The 23rd edition of Winter Music Conference took place in Miami Beach last week. An estimated 40,000 music fans and industry types attended events at more than 85 venues. Here's a rundown of some of the highlights.
Best day parties: The Beatport Pool Parties at the Remix Hotel, at the National: You couldn't get in past, say, 4 p.m. thanks to the fire marshals. Why? Free, free, free DJ sets by people such as François K and Richie Hawtin, and an amazing people-watching milieu that included hordes of megawatt stars wandering around the booths.
The Scion Parties at the Raleigh: These were a couple of gatherings Thursday and Friday better dubbed "hipsters on the sand" — seriously, there must have been a baseball-hat-or-neon-accessory check at the door. Again, it was free, and there was plenty of room to dance to live sets by acts such as Digitalism and Calvin Harris.
Winter Music Conference
The annual Stonesthrow/Hella International party Saturday at the Raleigh: The Raleigh is always the place to be. This gig was free, no RSVP, no bullshit — just lots of good hip-hop and old-school jams, a welcome respite from the relentless four-four of the week. It closed out with a killer tag team set by A-Trak and DJ Mehdi.
Best night of lineups that turned out to be a wash: Tuesday: During past conferences, Tuesday was a time for chilled-out warmups. But then last year, Mansion upped the ante with a huge extravaganza. This year the superclub did it again, putting on the likes of MSTRKRFT and Fischerspooner. The URB Magazine/TS1 party at the Vagabond, meanwhile, promised everyone from LA Riots to DJ Hell, and other parties, too, pledged marquee names. Unfortunately nobody got the memo, and only Mansion drew a crowd.
Best John Digweed DJ gig: The guy has done several during WMC, but his gig with Sasha on the Friday afternoon/evening VIP sunset cruise sponsored by the San Francisco club Ruby Skye wins hands-down for intimacy. There were only a couple hundred people crammed onto a megayacht's top deck to hear the twosome serenade the sunset.
Best surprise discovery: Nôze, at the Get Physical Miami party: When Philipp Jung, half of M.A.N.D.Y. and cofounder of Get Physical Records, described the French duo as playing chanson, I didn't believe him. But it's for real — these zoot-suited guys somehow combine super-Gallic sentiments about drinking and love with dubby electrohouse, and it works. Also, they charmingly lose items of clothing as their sets wear on.
Best ubiquitously present DJ: Tommie Sunshine: He was spotted everywhere, beyond his gigs at all the cool-kid day and night parties, just hanging out with his gorgeous wife. He even opened the Sasha and Digweed sunset cruise with a low-key set of torch songs and folk. I'm beginning to believe he's my guardian angel or something.
Best-looking DJ, surprisingly: Erol Alkan: Nobody immediately thinks of him. Look again. But don't touch — he's married.
Best shockingly free nighttime party: The Fool's Gold Records showcase at White Room, Friday night: Yet another free, no-RSVP deal downtown. Sure, that meant a lot of tweaked-out, lollipop-chomping refugees from nearby Ultra Music Festival. But it also meant no wait and no hassle to hear a bunch of next-shit hip-hop/club twistups including Treasure Fingers, Nick Catchdubs, Boys Noize (again), A-Trak (again), and, um, everybody else. If you are a dude who owns a limited-edition printed baseball hat, you were there.
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Best live appearance: Simian Mobile Disco at the Fixed WMC Freakout party at Studio A Saturday night: Rather than just twiddling some knobs for show or hitting play on a laptop, these guys busted out towers of synthesizers, keyboards, and other unidentified machinery. Plus there was a temporary Dynachord sound system and a blindingly bright, flashing wall of lights behind the band, making it a set that threatened to blow the lid off the place and required attendees to wear both earplugs and sunglasses to keep from melting.
Best Moby sighting: Around 4:30 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning on the Studio A dance floor, approaching the afterhours portion of the Fixed WMC Freakout party, there he was. We've learned Moby loves dancing among the general masses, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and hipster chicks of all flavors.
Best reason to return next year: You've got a full 12 months to deal with the ramifications of collapsed arches, tinnitus, and detox.