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Party Monsters

Blow Pops, pop locks, and dreadlocks at Ultra Music Festival

Humberto Guida is missing in action and presumed bedded.

Our "BuzzIn" columnist was last spotted just after midnight outside the V.I.P. area at the Ultra Music Festival, the official opening party for the sixteenth annual Winter Music Conference. Guida's pupils were the size of Frisbees, and he repeatedly brandished a chrome dog tag he claimed would get him into an exclusive afterparty about to begin in a mansion at 1132 N. Venetian Dr.

Twenty-one hours later, Guida filed the following report:

"SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING by Humberto Guida: The Red Bull house party on Venetian Dr. was a sore subject for the little old Jewish man who lived next door. 'What's going on over there?' he asked each person as they entered. 'Get that car off of my grass, I'm going to call the cops.' He was ignored every time, except for one lollipop-sucking girl who tried to convince him to party with her. Inside was a sanctuary from the structured, velvet-roped-off clubs and hotels. It was an opulent get-together of about 100 people that had less to do with showcasing new music and more with flaunting the ingredients of a heavenly bash: naked women in a pool, free alcohol (and Red Bull), and luscious house by dancer-friendly DJs Gaetan and Duncan Ross. Most of the ladies were models hovering around six feet; at least half of the fellas lied about their occupations in hopes of extended conversations with these beauties. In the privacy of this fat crib right on the water, the swaying, smiling guests really let loose, bathrooms were tied up for hours at a time. As for the old man, he never called the cops, but every little while he'd turn on the light in his home and stand at the window with a less-than-impressed expression. Everyone finally went home early. At ten in the morning, that is."

At precisely 5:06 the next morning, in response to repeated voice mail and e-mail messages from his editors concerning his other WMC assignments, 24-year-old Guida sent this, his final dispatch:

"If you want my best shit, give me till tomorrow morning, because I'm using the computer at some 40-year-old woman's house right now and she's making fun of me, calling me computer whiz. I picked her up at a party at the Wave Hotel this afternoon and she's fuuuuuuuuuucked up! I'm about to sink to some low levels dude."

Guida never surfaced, but the rest of our 72-hour party people snapshot their own bacchanals and debacles from the first three days and nights of WMC 2004. Let's get retarded in here.

Grand theft golf cart

It is half past midnight, and a golf cart has just crashed into a palm tree, sending DJ Junior Sanchez and Nayib Estefan flying. Estefan, bleeding profusely from his lip, gets to his feet, spits blood, and then berates the driver, a security guard hired by Ultra. Sanchez also starts going off, and within seconds, six more Ultra guards rush to defend the cart driver from the outraged celebrities. Sanchez is shoved hard. He yells back, "Touch me again motherfucker and I'll sue your ass!" And then, pointing to Gloria and Emilio Estefan's son, "Do you know who this guy is?" The two DJs then pick up their record crates and stalk off. A New Times writer approaches Estefan, offers him a business card, and asks him, "What happened?" Estefan takes the card, wipes his bloody mouth with it, and holds it up, smeared with crimson. "This is what happened," he says.

Come on and ride it

Organized by New York DJ Tommie Sunshine, sponsored by Krispy Kreme, and touted as one of the few "non-electronic" events at WMC, Krispy Karaoke takes place Sunday in the Studio, a tiny bar located in the balmy basement of the Shelborne Hotel on Collins Avenue. At roughly 9:00 p.m., John Selway, a slim man in jeans, a thin blue T-shirt, and aviator sunglasses, tears through a sexified rendition of Ginuwine's classic "Pony," complete with back-up dancers. Then Sunshine, a tall, friendly guy and dead ringer for Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski, takes over with "Humpty Dance." Sunshine calls several audience members onstage, including Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner and Jake Shearers of the Scissor Sisters, to do an almost tear-jerking rendition of "We Are the World." Then Spooner, dressed in a white suit, tops off the happenings with a totally Krautrock version of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex." Former Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee (fresh from his "live" DJ set at Ultra the night before) is rumored to be on tap to rend asunder Olivia Newton-John's "Physical." But Lee never shows, sparing the crowd the possibility of witnessing a portal to hell equaled only perhaps by the thousands of flyers littering South Beach inviting one and all to "Be in Tiesto's next video!"

 

So stylistic

"It all starts with the figure eight," says Max, a sixteen-year-old from Fort Myers, trying to explain his glow stick dancing maneuvers on the grass outside the Sound Stage at Ultra. "Then you spread it out and keep going." Max is performing a one-on-one light show for a friend, moving twin yellow wands in circles around the boy's face, making the cylinders blur and then stop. "I'm trying to make him dizzy," Max admits. But his friend holds on, moving with the big-eyed nods of an acolyte.

There are hundreds of glow stick dancers at Ultra, each with their own technique. Mike, a journalism student from Fort Lauderdale, is more fierce and frenzied. Shifting positions with black-dirty bare feet, he pummels the air with swift jabs. "I'm not moving to the music," Mike insists. "The music is moving me. I am the music." While glow sticks were the most popular prop at Ultra, Anah, a 22-year-old from Los Angeles, brought her trusty hula hoop. In fact she was hired by Bacardi to perform with her troupe Hoop Revolution. "Hula hooping is something people discount as fluffy and light," she says. "But it has a transformative nature. It shows the relation between your thoughts and your physical manifestation in motion." She explains that if a dancer is inhibited or having negative thoughts about himself, his hula is likely to wobble or drop. "If you have positive thoughts it moves beautifully," she says.

Representing another dance style, legendary Miami popper Chillsky is holding court at the breakbeat stage with his crew of homeboys Deadly Venom, decked out in bright red Adidas sweats and chunky sneaks. "Basically I like painting pictures," Chillsky says. "Anybody can do the robot. But not everybody can paint pictures and send out ideas, especially in front of the public." The crew's message at Ultra seems to be "Don't fuck with us," as they symbolically stomp and kill rival poppers.

Up at the main stage, Bunny, frontman of Rabbit in the Moon, continually jumps and pumps his arms in the air, preening and posing like a dreadlocked cheerleader, dressed in a mirrored suit and, earlier, a set of oversized woolly pajamas. Occasionally he jumps into the audience for a dose of mosh pit surfing. "It's completely about letting go and letting the music take you," He says of his move-busting after the show, while autographing the left breast of a fan. "You take the mind out of the equation and let the music dictate. It's a spirit thing."

Molten wax

Aspiring dance music producer Afrocat waits patiently behind fierce sunglasses outside the Starlight Ballroom in the Wyndham Hotel, headquarters for the Winter Music Conference, on Sunday afternoon. Afrocat has traveled from London and paid hundreds of dollars for a registration badge so she can play a snippet of one of her original creations for the high-profile A&R executives lined up at the first of three official WMC "listening sessions." "It's a bit unnerving," she confesses, eyeing the arrival of dozens of CD slingers who crowd the hall, hustling and hoping to make the best of their 45-second shot. The event turns into a total meltdown, however, when the sound system malfunctions and everyone is abruptly informed the listening session has been cancelled and to return the next day. The would-be stars who have their own portable CD and MP3 players clamor around the execs, thrusting headphones their way. Others storm out, saying, "This conference sucks," perhaps on their way to numb their frustration with a ten-dollar Kamikaze shot.

Needle exchange

"I'm an old-school DJ," confesses Bay Area turntablist Behrouz. At the crack of noon on Sunday morning, the heavyset industry vet is recovering from an all-night spin at the Yoshitoshi Party at Space 34 and rehashing one of the industry's oldest arguments over a breakfast of Corona beer. "I still like the warm analog sound of vinyl," he sighs. "I don't know why."

He is talking with the DJ/producer duo Gabriel & Dresden, who survived last night's show in Ultra's Progressive Arena. "Man, if they could make anything more disorganized and more unfun, it would probably be jail," David Dresden complains about the festival. "There was nobody in charge."

"I had an amazing time," his partner Josh Gabriel disagrees.

The pair doesn't agree on what medium to use either: Dresden spins CDs while Gabriel works strictly from his laptop. Dresden shrugs: "My partner is playing in a different medium than I am." Gabriel laughs, "It definitely fucks us up."

Still the pair has managed to produce monster club hits with remixes for Britney Spears' "Me Against the Music" and Motorcycle's "As the Rush Comes."

 

"I never bought the argument about vinyl," Dresden says. "Then I became a producer and heard the difference when you take sound off vinyl. I definitely believe the hype now."

Gabriel still isn't buying it. "You hear: analog is warm and this and that," he scoffs. "Give me a break. What the hell is going on here? A blank vinyl record has a sound." He purses his lips and imitates the crackle of white noise. "That adds the same quality to every sound on the record. So all of a sudden the sounds are unified. That's why people like the sound of vinyl. When you produce with that in mind, you can make things that sound different."

"Using these computer programs will take DJing to another level," Dresden concedes. "It will give people more opportunity to express themselves than they have on turntable."

"Once I use my tools I want to throw them away and get new ones," Gabriel confesses. He is already fantasizing about his next kit. "I want to make an Xbox thing where I'm really playing live with a joystick. Where I literally can take the crowd where I want to [take it] almost like a video game."

Dresden catches his partner's enthusiasm. "Instead of playing a song he's saying, hey can I have the parts to your song. By playing some or all or one of those parts, he creates a live remix."

Behrouz has already been there: "A lot of times you travel with ten hours to kill on a plane. I got my laptop with me. You do your own edit of your song. You burn it and five hours later you're playing it in a club."

Thinking about it some more, Behrouz decides the problem with vinyl lies in baggage claim. "The negative thing with records is that the airlines lose your record bag," he points out. "Or other DJs see your records and they steal them. Then I gotta play tonight and I don't have any music. I always have back-up CDs."

Feed your head

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival was only two blocks down from all the madness on Collins Avenue -- it was actually held on a stretch of sand that began at Thirteenth Street -- but it seemed like another world. For a $90 entrance fee, you could listen and watch a demonstration by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, introduced to his admiring fans as "the man who transformed Japanese cuisine in America," or you could wind your way through the massive Target-sponsored tent. Here, more than 100 vendors, from national pasta company Barilla to Miami Beach's Patagonia Valley Organic and Gourmet Company, offered up samples to a sweaty throng of dressed-down foodies.

Meanwhile, rapper/actor Ice-T sat near the entrance of the tent, signing towels emblazoned with the logo for his new product, Liquid Ice, with a black felt pin. "It's a better energy drink than Red Bull," he says, the gray hairs peppering his beard betraying his 45 years of age. "It tastes better, it gets your dick hard, the whole shit. You know, it's a fun drink, it's blue, mix it with vodka -- it's the bomb."

Of course Liquid Ice is one of many enterprises both worthy and dubious that the O.G. has been affiliated with since he first made a cameo in the 1984 hip-hop exploitation flick Breakin'. How has he managed to stay in the celebrity game for the last two decades? "I'm a hustler," he says. "If I stop working, I die."

Reporting by Celeste Fraser Delgado, Humberto Guida, Mosi Reeves, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, and Audra Schroeder


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