MIAMI — South Beach holds the dubious honor of having the highest concentration of dance clubs in the country, and all of them produced snaking lines even on Friday, the night before the start of the Winter Music Conference.
One such event, a re-creation of the famed Parisian party Respect Is Burning, took place at the enormous Opium Garden nightclub. A throng of hundreds waited to be let inside to hear DJ Deep, who mixed the third volume of the Respect Is Burning CD series.
The Winter Music Conference, an annual dance music networking orgy, provides a showcase for the newest sounds, and although house music — electronic dance music raised in Chicago from disco's ashes — predominates, drum'n'bass, hip-hop, electro and techno are all represented during the conference's five days.
At Respect Is Burning, house music, particularly the soulful, vocal-driven version championed in New York, was the main attraction. While DJ Deep played a set that ranged from Afro-Beat (a funky, politically informed dance music born in Nigeria) to minimal instrumental tracks, several of house music's most important producers flocked to the DJ booth to exchange "white labels," or unreleased test pressings of potential dance-floor hits.
"Little" Louie Vega (half of the Masters at Work production team, along with Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez), King Britt (the Philadelphia producer behind the Slyk 130 project) and Marques Wyatt (a veteran DJ/producer from Los Angeles) came armed with their latest test pressings to hand to DJ Deep for instant dance-floor feedback.
Limited to early-bird attendees, savvy tourists and eager locals, Respect Is Burning carried on until nearly 7 a.m., the legal closing hour of Miami Beach's nightclubs.
By the following morning when the conference officially got underway, the party machine was on full tilt, with several events taking place during the day. By noon, the third annual Electronic Dance Music Festival, a massive outdoor gathering, opened in Bayfront Park, away from the beach-and-beer atmosphere of South Beach. Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Sasha and Digweed, Paul Van Dyk, and Deep Dish, high-paid international celebrities of dance music, shared 10 different sound "environments" with dozens of other lesser-known DJs.
Meanwhile, back in South Beach, avatars of Detroit techno, including "godfather" Juan Atkins, hosted a rooftop barbecue from noon onwards. Representing hip-hop, the "Infiltrate 3.0" event kicked off in the early evening with a smattering of independent artists, including female MCs Bahamadia and Mystik, local New York celebs Cannibal Ox, and several turntablists.
As the day progressed, still more attendees flooded Miami Beach, culminating in South Beach's main nightclub strip, Washington Avenue, turning into a sea of discarded club flyers. Street promoters kept their hustle moving into the early morning, stuffing invitations and promotional materials into any empty hand, while the DJs, producers, promoters and musicians that constitute the bulk of WMC's attendees, shuffled from club to club, taking in as many of Saturday's events as was humanly possible.