Winter Music Diary: So Many DJs, So Little Sleep

Conference begins winding down, but King Britt, Matthias Heilbronn, Dimitri From Paris keep attendees pumped.

MIAMI — By the fourth day of the 16th Annual Winter Music Conference, the nonstop party schedule had taken its toll on attendees. The streets were emptier, the diners full of bleary-eyed partiers sporting sunglasses or deep under-eye circles. Those who dragged themselves to yet another day of events found the clubs, poolsides and lounges emptier than in days past, as aspiring DJs and producers stood around in groups with not a label executive in sight to hand off mix CDs or demos to.

Early morning barbecues, such as the Soundmen on Wax (a New York-based house label) event at the Clevelander, were close to empty until late afternoon, when the scent of free food lured exhausted attendees into the sun. Singer Kenny Bobien, whose single "Father" blew up house clubs in 2000, performed his hit, while several DJs treated the crowd to a mix of hard, New York-style house and jazzier grooves popular in Japanese house circles (Shuji Hirose, Soundmen on Wax's CEO, is Japanese).

Most events on Tuesday started in the early evening, taking into account the conference's thinning attendance and the exhaustion level of whoever was left.

King Britt's release party for his Sylk 130 project's new Re-Members Only CD was held at the Governor Hotel. Ron Trent, resident at New York's Giant Step, opened up the crowd with a set of smooth organic house informed by African and Latin music, which segued into several live performances from artists representing Britt's Philadelphia crew of spoken-word artists and singers. King Britt closed the night with a set blending old-school hip-hop, classic soul and '80s radio favorites, including Go West, the Clash, the Police and Chaka Khan.

Chez and Wave, two New York house labels, took over the massive Opium Garden club for yet another massive event combining DJ sets and live performances (see "Winter Music Diary: Masters At Work Offer A Stew Of Styles"). DJs Matthias Heilbronn, Romain, Francois K and Neil Aline represented for the labels, as the DJs spun their own productions, including Romain's "6/8 Drumz" and Heilbronn's recent remix of Finley Quaye's "Spiritualized." Heilbronn — closely affiliated with Francois K, veteran producer, DJ and engineer of New York City's famous Body and Soul party — spun a set that included several Body and Soul classics, such as Fonda Rae's "Living in Ecstasy," and the crowd responded enthusiastically to the familiar tunes. In a risk-taking move, Heilbronn mixed a hip-hop song into a funky Latin-based instrumental, riding the vocal for several measures before slamming into the next track. While he lost a few dancers, several others appreciated

his chutzpah.

Partiers waited for the screening of "Maestro," a documentary-in-progress about the late Larry Levan, Paradise Garage DJ; Frankie Knuckles, the man credited with inventing house music; and Francois K, but it was delayed due to performances by Wave artists.

Tuesday night's main event was the Magic Sessions, the conference's yearly blowout often considered one of the week's best nights. Held at Crobar, one of South Beach's most famous nightspots, the event featured Tedd Patterson, DJ and producer from the British label Black Vinyl; New Jersey gospel house producer and DJ Tony Humphries, former resident at the famed Zanzibar nightclub; and half of Masters at Work, "Little" Louie Vega.

Patterson played for the first two hours, slamming Crobar's intimidatingly powerful system with house so hard that at times it sounded as if an ensemble of jackhammer operators had taken over the DJ booth. Those familiar with his productions were a bit confused, expecting a more soulful, funky vibe from the man responsible for last year's hit "Roots." But Patterson played to the SoBe trendies, who outnumbered conference attendees by 3-to-1 and who've come to expect intestine-twisting hard house from Crobar.

Humphries also tailored his set to the expectations of the SoBe crowd, while Dimitri From Paris, playing in the smaller upstairs room, kept his set deeper and more eclectic. Transitioning from filter disco to Brazilian, Dimitri interacted with the crowd, throwing his hands in the air, dancing and occasionally turning the sound all the way down, shouting to the crowd to let loose and feel the music.

Ultimately, Crobar's volume level took its toll on this conference attendee. However, there were at least four more hours left in the DJs working one of nightlife's most impressive sound systems, and probably countless more in the partiers, who filled Crobar with a frenetic energy.