With more parties and more people expected to attend than ever before — again — the 16th annual Winter Music Conference for dance music of every kind is set to kick off Saturday in Miami Beach, Florida — its longtime, hedonistic home.
Some 6,500 people are expected for this year's conference, according to its official Web site (http://www.wmcon.com), and dozens of nightly parties (more than 50 on some nights) packed with all-star artists from every genre of dance music will overstuff the most dense concentration of nightclubs the country has to offer. With the pounding kick-drum as its perpetual soundtrack, the Winter Music Conference is dance music's premier gathering.
With virtually every top-tier producer and DJ from around the world performing during the conference's five days and nights — not including a healthy smattering of early-bird events Friday night — a well-placed explosive would leave the techno and house scenes stagnant for a decade to come. To wit: Beginning at noon on Saturday, Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Paul van Dyk, Sasha & Digweed, LTJ Bukem and Richard "Humpty" Vission will all be manning the turntables in Miami — at the same event.
Although that event, dubbed the Electronic Dance Music Festival — which, like the majority of shows at the conference this year and last, is not officially affiliated with the Winter Music Conference — it's the stuff that many attendees' dreams are made of.
In another trend that began last year and is moving to the fore this year, the party will take place during the waking hours, in an attempt to bypass the overcrowding and entry hassles at South Beach's terminally hip nightclubs. And like a healthy number of parties this year, the Electronic Dance Music Festival is being held outside of the glamorous glut of SoBe hot spots, at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.
Also, many of the conference's best-known performers — including Danny Tenaglia, Bukem, Derrick Carter, Roni Size & Reprazent and Richie Hawtin (a.k.a. Plastikman) — will be spinning at locations in the city proper.
Some promoters are tapping into the frustration many attendees experienced at the 2000 WMC and taking it a step further by barring free admission for registered badgeholders. Infiltrate 3.0, a two-night event of experimental electronic music organized by the renegade Beta Bodega coalition, is charging $15 admission at its Saturday-night party, or $25 for badgeholders. Its shows, featuring artists such as Miami's own Phoenicia and Rice & Beans, Atlanta's Richard Devine and Prefuse 73 (a.k.a. Scott Herren), boast no guest lists outside and no VIP areas inside, both of which were the source of some distress last year.
Nonetheless, it's dance music's stars that draw the majority of guests to South Beach each year, and 2001 is no exception. Where else can you see Detroit techno legends Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson rock a tag-team DJ set; Fatboy Slim, Darren Emerson and Armand Van Helden on the same bill; Basement Jaxx debuting material from their next album — on the beach, no less; Sasha & Digweed on a sunset boat cruise; or Boy George, Gilles Peterson, Goldie, DJ Craze and MJ Cole in a film studio?
Yeah, it's that time of year again.