MIAMI Even after just one day, no matter what corner you stood on or what stretch of beach you relaxed on, from noon to dawn (and beyond), South Beach was dominated by the 16th annual Winter Music Conference.
A stroll down Washington Avenue, the area's main club drag, was peppered, as it is every year of the massive dance-music industry gathering, by a variety of enormous pounding beats cranked out of seemingly every corner. At 4 o'clock a.m. or p.m. the sound is inescapable. And for the throng of attendees (and the liberal dose of spring breakers), that's just the way they like it. Whether it's playing in a bikini boutique, a pizza joint or a taco stand/Internet cafe, the bass doesn't stop pumping.
Saturday was the conference's official opening, and a few parties went all out in their efforts to entertain and impress. Ultra Records, a New York record label that is also one of the leading dance music distributors, hosted two events that highlighted stars from across the genre's wide spectrum of styles. The first, the daytime Electronic Dance Music Festival, drew thousands to Bayfront Park in Miami proper to see such mainstays of the scene as Paul Oakenfold, LTJ Bukem, Pete Tong, Carl Cox and Christopher Lawrence spin in seven "arenas" of sound.
The megaclub Space hosted the event's nighttime continuation, with the Washington, D.C., veteran duo Deep Dish topping the bill.
Back in South Beach, a slew of top Detroit techno artists spun afternoon sets ranging from soulful to driving at an intimate outdoor-patio party that also included a barbecue. One of the few techno-fueled events of the conference's five days most parties are dominated by the crowd-pleasing rhythms of house or trance it featured such underground mainstays on the decks as Chicago producer Alton Miller, old-school Detroit vet Mike "Agent X" Clark, Detroit techno maverick and guru Terrence Parker and a set by Juan Atkins, one of the music's founders.
Down the block later that night, club Karve was the site of a conference anomaly: a hip-hop show. Following a populist turntable set by Arizona DJ Z-Trip that incorporated such jams of yore as the Who's "Baba O'Riley" (with a slamming drum'n'bass break tossed in behind the coda) and Peter Schilling's lone '80s hit "Major Tom (Coming Home)," a couple of hip-hop ladies took over. Los Angeles singer/rapper Mystik not only hosted the event, but also took over as a between-set MC, rocking the crowd with her mix of conscious "struggle" rhymes and incisive singing. She passed the mic to Bahamadia, the Philly rapper who released the EP BB Queen last year, and she proceeded to slice and dice a 10-minute a capella rhyme before rocking a rousing set that got the crowd open.
Up the street at Crobar, one of SoBe's most popular clubs, the planned set by trance masters Sasha & Digweed was hampered by the absence of one of its members: Sasha, rumored to have sustained a recent ear injury, didn't make the trip to Miami, forcing Digweed to go the night alone.
On the open-air rooftop of South Beach's landmark Sony Building, two very different live acts performed. The Detroit Grand Pubahs, responsible for last year's goofy electro hit "Sandwiches," displayed more of their unique electro stylings. The duo's Paris the Black Fu toyed with a Vocoder, donned a shiny silver space-suit style outfit and even tapped a guest singer who resembled a half-dressed superhero, albeit one with a barrel chest and protruding gut. The Pubahs gave way to the Toronto jam band the New Deal, a trio that uses live bass, drums and keyboards to emulate and expand upon the basic tenets of house and trance.