MIAMI BEACH, Fla. A club-rocking performance by electronic guru Moby highlighted the third night of techno tunes at the Winter Music Conference on Monday.
It was slightly incongruous to position the live set at Crobar between sets by two renowned trance DJs, but Moby (born Richard Melville Hall) did his best to fit in he blended songs from his earlier, more dance-influenced days into a set of material from Play, his acclaimed 1999 hit album.
"Was anyone else here in 1992?" Moby asked, hinting at the conference's massive growth in recent years. "Well, I played this next song back then. It was my first big song."
Moby then launched into the dance-floor anthem "Go," followed by an intense triple-punch from Play, including the current single, "Natural Blues" (RealAudio excerpt), and past singles "Bodyrock" and "Honey."
The sold-out performance, which forced ravers to put down their glow sticks to battle for a position in front of the stage, was not without its awkward moments, many of which Moby brought on himself.
One came before "Bodyrock," when he recounted how the song originally contained the guitar part from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," which he then played to a startled crowd. "I forgot this is supposed to be an electronic festival," he said after the guitar solo.
'Having A Wicked Time'
Bookending Moby's show were sets by DJs Lisa Loud and Sandra Collins, who played sets heavy on house and trance, respectively.
"I'm having a wicked time," Loud said. "It's always fun to have a challenge. I know everyone's here to see Moby, but f--- it. I can rock this place. I love electronic music and I'm happy to be here."
Collins, who has been busy most of the festival promoting her new mix album, the third edition of the Passport series, said the mood of the festival has changed in the many years she has been attending.
"It's getting to be more and more like friends of the DJs and industry people," she said. "That's what it takes to get into these places."
At Groove Jet, several DJ tandems took the throne for another sweaty night at the intimate club. Stereo MC's, Smith & Mighty Soundsystem and Kruder & Dorfmeister were highlights, the latter spinning downtempo tunes from their 1999 double-CD compilation, K&D Sessions, including "Kruder & Dorfmeister's remix of Roni Size's "Heroes."
Sunday afternoon, a host of top-notch DJs from all over the U.S. drew enough sleepy-eyed conference-goers to the lobby of the Marlin Hotel and the patio of the nearby Kent to create a sort of beat-lover's block party. DJs both young and iconic transformed the hotels into impromptu daytime dance parties.
Chicago's DJ V and Heather and Colette of the Chicago woman-DJ collective Super Jane were among the newcomers. Such well-known veterans as San Francisco's Mark Farina, Chicago's Derrick Carter, Paris' Alex Gopher and even DJ Spinna, a Brooklyn, N.Y., hip-hop producer who released the house album Beyond Real last year, eventually packed both spaces.
Vying with those parties for attention was a daytime performance by Nuyorican Soul the house music-Latin jazz hybrid project of New York club legends Little Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, which featured jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers as well as hip-hopper DJ Jazzy Jeff. Their show doubled as the launch party for a new San Francisco electronic-music magazine and Web site called Revolution.
More Than Just Big Names
In addition to the marquee names, Monday night offered a glimpse of many of the stars of the techno world. The innovative English producer Richard Devine capped a showcase for the Miami abstract-electronic music label Schematic, which also included captivating sets by locals Push Button Objects and Phoenicia.
Farther south, at a small restaurant/club called Red Square, the leading Detroit techno label Planet E's show brought together pioneers and up-and-comers from the Motor City's influential techno milieu. Stacey Pullen and Rolando, whose "Jaguar" was the techno anthem of 1999, spun records typical of the moody, complex sound of Detroit. Headliner and Planet E owner Carl Craig was unable to perform when the club unexpectedly closed at 3 a.m. instead of the scheduled 5 a.m.
Combined with a Miami Beach fire marshal strictly limiting the club to its capacity, thereby leaving a crowd outside waiting more than an hour for admission, the frustrations at this event were similar to those at many of the conference's events. By the same token, once inside, the bass and the beats quickly healed any pain.