WMC Report #4: Basement Jaxx, Jennifer Lopez Get Dance Awards

From annual ceremony to superstar showcase to pool party, Winter Music Conference ends by displaying changing scene.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Dance duo Basement Jaxx, Jennifer Lopez, Pete Heller and Arista Records were multiple winners at the 15th Annual International Dance Music Awards on Wednesday, the final night of the Winter Music Conference.

But none of the winning artists was anywhere to be found at the ceremony.

Last year's buzz band Basement Jaxx, known for such hits as "Red Alert" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Rendez-Vu," took home two of this year's highest honors: Best New Dance Group and Best Dance Group. Lopez won Best New Dance Solo Artist and Best Dance Video, for "Waiting for Tonight."

Other mainstream winners were Whitney Houston (Best Pop 12-inch for "It's Not Right But It's Okay"), Juvenile (Best Hip-Hop 12-inch for "Back Dat Azz Up"), Ricky Martin (Best Latin 12-inch for "Livin' la Vida Loca" [RealAudio excerpt]) and Eiffel 65 (Best Hi NRG/Euro 12-inch" for "Blue").

In less pop-oriented categories, Heller's "Big Love" won Best Underground 12-inch and Best House/Garage 12-inch, Sasha's "Xpander EP" garnered Best Progressive House/Trance 12-inch and Madonna producer William Orbit beat out Fatboy Slim, Dr. Dre and Armand Van Helden for Best Producer.

'A Special Year' For Arista

Echoing its success at the Grammys last month, Arista Records — home of Grammy kings Santana — was the dominating label at the awards, taking home trophies for Best Major Record Label, Best National Promoter for a Major Recording Label (Danny Coniglio) and Best Urban 12-inch (TLC's "No Scrubs").

But Santana's hit "Smooth," a multiple Grammy winner, lost the only award for which it was nominated — Best Alternative/Rock 12-inch — to Filter's "Take a Picture" (RealAudio excerpt).

"This is a special year to win best label," Coniglio said, referring to label president Clive Davis' reported fight to keep his job. "He has been a true inspiration to all of us and even though things may be different next year, we'll continue to push dance music no matter what."

Groovilicious won Best Independent Record Label, Twisted America won Best Independent Record Label Distributed By a Major and the "Global Underground" mix album Sasha in Ibiza won Best CD Compilation.

Corporate Flavor Leaves Bad Taste

The lack of winning artists attending the event lent the affair an awkwardly corporate bent. Several nominees took the stage, including Angelmoon and Duane Harden, but all were pop singers performing over prerecorded dance tracks.

In a somewhat fitting close to the conference, the ceremony began 90 minutes late, leaving attendees waiting in a long line outside the Radisson Deauville Resort where it was held.

Following the awards, a few clubs treated the remaining conference-goers to a final night of first-rate DJs. Goldie headlined at Groove Jet, while Todd Terry and Van Helden shared the bill at a party for the label Contagious Musik at Shadow Lounge.

In contrast to the decidedly commercial tilt of the Dance Music Awards and many of the larger conference's music events, smaller venues were able to cultivate a more enjoyable ambience at showcases for artists with a more grassroots approach. Either despite or because of a noticeably thinner turnout, Tuesday night provided ample room for the underground to show its stuff.

The party for Talkin' Loud Records, a leading London label that specializes in jazz-influenced dance music, featured a stellar bill including Peter Kruder (half of Kruder & Dorfmeister), Gilles Peterson (the label's owner) and Roni Size, who unveiled the latest track by his group Breakbeat Era in an unheralded backroom set.

A Look Into The Crystal Ball

Also appearing at the Talkin' Loud party was MJ Cole, one of the few young artists at this year's conference to garner any sort of industry buzz. Cole produces and spins a new style of dance music known as two step, which combines the quickness of drum & bass with non-syncopated, funky breaks and soulful samples.

A few doors down, at O Bar, innovation was the theme for the night. Cambridge, Mass., producer Stewart Walker performed a dynamic, spellbinding set of minimal techno, using an audio mixer riddled with hundreds of knobs. Walker's second album, Stabiles, was released last year on the German label Force Inc. He was followed by Detroit veteran Terrence Parker, a crowd-pleasing showman who mixes records using a telephone handset instead of headphones. His rocket-fueled techno set was highlighted by cutting and scratching that is normally reserved for hip-hop turntablists.

A number of conference events introduced a roster of unfamiliar names that provided a peek at dance music's future. The San Francisco label Panhandle Records hosted a party at the club Goddess that assembled purveyors of the minimal-house style that's often referred to as nu house or tech house. DJs with singles on Panhandle, as well as such labels as Los Angeles' Seasons Recordings (formerly Earthtones) and England's Swag Records, provided uncluttered tracks that combined the warmth of house with the intensity and drive of techno, maintaining a packed dance floor throughout the evening.