calle Ocho festival is welcomed year after year by a public willing to endure a bit of jostling and sloshed beer in order to see a bunch of great Latin music artists together in the same place. Ultra isn't free as CO is, but it operates on a similar principle. Now that WMC has been clubitized, schmoes from Kendall can wave around all the twenties they want, but if they're not on the list, they're not walking into State to see Miguel Migs, into Pawn Shop for a rare and exclusive Kool Keith appearance, and definitely not into the even more private parties at hotels and private mansions.

When events organized around a fringe interest become mainstream popular, they inevitably lose cachet. This happened with Burning Man in Nevada and is likely the fate of Indio, California's Coachella Music Festival. Should Ultra continue, its organizers need to take drastic steps to give the festival back to the people it was intended for in the first place. After all, as someone pointed out, electronic-music people don't rock, they pulsate.

Mundo CerradoNorman Van Aken just folded Mundo (his New World bistro/market in the Village of Merrick Park, which opened only the December before last). A P.F. Chang's type of mediocrity will soon take its place.

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