What quarter-century crisis? WMC celebrates its 25th birthday bigger and better than ever

It's a banner year for Winter Music Conference. Celebrating a quarter-century in 2010, it's grown into one of the largest music gatherings in the world, something between an industry schmooze fest and adult spring break. Just check the impressive stats. Some 70,000 people attended Conference events last year, 45 percent of those from outside the country.

And those are just for the official events — any WMC vet knows it goes way beyond that, into a sprawling network of gatherings across big clubs, small clubs, mansions, yachts, and warehouses. Despite the Internet, Conference remains an essential place for artists to interact and break new tracks. Nothing beats face-to-face, or foot-to-dance floor, interaction.

Over the years, WMC has seen developments from disco to dubstep, from underground status to commercial crossover, and back again. Some of these developments we might want to bury in the past. For the regrettable, the bad, and the just plain ugly, check our tally of the 25 worst moments in dance music over the past 25 years.

Another event marking its 25th anniversary is Detroit techno, with an official birthday party Thursday, March 25, at the Shore Club. Most of the genre's innovators, such as Carl Craig, Theo Parrish, and Stacey Pullen, are set to play, along with, of course, Juan Atkins. Check out his thoughts about the past and present of techno here.

Dance music's present is alive and well, though, thanks to the efforts of underground venues such as the Electric Pickle and of promoting crews such as Safe. Both camps have impressive lineups planned, which you can check at electricpicklemiami.com and safemusic.us. The Pickle will host Hacienda legend Greg Wilson Wednesday, March 24. And in other techno news, check out our look at Freak N Chic star Dan Ghenacia, who will play a few gigs, including the much-heralded Circo Loco pool party at the Eden Roc Friday, March 26.

Another two legends will probably play the spectrum of dance music in one set, for they've lived through it all. Afrika Bambaataa, who basically invented electro, will spin during the second day of Ultra Music Festival and at the Vagabond Sunday, March 28. In the house arena, an essential stop is Timmy Regisford's Shelter NYC 20th anniversary party at Shine at the Shelborne, Tuesday, March 23.

And house, like techno, is still alive and well, represented by any number of flavors in this year's party schedule. For instance, there's the cheeky, new-school, harder sound of up-and-comer Riva Starr, the main-room thump of the Nervous Records crew, and the chilled-out, soulful vibe of Nickodemus. Less easy to classify, but still definitely house, are acts such as Flamingo Records cofounder Funkerman and French-touched Martin Solveig.

Like clockwork, other mainstay parties return. Robbie Rivera's annual Juicy Beach bash is a requisite stop on the day-party circuit, and this year promises a fresh mix of big-room mainstays, locals, and up-and-comers. The same kind of mix prevails in the superclubs. Cedric Gervais returns to his throne at Club Space, for one.

And the Opium Group now boasts under its banner nearly every big club on the Beach: Cameo, Mansion, Louis, Set, and Mokaï. With so many properties, it's showing a new freedom and sense of relative experimentation in its bookings. Sure, there are heavy-hitters such as Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, who will play Mansion Friday, March 26. But there are also rising stars and underground favorites returning to the scene, including Uffie, who will play Louis the same night.

A few Conference staples won't return, though, perhaps victims of the economy. The annual Radio One pool party is conspicuously absent from the schedule, although Pete Tong will throw his own branded poolside shindig at the Surfcomber Friday, March 26. And, sadly, as the print edition of Remix magazine has disappeared, so, it seems, has its annual Remix Hotel. The Beatport Pool Parties, which were thrown in conjunction with that for years, likewise appear to have ditched the usual weeklong slate at the National in favor of a one-off with James Zabiela Saturday, March 27, at the Gansevoort South.

Not to worry, though. If big-name pool parties are your thing, you can check out the Eden Roc, where the Crobar Worldwide crew will hold it down with Winter Music Conference's official day parties. Or you can hoof it over to the Shelborne and hope for the best. In conjunction with DJ Mag again, the resort will host some of the best pool parties, hands-down, and several, such as the Desolat vs. Cadenza event Thursday, March 25, have already sold out of advance tickets. (Visit wantickets.com/shelborne for more info about the Shelborne and Shine's full slate of parties.)

Other changes are afoot at Ultra Music Festival, which has now become the ultimate electronic music festival in North America. Nothing overly dramatic — the festival is, like every year, bigger and better than the last. But the lineup reflects a shifting change in underground sensibilities. There's less banging blog-house, for one thing. Day one features a number of so-called livetronica acts that have crossed over from the jam band scene, including Pretty Lights, Lotus, and the Disco Biscuits. Day two, meanwhile, is all about dubstep, with a stage showcasing all the genre's hot names, such as Skream, Caspa, and Toddla T.

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