MIAMI BEACH, Fla. French DJ Dimitri From Paris spun records and the British group Faze Action performed a set of acid jazz and house with a string quartet as a crowded Winter Music Conference 2000 kicked off Saturday night.
More than 5,000 DJs, record labels, promoters and journalists are here for the 15th annual edition of the largest and most significant gathering of the electronic-music industry.
That's a 25 percent increase from 1999, organizers said, and all those people are stretching the city's bars to their limits.
"It's a little tough on the bar owners," Jimmy Auth, nightclub coordinator for the conference, said. "They are a bit more concerned about reaching fire codes and turning so many people away. But there are over 30 clubs, plus dozens of privates parties, so I think there will be enough to keep everyone busy."
Some credited or blamed, depending on whom you asked the huge turnout on the perfect 80 degree temperature during spring-break season. Others pointed out the recent explosion of dance culture on the Internet.
The Web In Electronica's Future
"It's all because of the Web," said Tony Zeoli, president of Netmix.com, an Internet radio station that on Sunday afternoon led a seminar on the future of electronic music. "It's funny because a lot of us have been trying to promote dance music for years, and now it's become such a common-sense thing."
The dot-com presence here was felt early, as several sites began Web casting events as early as Friday evening. The many fliers sporting easily visible Web addresses were dumped onto tables and bar tops. The scene recalled the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference earlier this month, in Austin, Texas, a general music-industry conclave that was also overrun by Internet companies.
The vibe early Saturday was frantic, as attendees scrambled to find hotel rooms and fight long lines to pick up credentials and even longer lines to get into clubs. Just to be noticed, some waved $50 bills in front of bouncers.
Those turned away from clubs paraded down the streets to the beat of booming bass systems, dodging garbage and the ever-present vendors selling food and beverages. One party host, who would not give his name, said he made $500 on Saturday night, selling $4 bottles of water.
Those who made it into some of Saturday night's bigger parties witnessed top-notch performances by DJs from around the world.
Dimitri From Paris Is Burning
At the Respect Is Burning party, at the Living Room, Dimitri From Paris celebrated the release of his mix album, A Night at the Playboy Mansion which comes out Tuesday (March 28) by entertaining a packed crowd of eager ravers and Playboy models. Only one dancer, though, sported the signature Playboy bunny Ears, saying she did so as a tribute to her favorite DJ, not because of any affiliation with the men's magazine.
"He's the best, and I don't even think people here realize who they are listening to," said Laura Brandt, of the Chapel Hill, N.C., label Vibe Is Alive. "I'm exhausted, but I can't sleep knowing there is so much great music here."
Dimitri's surprisingly mainstream set mixed monstrous house beats with pop tunes such as En Vogue's "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" and Whitney Houston's version of "I'm Every Woman."
In the V.I.P. room, models and budding actors and actresses danced on tabletops.
Under a perfect evening sky on the roof of the art-deco Sony Building, UK DJs Faze Action highlighted a party hosted by Reprise Records' new dance label, F-111 Records.
They performed music from their first U.S. album, Moving Cities, with the addition of a string quartet, whose members of which danced feverishly around the stage when not playing their instruments.
That was followed by some serious drum 'n' bass, courtesy of DJ DB, a cofounder of the recently defunct Smile Records, which hosted a party on the same roof the previous three years. The beats could be heard from several blocks away, providing a small musical comfort for fans locked outside clubs.
Van Dyk Rocks Till Dawn
At the Crobar, DJ Paul Van Dyk who also hosted a private listening party on Sunday, for his upcoming album, Out There and Back rocked several crates of melodic house records until the 5 a.m. Sunday closing time.
"It was cool," Van Dyk said after the show. "But I think [the crowd was] being a bit reserved. They didn't let it all go, like they do later in the week. They weren't as wild as I was; that's for sure."
"This is a significant increase in crowd size," commented Bernadette Goral, a registration supervisor for WMC 2000. "I'm sure things will be different."
"I've got several of my soap-opera actresses here," said Meris Zittman, president of the Miami-based International Artists Group, Inc. "They choose the party, but I don't mind the music. It's fun."
On Sunday night, most attendees went to Groove Jet, for the Winter Oasis 4 the 4th Dimension party, or to Level, for the Astralwerks label's WMC 2000 party.
Fatboy Slim Contributes Funky Pastiche
DJs LTJ Bukem, Roni Size, Kid Loco and Alex Gopher spun at the former, keeping a tightly packed crowd on its feet nearly eight hours.
At the Astralwerks party, Les Rhythmes Digitales worked themselves into a frenzy on one of the festival's largest stages. Fatboy Slim followed, with a signature two-hour set of funk, soul, house and even a bit of hip-hop.
Although crowds were thin at Liquid, the music was thick in diversity. In the main room, house and techno DJs, including DJ Dan and Evil Eddie Richards, took advantage of the club's massive sound system with their thunderous beats, while in the "Vibey" room, 8FatFat8 stole crowds with their unique mix of keyboards, cello and a rap MC.
"The crowd's not huge, but they're good," Richards said. "They seem to be having a good time."
(Contributing Editor Tony Fletcher contributed to this report.)