Dance music and Miami have been bedfellows pretty much from the start, from way back to its R&B and disco roots to its current EDM environment. To have a conversation today about dance music without mentioning Miami is to leave out a very important chunk of the genre's development. From Miami bass to its contributions to house music and the nightlife experience, the city deserves its place in the pantheon.
But you don't have to tell DJ-producer Tommie Sunshine that. He knows how important Miami is to the global dance community.
"When Vegas got [into dance music], Vegas wasn't trying to replicate Ibiza," says Sunshine. "Almost everything in Vegas is patterned on what was going on in Miami. Miami was the American version of [Ibiza]. Miami was the first city to really embrace the globalization of dance music. While the whole rest of the world was partying to this music... no one was cultivating it the way Miami was doing it in the early 2000s and the '90s with [Winter Music Conference]."
Sunshine argues that Miami was essential to dance music's entry into the American market and to the creation of the EDM phenomenon that made acts live Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Diplo, and more household names today.
That's why when his Red Bull TV show After the Raves was selecting cities to highlight during its first season, Miami was a natural choice. Already having highlighted the scenes in Paris, San Francisco, Ibiza, and more, the season closed out right here in the Magic City.
For 25 glorious minutes, Sunshine tries to find out what sets Miami's dance and nightlife scenes apart from the other cities he's visited over the course of the season. Unlike most overviews on Miami nightlife, he makes sure to balance the glitz of tourist-driven spots like LIV and Story with what's happening on the other side of the causeway at places like Space and
Does it paint the whole picture of dance music in the 305? Not really. That would be asking a lot for a mere half-hour show. But it seems Sunshine truly understands that Miami is more than just bottle sparklers and drunken tourists.
"This year was my 20th [WMC]," Sunshine says proudly. "[However], you can't really base what you know on a city [on] seven to ten days you spend there in March... Being there when it wasn't that was such a huge eye-opener because we really got to see what Space really looks like on a normal Saturday night. We got to see what South Beach looks like in the middle of September. All these things that are so different to me from what I'm used to seeing there. It was important to see and experience that."
During the episode, Sunshine seeks out wisdom from locals like LIV owner David Grutman and DJs like Cedric Gervais, Ralph Falcon, and Oscar G to explain to him how exactly Miami became a champion for dance music.
Gervais tells Sunshine how he arrived in Miami in the late '90s after the rug was pulled out from the Parisian nightclubs by French authorities and how he slowly climbed his way to the top, first as a resident DJ for Space and eventually producing a Grammy Award-winning remix for Lana Del Rey. Sunshine then visits Falcon and Oscar G, AKA Murk, to witness how the "real Miami" has influenced their music and how neighborhoods like Wynwood allow for new sounds to be played around with in the clubs.
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But Sunshine says despite dance music's long trajectory and naysayers' predictions of an "EDM bubble burst," the genre — and Miami's — peak is still a long way away.
Says Sunshine, "I truly believe that the best of dance music is ahead of us, not behind us."
The full season of After the Raves, including the Miami season finale, is available now on Red Bull TV.