After No Spank Rock Party, It’s the Hotel Lobby (WMC, Night Three)

Well, I suppose we should have seen it coming.

Spank Rock & the Rub got cancelled at the last minute. Or, so they said. Instead of rapid-fire funk and ghetto breaks, our ears were assaulted with pumping house. We were informed by an extremely drunk employee of the Marlin that the last-minute DJ showcase thrown together and taped to the door in no-frills centered, black-on-white lettering was the “Tampa Sound.” Whatever constitutes the “Tampa Sound,” it sounded like shit to me, so we hoofed it over to see what else we could run into.

The Chelsea and Chesterfield were not really our scene, and I think I was on point of giving up, when Ross remembered the Whitelaw- now if we could only find it. A couple blocks and a question or two later and we did, full of crazy mothers and some actually goddamn decent house. Glasses guy certainly approved:

So we stayed and danced ’til 5 (it was a strict 5 to boot, they cut the power on that right on the top of the hour. I suppose their guests have to sleep sometime). While it lasted it was a sweaty (very sweaty) and fitting end to a half-weeks worth of revelry. J Phlip finished out the night with one of the best house sets I’ve heard in a long long time- inventive, stylistically varied, and danceable as hell. As hard as I shook it this weekend, the Whitelaw was the funkiest. Even Ross busted out some P-Funk moves. Oh, did I mention that J (Jessica) Phlip is also absolutely gorgeous and totally my new DJ crush? Yeah, I did:

5 A.M. seemed to be the unofficial cutoff time for all the Hotel parties on the central side of South Beach, so we wandered around a bit more, discussing the whole crazy experience, made ourselves each a gin & juice, and slowly wound our way up Meridian to get some well-deserved rest.

March 27, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

ULTRA Festival, Day Two (WMC, Day Three)

Our trip to Ultra for Day 2 was fraught with difficulty from the start- Ross was hanging some of his paintings for a show Sunday at Flavour in Coconut Grove, which is the kickoff for a new weekly party hosted by Miami’s G-Unit/Shadyville DJ Epps, who rocks on The Beat 103.5. At any rate, the hanging of the show on Saturday morning took a great deal longer than anticipated, so we headed off to ULTRA @ around 5, after stormclouds began a-brewing. Walking to the event from about twelve blocks away (and through a pile of people queuing for the Miami Heat game), we had to seek refuge from the onslaught of pounding rain. The sky looked to be clearing, though, so we kept on through it and made it to Bicentennial Park with high hopes and slightly damp clothing.

We had no freaking idea. The downpour began almost immediately. I was keen on seeing DJ Hell and then Tiefschwarz, who were scheduled to rock the Amnesia Electro/Techno stage starting about that time (we’d already missed Tiga, at least according to the schedule), so we headed right over there after skating through the V.I.P. (L.O.L.) entrance. Right as we got there, we felt the rain pick up and then saw everyone running away. That’s funny, we were thinking - where could they be running to in an open-air event? ANYWHERE, that’s where. The intensity of the storm was unendurable, buckets of water pounding down on the masses until everyone had to seek some form of cover. Someone out there will be able to appreciate the irony in our source of refuge - the Carl Cox & friends tent. If everything was going according to schedule, Danny Tenaglia was playing. Whoever it was, for the twenty minutes or so that we could endure the oppressive, stifling atmosphere of thousands of bodies completely pressed against each other, the music was like a hard-house version of Nazi marching band tunes. I like feeling compelled to dance, but my hackles get raised when its seems like I’m being ordered to. It looked something like this, although it really only approximates the painful crush of flesh:

Luckily, the rain slowed down, and though it took a long time to really go away (and even then, one couldn’t be sure), the worst was over. Only a couple of the stages were covered, so most of them had some delay in their schedules to work out. With tarps covering the stage and equipment (including the massive speakers), the DJs at the Electro-Techno stage finally got cracking - the DnB and House stages quickly picked up ravers as well. In fact, the House stage seemed the most attended of the evening apart from the Main Stage - at least during David Guetta and DJ Dan’s sets.

A long stroll around the whole site left us both in awe - the attendees of Ultra, despite a million other parties going on in closed spaces with no danger of getting drenched, really stuck it out to wait for their favorites get behind the wheels of steel. Whether they were holding out for Paul Van Dyk, BT, Cox, Richie Hawtin or whoever, they raved and raved and raved. Some raved a bit too hard - the night turned ghastly for us when we saw a woman who was dancing next to the fence at the Amnesia event suddenly collapse. Her boyfriend attempted to revive her and not really getting anywhere, so we contacted the nearest staff person. By the time we returned, she was obviously shaken but had motor control, so we stepped back and hoped for the best. Luckily, amongst the thousands of people there, this was the only incident that gave us fright - most everyone else seemed to be at least nominally in control of the situation.

Still, as the approach to midnight began in earnest, we left, somewhat shaken but thankfully not bruised. The Heat were losing as we walked past the arena, watching with some amusement as traffic was diverted around the massive congestion of the game and festival area. Not to say we walked blithely past, knowing we’d be dealing with it soon enough, but it felt good to come out of such intensity and see people who had absolutely no clue about the madness happening just a few hundred feet away. So we drove back to the beach in high hopes, looking forward to the party with Spank Rock and the Rub.

March 27, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

In Case You Weren’t Sure…

ULTRA, despite a huge downpour, a terrible parking situation compounded by a Miami Heat game two blocks away, constant threat of rain even after the deluge, slick puddles and swamp-like mud pits, long-ass waiting lines, rude festival staff, outrageous drink prices and the usual problems of any big outdoor event, managed to be the most kick-ass, ginormous open-air rave the US is likely to see until next year. I mean, there were a lot of people here:

No, I mean there were really a lot of people here (this is just the main stage, one of ten venues for music going off in Bicentennial Park for Day 2 of the event) :


March 25, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Feelin’ It Guy Update : Still Feelin’ It So Hard

One of the feelin’ it guys from the OM party was totally at the Chesterfield hotel the night before last. And he was still totally feelin’ it. Rock on, guy.

March 25, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Wetter Music Conference

Full report to follow - Day 2 of Ultra was a massive soakout. We left the park @ 10:15 or so with a party recovering from an enormous downpour that left the field muddy and flooded. This didn’t stop a bunch of kids in the one tented dancefloor area from busting out the sirens, though. The rave that will not be stopped marches on while we slowly dry out.

More to follow…

March 24, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

The Spectral Social @ the Clinton Hotel (WMC, Night Two)

Friday night seemed the perfect night to stay confined to Miami Beach, so we went back across the causeway, refreshed and re-upped and spent the rest of the night walking up and down the strip (strips, really). The beach is a monster with mythic aspirations, crawling with every form of beauty and degeneracy staking out its own space from which to confront the mundane. It’s also the perfect place for Winter Music Conference to really sprawl out into the street as well - adding its own mix of nasty and nice to the cauldron.

When it comes to WMC on the beach, there seem to be two basic types of party- free / cheap ones that take over hotel lobbies and exclusive ones at the trendy-ass velvet-rope clubs (Nikki Beach, the Pearl, the Opium Garden, Cameo). When it comes to these latter parties, we quickly realized that a press pass or badge is more a hindrance than an advantage - after all, if we let you in, we can’t get away with insisting on a two-bottle charge (where a bottle costs $200).

At any rate, our first target was the Spectral Social @ the Clinton Hotel, featuring Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliot and Seth Troxler alternating, tag-teaming, corroborating and confounding each other to create an astonishingly seamless mix. I can’t think of a time I’ve ever seen more fun up in the DJ booth - the party seemed to emanate from the outrageous antics of the party-throwers, rather than the party-goers. The tracks thrown down by this six-limbed DJ defied the narrow view of Spectral as monochromatic minimalists with a bass fixation. The bass-heavy frenzy was there, all right, but there was plenty going on all across the (forgive me) spectrum. Extra points awarded for the girls who made up their own special dance, the Spectral Shimmy - cyclic rotations of the posterior to soak up extra bass and hand motions inspired by the rattling procession of the high end.

From gutter to glitter - the low-key fun of Spectral gave way to our misguided attempt to go to Opium Garden for the Tony Humphries / Todd Terry / Blaze event. After a few minutes of standing around behind the velvet rope and observing the ratio of exchange (2 girls : 1 guy in a group to gain admittance, plus the usual necessary fabulosities), plus hearing the complaints of non badge-holders, plus hearing one badge-holder complain that they’d been there for hours, we decided to skip out on the Studio 54-wannabee bullshit and head further down. The same policy (with less interesting potential rewards) seemed to be offered by Nikki Beach & the Pearl, so we did what sensible human beings do. We went back to the gutter.

Ocean, Collins and Washington offer a number of hotels with open-lounge, free-admission parties that rock until dawn (or close enough). One has to wonder what the actual tenants think of a bunch of freaks dancing on the stairway and in the lobby until 5 a.m.- or perhaps these rooms are only advertised amongst those for whom heavy, throbbing bass during their sleeping hours is something of a tonic. We did witness one middle-American family leaving their hotel room amidst typical beach insanity in the wee hours, tempting the headline : ‘4:15 A.M., South Beach : Wife Will Put Up With Bass No Longer’

The Chesterfield, Chelsea and Marlin Hotels all had parties with varying sounds and degrees of success, with a bit of patio and sidewalk overflow (well, except the Chelsea, which was dead). And while it wasn’t quite the dancing in the streets promised by Berlin’s Love Parade, there was definitely enough action to encourage me to think of coming back to the beach after today’s Ultra action. Plus, there is promise of Spank Rock & the Rub later tonight…

March 24, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Friday, I’m in Line - Ultra Day One, WMC Day Two

If Winter Music Conference just consisted of the two-day Ultra Festival and some post-midnight events at the dozens of clubs here, it would still exert massive pull as a killer weekend for dance music. As it stands, one could completely ignore Ultra and still have a fantastic time- which is more a positive reflection of the variety of events going on throughout the city than a disparagement of Ultra, which really does offer a pretty nice festival atmosphere for a comparatively reasonable price.

Still, if you were wanting to see the Cure, which we were, there was only one thing to do - go to Ultra Day One. Plus Day Two, which we’ll depart for shortly, has an amazing line-up, including a baker’s dozen of acts we’d be skipping all across the city on various nights to see, perhaps at places where - like on Thursday - we’d be confronted with a hiked-up headliner door charge. Oh, and the list provided via the link above is just a teaser. Click on “Click Here for Additional Lineup” to view the mind-boggling complete list of artists.

Since every flyer we’d seen placed the Cure’s name atop everything else, and everyone we’ve spoken to seemed to rate them as the really desirable act to see this weekend, we assumed quite naturally that they would go on, umm, last. You know, like a headliner. As we pulled around the corner at 9-ish, however, I could hear a familiar pastyboy wailing over the traffic. OK, I figured as we disembarked from the cab, they must be playing a really long set and just got on. There was no end of flim-flam at the gate - first we were sent around the building to pick up a ticket no one so much as glanced at, then told no cameras were allowed despite watching the guy in front of us enter with his held right in his hand, then finally sent to the real real entrance for Press, otherwise known as walking into the exit rather than out of it, where we were waved through without being padded down or groped.

By the time we made it out to the main stage, an Ultra staffer had informed us that the Cure had been on for two hours and this was their last song. Well, they’d been on for two hours, but it was their fifth last song, as they played two encores. Initial impressions suggested a return to spartan gloom - no keyboard player, the band stripped down to a black-clad quartet, stomping through grim versions of “A Hundred Years” from Pornography and “A Forest.” After a brief, surely non drug-related interlude, the band returned to the stage and belted out three paisley-period nuggets. Husky, rocked-up versions of “Let’s Go to Bed” (including a tongue-incheek lyric change apropos of WMC - “if you think you’re tired now / wait until seven”)and “Close to Me” made way for a startling “Why Can’t I Be You.” Never one of my favorites, the thumping drums and synth-free arrangement here made ample room for the storming Motown beat to dominate the song to great effect.

By this time, however, it became clear who the real headliner was going to be, with festivalgoers unleashing snarky comments and chanting for “Tiesto!” during the last couple numbers. Sounds like our cue to leave…

After a cursory glance around the festival grounds and the (lame) V.I.P. area, we met up with some friends and surveyed the carnage from a geodesic dome-sporting hill near the entrance. With two stages not even in use until Day 2, the place was still jam-packed. Fire-dancers and glow-sticks added to the confusion - was this ‘91 or ‘07? I though big raves were dead in America. Oh, right, just big raves that don’t cost a couplea Ben Franks.

Four things we took away from Ultra:

1) If you’ve pre-bought any kind of ticket or pass, it will always be twice as confusing as just going up to the gate and paying whatever ungodly amount of money they want.

2) If you spend more than five minutes exhorting the crowd before actually starting to play your music, you’re a cheerleader, not a bloody DJ.

3) If there is someone on the top and at the beginning of every single piece of internet or print information about a certain event, it does not mean they are the headliner.

4) Not having to hear “Friday I’m in Love” is the only positive result of being screwed by thing #3.

March 24, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

The Feelin-It Guy Showcase - WMC, Thursday Night

This guy is feelin’ it to Bassnectar:

& this guy feels it so hard for Chuck Love:

Thanks for feelin’ it so hard, guys.

March 23, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Spread the Love - Om Party @ Y Ultralounge (WMC, Night One)

Om Party @ Y Ultra Lounge, Thursday Night:

First of all, the Y Ultra Lounge is huge. It’s actually three clubs (plus a restaurant through a fenced-off lobby): Y Ultra Lounge (why? because we love you…). Tottem and Tottem Gardens. Trying to find friends was a mistake. The only thing to do was ride the butter churn into the next room, and over the course of a an hour we began to establish a rough map of this labyrinth. Or so we thought - attempting to leave actually led us into the largest areas of the club, especially the great Tottem Gardens, which have a great Tiki Party vibe and plenty of space. Not to mention close access to the $3 hot dogs and $6 burgers. I’m sure the drink prices were out-of-hand, but I didn’t ask. Luckily, the crowd was thick as stew and the music was excellent. To be fair, I was a bit wary- while I love some of the artists on Om, their roster is large and diverse enough that some of it (like most any larger label) has slipped through the wack crack. Two artists, both new to me, that played during the time we were there hooked us in and wouldn’t let go.

First up was Bassnectar (yeah, I know). As we entered, chunky electro breaks slapped us right across the cheeks with bold, up-front basslines and pounding drums. A whip of hair thrashes over the DJ deck as a wiry figure bounces infectiously to the beat of his own drum. Bassnectar looks like somebody you might buy windowpane from outside the Phish concert (fittingly, he broke through at Burning Man). He sounds like someone from his own damn planet though - raw, bass-dominated tracks that draw from dub, electro, hip-hop, jungle, you name it, all re-edited and tweaked by himself, then burned to CDr. As a pan-cultural purveyor of bust-your-shit-open beats, Bassnectar delivered with enthusiastic elan.

As we attempted to exit, we found ourselves in the fab Tottem Gardens - man-made streams, bridges, white fabric tents and the lingering aroma of hash competing with the heady scent of grilled pork. Edging through the crowd towards the dj booth, we were lulled in by a really suave and sensuous jazzy house record, only to find out that the bossa-style guitar draped over the beats was being played by an actual human being. It took a few shouted times to get his name right, but the name is Chuck Love (not Josh Love as I bemusedly first heard). Anyone who thinks so-called “deep house” is a dinosaur ought to check the man out. Over soulful, funky beats, he sings and plays guitar, flute, trumpet, and melodica (pictured above), Chuck Love makes some seriously funky and uplifting shit. The live-instrumentation is far from a gimmick- that and his boundless energy and positivity make him an artist worth watching, someone who brings the crowd somewhere and keeps them there. I’ll accept and endorse Om despite a million crap compilations if they keep unearthing gems like Chuck Love. Who, of course, was followed by Collette. Who I predicted would be entertaining for precisely five minutes. I was about two minutes off:

The only genuine disappointment of the evening was the one which cut into my most anticipated event -the Get Physical showcase at Studio A. Well, not so much cut into as decimated - by the time (4 am) we’d made it down to 11th St., the entry price (this event was not WMC-affiliated) had gone from $10 to $20 to $40. As much as I’d really love to see a four hour M.A.N.D.Y. DJ set and the last fifteen minutes of a live Booka Shade concert, $40 is $40.

So instead we get an impressionistic shot of the very beginnings of sunrise:

March 23, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

“Props, Our Outfits, Party Machines & Meat”

Last nights Chromeo bash at Circa28 got off to a slow start, the bottom floor getting tighter and tighter while they waited an eternity to open the top floor. Luckily, we arrived about five minutes before the cutoff time for free admission. Some Snap!/”Party All the Time”/Dee-Lite typea jams were mixed together, apparently while wearing rubber mittens as both hipster and random weirdo body counts began to rise. Those two girls arrived fairly early, so at least someone was dancing. You know the two.

Luckily, insanity arrived early in the form of a red-haired girl wearing a home-made outfit that was not some much tasteless as beyond taste. As she and her polymorphous pervert friend set up their gear, Ross went over to take a shot and ask what we should expect.

“Some crazy shit.”

Truth in advertising, my friend. Finesse & Runway is the name, and they are in fact some crazy shit. My ears immediately perked up as I purchased the second and last drink of the evening (at $6 for a beer, we were paying about half of what the customary price would be later on), hearing heavy bursts of glam, synthpop and noise firing up together from the corner.

Finesse & Runway are a total performance act, quite down-to-earth and almost businesslike offstage. Onstage, it’s constant explosion time- drum machine and pedal-driven loops provide a constant whirring psychedelic casio tone poem imbued with the spirit of freestyle, Soft Cell, cabaret, Black Sabbath, stoner rock, Ween, avante-garde and disco-pop. Meanwhile, both Dino
“Runway” Felipe (pictured above) and Melba “Finesse” Payes (pictured below) sing and play hand percussion- maraca and tambourine, respectively. And they both move. And not just hips, like with yer indie rockers. These people use their whole bodies. Living-room brawls, private cigarette soliloquoys and teenage girls singing along to Debbie Deb are suggested and just as quickly discarded as Finesse & Runway not so much perform as take over a corner of a club in order to assault you with a panorama of youth culture mashed up, cropped, screwed, whatever. So like, performance art with wack-ass awesome beats.

Whatever it was, it sounded completely new, leaving me feeling like I’d seen an early Stooges show or the like. But apparently, they’ve a three-year old album out, which we’re on the hunt for today. There’s also a decent interview here.

Figuring nothing else we’d hear there could top this, we headed downtown…

March 23, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

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