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.
Dubstep will be all over Conference this year in general, and its increasing shine is even throwing some love back to its predecessor, drum 'n' bass. Of course, d 'n' b never died completely, and its main figureheads are still raging hard as ever — just check out Goldie, who will play the Metalheadz vs. Bassdrive party at Heathrow Saturday, March 27.
Other new flavors are across the board, from the disco-ed up, indie-remix goodness of Classixx, which plays everywhere this year, all the way out to the Afro-funk-fusion of acts such as Afro Kumbe. For a pretty good weather vane of everything going on, though, simply check out any of Annie Mac's DJ sets around town. If it's new and on the come-up, she'll be playing it.
More good news: Perhaps in spite of digital DJ downloads' domination, vinyl is not only surviving but also experiencing a bit of a resurgence. Record collectors absolutely must check out the Vinyl Collective sale and parties at the Standard Thursday, March 25, and Friday, March 26. There will likely be plenty of vinyl spun at the official WMC DJ Spin-Off, which this year will be held Tuesday, March 23. (Visit wintermusicconference.com/events/djspinoff for full details.) In a sign of the times, though, this year also marks the second annual official WMC VJ Challenge, March 24 (see wintermusicconference.com/events/vjchallenge/).
Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath. We're with you every step of the way. If you need to go over the basics before you get started, pick up some WMC survival skills here. Then peruse the rest of this guide for details on essential parties such as the Do-Over. Browse our full event listings here, and get up-to-the-minute party announcements and coverage on our music blog, Crossfade, and our Twitter feed, @Crossfade_SFL. Check in and let us know what you're checking out, and we'll see you in the trenches.