Winter Music Diary: DJ Showcase Parties Splash South Beach

Weekend events included sets by hard house DJ Jonathan Peters, DJ Pierre, Frankie Feliciano, Ron Trent.

MIAMI BEACH, Florida — The 16th annual Winter Music Conference was packed with events over the weekend, upwards of 30 on Saturday night, filling South Beach's already crammed streets with still more revelers.

Washington Avenue, South Beach's nightclub strip, was a frenzy of activity as promoters handed out invitations to dozens of parties, all taking place simultaneously.

Over the clear blue water of South Beach, a.k.a. "SoBe," airplanes advertised parties with hard house DJ Jonathan Peters, while sunbathers were peppered with flyers for the launch party of club Crobar's new record label. The event, featuring San Francisco jazzy house DJ Julius Papp, Los Angeles producer/DJ Marques Wyatt and progressive house duo Sasha and Digweed (residents at New York's Twilo, another club that recently launched its own label), drew hundreds to celebrate the label, which will feature harder, progressive-styled house, the style of dance music the infamous SoBe nightspot is known for.

Record labels, which organize parties to showcase the coming year's releases and artists, are the main engines driving the Winter Music Conference.

KingStreet Records, a New York house label, took over club Goddess for a nine-hour party. First up was DJ Pierre, the resident of the famed "Wild Pitch" parties of the early-'90s and originator of the "Wild Pitch" style of percussive, tracky house music. The diminutive DJ rocked back and forth on his heels as he slammed down track after track of his own productions, including this year's "The Switch 2001" and "The Horn Song," a banging instrumental track from the early '90s.

Next up was Frankie Feliciano, a New York producer known for instrumental house tracks heavily influenced by Latin music. His mixing technique borrows heavily from hip-hop: Feliciano samples live during his mix, teasing the audience with vocal snippets from the upcoming track.

Chicagoan Ron Trent, a resident at New York's "Giant Step" parties known for his organic, jazz and world music-influenced "afro house," eased from track to track, subtly working the mixer. Showcasing several of his own productions, including "Lamentations" (featuring spoken word artist Carl Hancock Rux), Trent closed the night with a set of well-known house classics, including the Nuyorican Soul Orchestra and George Benson's "You Can Do It (Baby)."

Even at 7 a.m., the legal closing hour of South Beach clubs, the traffic on Washington Avenue churned. The 11th Street Diner, a 24-hour eatery, is a popular post-party meeting place for the conference's heavy-hitters. By noon, those who hadn't gone to sleep yet traded tables with the next day's crop of attendees, many fueling up for Sunday's early afternoon events. Soledad Records, a Detroit label, sponsored an all-women DJ showcase, with Chicagoans Dayhota (of the Superjane DJ collective) and Lady D as the main attractions. Former nightclub reporter June Joseph, now a popular international DJ, spun a set that ranged from soulful, R&B-styled vocal cuts to filter disco.

Nervous Records, another New York label, celebrated its 10-year anniversary at Miami's Armani Exchange store. DJs Paulette and Jackie Christie provided the music for the invitation-only "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" gala. Paulette, a petite, muscular London DJ, most recently mixed Nervous' Must Be the Music CD. She played a mostly instrumental hard house set, attacking the mixer's knobs to tweak the high frequencies from her tracks, building energy in the room.

Jackie Christie, wearing a waist-length fall in bright auburn and an iced-out cross medallion, took the decks next, weaving a set of big-room anthems, Nervous Records classics and New York hard house. Plainclothes security guards roamed the store, extinguishing clothes-fouling cigarettes, while models posed atop the sales counter in Armani's summer line.

The Nervous crew continued their domination of unusual party spaces when they took over a Denny's restaurant off South Beach for the fourth annual after-hours "Grand Slam Breakfast." Gender impersonator Lady Bunny, host of New York's yearly polysexual drag fest, Wigstock, manned the event. All attendees were given free wigs in celebration of Nervous' release of the Wigstock compilation, showcasing the aggressive "handbag" house played at the gathering.

But record label/marketing and promotion company Giant Step hosted the day's biggest events. The "Sunset Soiree," a charity event for Future USA's rEvolve Program for music education, took place poolside at the Raleigh Hotel. Gilles Peterson, head of London label Talking Loud, "Giant Step" resident Ron Trent, two-step (an amalgamation of R&B, house and hip-hop) producer MJ Cole and French DJ/producer Victor Duplaix held down the decks.

The party continued afterwards at the "Winter Oasis," held in downtown Miami at Club Space. Drum'n'bass icons Roni Size and Reprazent, techno guru Richie Hawtin (appearing at Decks EFX 909), turntablist A-Trak, broken-beat specialists Jazzanova, Tijuana-based techno-and-traditional-Mexican-music scientists Nortec and trance DJ Sandra Collins rounded out the bill.