MIAMI The annual Winter Music Conference in South Beach entered its 17th year over the weekend, but one could be forgiven for thinking it was still 1985. Mullets, mohawks, strategically torn T-shirts and Sergio Valenti jeans abounded on the crowded cruising strips of clubland's Mecca, and the tunes around town did little to dispel the notion that we are, as Killing Joke sang two decades ago, living in the '80s.
(Click here for photos.)
Daft Punk, who chose not to tour last year in support of their dance-pop smash Discovery, opened their outdoor beachfront DJ set Saturday night with the utterly '80s theme to "Miami Vice" (a novelty they employed four years ago at their first WMC appearance), then proceeded to mix disco and house chestnuts like Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body" and Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" with their own classics "Music Sounds Better With You" (by Stardust) and "One More Time." Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo only played the latter, 2001's most ubiquitous dance single, after the crowd chanted its title in unison after their set had finished.
In the first two of his three scheduled sets this year, Fatboy Slim was in full retro mode, dropping an infectiously funky bootleg cut that matches an a capella of Kylie Minogue's hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head" with New Order's seminal 1983 proto-electro single "Blue Monday," as well as a dreamy house track that incorporates the vocal from Prince's "I Would Die 4 U," off 1984's Purple Rain. (Fatboy took home honors Sunday evening for Best International Act at the inaugural American edition of the DanceStar Awards, held at South Beach's Jackie Gleason Theater.)
Prince's early '80s funk masterpieces were inescapable Saturday and Sunday, the first of the conference's five days. The title track from Controversy (1981) sprung up in two sets, one by veteran Detroit DJ Alton Miller at the Miami Meets Detroit BBQ Saturday afternoon, and another by Tommie Sunshine, a young Chicago producer celebrating his birthday at the Studio hotel on waterfront Ocean Drive. Sunshine collaborated with red-hot Felix Da Housecat on his Kittenz & Thee Glitz (winner of Best Album at the DanceStar Awards), and the records he spun Sunday afternoon culled heavily from artists in the burgeoning and overtly '80s-influenced new electro scene such as Fischerspooner (whose #1 LP will be released in May), Adult (who did a tag-team DJ set later) and Miss Kittin.
Sunshine passed deck duty to Detroit electro artist Ectomorph, who reinforced the new-old electro connection by highlighting two tracks that helped define the style's sound, Laidback's "White Horse" and Prince's "Erotic City," before moving from the turntables to his G4 laptop, which emitted a mix of original tracks and MP3s in one of the weekend's more innovative performances.
Those artists who weren't hung up on the past forged fearlessly into the future at WMC, especially marquee names such as Paul Oakenfold (whose first solo album is due this summer), Sasha & Digweed (who DJed on a boat cruise Sunday afternoon) and Kruder & Dorfmeister, whose popularity among the global jet set seems to know no bounds. Their late-evening outdoor party is an annual mainstay of the conference, and along with the Berlin sextet Jazzanova (whose debut full-length, In Between, comes out in May) and the Swedish trip-pop duo Koop, mellifluous grooves were fashioned in vast abundance on Sunday.
Mellow vibes were also on order Saturday night at a live performance by the Paris-based trio Télépopmusik at Monty's on the Bay, which featured the group's British singer doing her best Billie Holiday over rhythms and textures as warm as a South Beach sea breeze. Veteran London producer Ashley Beedle took over from there with a DJ set heavy on Latin and funk classics. "Lazy," a single from his group X-Press 2's album, due in May, features David Byrne on vocals and is emerging as one of the conference's breakout cuts.