While taking a breather during a set at Saturday's Ultra Music Festival, Brandon Flowers, the doll-like lead singer of the Killers, uttered an appropriate encomium for this year's Miami Music Conference: "When music kills you, at least it doesn't hurt."
The phrase aptly captured the overall essence of the week, which included not only Ultra but also Global Gathering, M3, and the fogyish Winter Music Conference itself. The Bitch hit as many of the 350-plus shows, parties, and industry schmoozefests as she could and came away with the general impression that electronic and emerging music continues to evolve and even dominate the creative consciousness of music's modern age.
This year's festival introduced live music to a formerly all-DJ showcase. According to Timothy Schmand, director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, about 34,500 people attended this year's relocated Ultra. "Bicentennial Park is a much better site for large-scale events," Schmand noted, to which The Bitch adds: The diminished presence of fried meat and glowstick-wielding ravers toting their group-home guardians didn't hurt either.
Ultra Music Festival
Surveying a packed beachfront staging area at Friday night's Mexicool showcase at the National Hotel in Miami Beach, Rob Alan, who in late 2005 organized the sadly underattended Bang! Music Festival, noted, not unhappily, he was just a little ahead of the trend. "At Bang we tried to mix DJs with bands ... and no one came," recalled Alan, dapper and chivalrous in a chalk-color linen suit as he handed The Bitch a dark beer provided by sponsors Dos Equis. "But I see that idea's time has come."
Nortec Collective, Mexicool's group of DJs and percussionists, put on one of the week's most unexpectedly fiery sets, expertly tag-teaming turntables and blending a furious tribal sound with tabletop dancers, a painted and costumed drum line, and pointedly laconic running commentary in Spanglish from a hilarious bald MC.
The same night saw an ad hoc, high-energy throwdown by Scottish duo the Juan MacLean at the Surfcomber. Tiësto's "free" set in honor of his new album, In Search of Sunrise 5: Los Angeles, at Mansion was such a hot ticket that desperate fans offered The Bitch $300 for her admitting wristband.
But Tiësto didn't receive such a fanatical welcome elsewhere. In the sort of mixup to be expected when Miami Beach meets Europe meets high-tech, the Dutch superstar was dissed Thursday at his highly anticipated gig at the Hotel Victor's rooftop Vue. Following an afternoon rain shower, equipment setup slowed to a crawl, delaying the 9:00 p.m. performance, according to hotel staff, to 11:30 p.m. By this hour, many of the would-be attendees had drifted off.
The Bitch, waiting hopefully with two human friends, was thrilled at first when she discovered DJs Paul Oakenfold and Erick Morillo loitering in the Victor's mostly deserted lobby. Then she was overjoyed when they were joined by Tisto himself. As Michael Capponi, the Victor's regular Wednesday party host, scampered from room to room (looking for an extension cord?), The Bitch asked one of the hotel's managers, Victoria Prado, about the delay.
"Well you'll just have to wait," Prado sniffed. "This really is just the regular Wednesday party, and it doesn't get started until late."
"Really?" responded The Bitch, observing the frantic Capponi and increasingly irritated, within-earshot Tiësto.
"Well there is a DJ," Prado finally allowed. "It's Tiësto; he's one of the most famous DJs in the world. Did you know that?"
"Um, yeah," smirked The Bitch.
The hound was not expecting trouble getting into the Heatherette show at Friday night's free and open-to-the-public conference-coinciding Funkshion: Fashion Week Miami Beach. RSVPs were sent to both Matt Heien of Eastside Public Relations and Aimee Phillips, publicist for Heatherette. The Bitch had no problem entering the main tent and navigating past a booth promoting the upcoming Poseidon remake. But then she ended up waiting about 30 minutes to see the end of the Enyce show, thinking Heatherette would follow as scheduled at 10:00 p.m.
Next security dudes held the door closed while the scowling fire marshal held up his arms and began yelling at the sardined yet relatively unshoving crowd: "I am the fire department! We are at capacity, and you must get back ten feet!"
The Bitch finally caught a bit of the action at Enyce a little unstructured for the Azzedine Alaia-loving dog but five minutes later it was over, and the packed tent emptied into the already thick line for Heatherette.
"It was a nightmare for me," said Heien. "We were trying to get media to come to the front, but there were so many people." The Bitch's attempt to make it to the door and flash the press pass hanging from her collar was futile. There were simply too many people.
"The idea was to mix the smaller designers with the big names to draw a larger crowd," explained Heien. Obviously that wasn't necessary.
"We couldn't even kick people out at the end of the show," Heien added, noting the androgynous appeal of Richie Rich and Traver Rains's label. "We thought this was so gay that they would never want to be in the same tent," Heien said of the vast difference of conceptual visions between the urban studwear of RyanKenny and the flamboyant club-ready confections of Heatherette. As only six-foot-something drag queens can, Lady Bunny pushed through the crowd with Amanda LePore in tow, but after getting her paws and tail stepped on a few too many times, The Bitch gave up the fight and headed back across the street to, yep, the DKNY party at the Victor.
Sunday afternoon offered a different, curiously low-key entrée to fabulousness, thanks to The Bitch's Big Important Music Industry Friend Justin Kleinfeld of rephlektor inkorporated, who snuck the hound into a private set of Desyn Masiello and Sasha and John Digweed aboard the yacht Biscayne Lady. About 300 polite, gentle, soft-spoken guests partied congenially on the boat, clearly intending to pay respect to the DJ duo. Indeed the pair dominated the festival, from a triumphant kickoff at Global Gathering to nightly SRO sets around the Beach and in downtown Miami.
Among the twirling, fist-pumping crowd on the Biscayne Lady were Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros fame, Ali Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi from the Deep Dish collective, Junkie XL (a.k.a. Tom Holkenborg), and long-time promoter Carmel Ophir. "I've worked with Sasha and John for fifteen years," Ophir observed. "No one deserves more or makes less of a deal about success than they do."
Michelle Dalmeida, a twenty-year-old from Tampa, wasn't the only passenger who didn't want to leave the yacht and return to mundane existence. "We've been partying all night every night and getting up at four o'clock," Dalmeida sighed. "Monday, though, it's up at eleven, on the road, and back to work."
Dogs in Trouble
When Robbie Coy began a no-kill dog shelter five and a half years ago, he had no idea its services would be in such demand. Coy balked at the treatment of animals at public shelters, where a dog with a minor cough would be considered unfit for adoption and euthanized.
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Naming his organization for a beloved canine companion who had died, he quickly developed Sabbath Memorial Dog Rescue. Today Coy maintains the health and happiness of 50 dogs at any given time. Between food, rent, utilities, and employees, his costs run about $10,000 a month, all of it financed by a T-shirt vending business. About four or five dogs are adopted each week, but the empty spaces are quickly filled by others.
Coy is having trouble making ends meet. He recently lost the lease to the building where the dogs are housed, at 3777 NW 46th St. in Miami. Although it now appears he might work things out and be able to remain at the site, Coy worries about the tight budget and would like to send out a missive to his dog-loving neighbors. "Financial support is almost impossible to get," he concedes. "But finding homes for the dogs is the most important thing."
Coy also accepts donations of food and supplies, and welcomes volunteers. Find out more about the organization at www.sabbathrescue.org, or call 305-799-1567.