Can’t top the music

Miami’s Winter Music Conference could show Las Vegas DJs a thing or two—or three

Scotty Boy and Deadmau5 goofing off for the camera in Miami
Photo: Deanna Rilling

Considering that this was Miami, it sure looked like Vegas. People were wearing hats for Hard Rock’s Rehab pool party, a chick in a Revolution Lounge tank top was grinding in the corner, and to the left, a Wet Republic logo strained across a nice set of implants. The streets were littered with fliers, yet none were for “girls direct to you” services …

For one week in March, Miami welcomed dance-music fans from around the globe to the Winter Music Conference with enough parties to make a Vegas New Year’s look as lame as a junior-high formal. DJs, producers and industry insiders alike took over South Beach to network, listen to the newest tunes and party their asses off. And Las Vegas has taken notice. Heck, it seemed like half of Las Vegas was here.

The Vegas nightlife industry had been talking about the 24th annual WMC for months. “Are you going to WMC?” was a nightly conversation starter. Those left behind were given incredulous looks and shunned by folks who had already booked their plane tickets. Economy be damned, people were busting out the credit cards to get to Florida, for the vibe on the scene was that if you weren’t going, your street cred would instantly suffer.

‘I’m in Miami, bitch’

On a flight from Vegas to Miami on Monday, March 23, at 6 a.m., Sharam of Deep Dish (who had performed at Rain on Saturday and caught Fedde le Grand’s set at Rok on Sunday) apparently hopped from the club to his first-class seat. Also heading to the East Coast was Vegas DJ OB-One, plus other familiar faces you couldn’t quite put your finger on, but you knew they did something somewhere, and you’d keep seeing them—usually intoxicated—all week.

Speaking of intoxicated, no matter how much one drank in Miami, one song couldn’t be escaped. Jesse Saunders, the Chicago house-music legend now living in Vegas, had had about enough. “I know we’re in Miami, but damn!” he joked after judging a mixing competition where he started deducting points for anyone who spun LMFAO’s “I’m in Miami, Bitch” (or Kid Cudi’s “Day N’ Night”). Saunders also hinted that when he’s back in Vegas, he’s hoping to open a new “underground, old school, hip-hop club” and might start spinning again in Sin City, something he’s previously avoided. Apparently, going to Miami is perfect for getting all the good info.

If Miami can’t go to Vegas, we’ll bring Vegas to Miami

From a business standpoint, traveling to Miami is integral to drumming up interest in Sin City’s nightlife. Even though original plans to re-create the Perfecto show from Rain in Miami had to be scrapped because of the production’s intricacies, Paul Oakenfold and crew still headlined at a party in Miami. Michael Fuller, vice president of N9NE Group, was still able to accomplish his main goal for the trip and meet with agents, talent and sponsors to strike deals. “It’s also a great excuse for a vacation, and at the same time, it’s a mecca for people who love electronic music.” He adds, “We get a very small perspective of the music world in Vegas.”

Winter Music Conference 2009

Zee Zandi from Angel Management Group packed in a combination of meeting with DJs’ agents, hyping up Vegas ultrapool Wet Republic and having a party at MYNT. “I was surprised how many people were excited about Wet Republic,” says Zandi. “Basically, we were getting the branding out so people are more familiar with the name.” Case in point—giant window advertisements for Wet Republic and fliers were everywhere, making you wonder if you were transported back to Vegas or merely hallucinating from a contact high thanks to people walking past on Collins Avenue.

Other mind-expansion activities in Miami came courtesy of the music and hearing something besides Vegas’ typically commercial club tracks to appease the tourists. “It’s a cheaper flight than Ibiza!” says Zandi, but Fuller believes Miami actually offers superior musical diversity to Ibiza, and even nonindustry people from Vegas showed up to party for the sake of partying.

At the Beatport Pool Party, March 27. Left to right: Deanna Rilling, Jordan Stevens, Casey Rotary, Eric McKeon, Nick TerraNova (aka Starkillers) and Austin Leeds.

The Hard Rock Hotel, along with New York’s Pacha, brought its infamous debauchery to Miami. Or at least tried to. The Rehab pool party was thrown at the Shelbourne Hotel with Jonathan Peters and Vegas’ Jack LaFleur commanding the decks. Unlike the Vegas version, with people splashing around and spilling booze in the pool, Rehab in Miami was decidedly calmer, and revelers stuck to dry land. Either way, the beautiful people—and quite a few Las Vegans—were in attendance, though Las Vegas Weekly couldn’t find LaFleur and his mullet when stopping by. Just down the beach at the Beatport party, however, other Vegas DJs were spotted left and right. From Nick TerraNova (aka Starkillers) and Austin Leeds to Michael Toast and Jordan Stevens, the Beatport party was almost like being home, but with some cool new people and conversation about the latest tracks thrown in for good measure.

Hey—you’re that one DJ from Vegas!

Some of our very own scored gigs in Miami during the insane week of partying, thus exposing them to an entirely new audience … well, almost. Vegans tended to flock to their own in Miami, and many Sin City parties followed familiar faces around South Beach.

RICHARD BRIAN/STAFF PHOTO.Up-and-coming DJ Steve Christmas of Las Vegas performs in the lobby of the Miami Beach Resort and Spa on March 27, 2009.

DJ Chris Garcia might take the prize for most Miami gigs in a week. Hailing from France, Garcia is all over Vegas right now, and chances are you’ve seen him at some point. For WMC, he DJed five nights in a row at Ocean’s 10’s French Connection party. The courtyard-like area allowed a casual vibe—and someone to bring their dog—but with a decked-out stage that could rival any nightclub. Garcia had an additional four gigs in Miami, including one at the quaint but gorgeous La Folie, where he brought the house down with more energy and originality than in his tourist-friendly sets in Vegas.

Jaded Sin City ears were also surprised by Scotty Boy’s set after the Ultra Music Festival at the tiny but lively Love Hate. In Vegas, even a dance-music novice can sing along to his commercial track selection, but the underground tracks he threw down in Miami might have made one believe an entirely different DJ was spinning. “That’s actually what I play everywhere else,” says Scotty Boy of his more original set at Love Hate. “Every DJ in Vegas has to dumb it down.” But for the EDM aficionados gathered in Miami, Scotty says most DJs seek to expose the crowd to the newest tracks. Looks as if Miami offers DJs a vacation from their regular playlists, too.

What happens in Miami stays in Miami?

The Hard Rock Hotel's Rehab pool party... in Miami

The Hard Rock Hotel's Rehab pool party... in Miami

Perhaps Miami during WMC was a week to let loose for the Vegas industry and partiers … to some degree. It was almost as if Las Vegans decided to go on spring break together, and you wanted to spike the punch, but the yearbook staff was totally taking pictures, and the principal would hear what you’d been up to. In all, WMC was probably about 60 percent fun, 20 percent work, 10 percent recovering from hangovers and 10 percent waiting in lines saying, “Don’t you know who I am?” The door guys in Miami were apparently the few people who didn’t. Guess we’ll have to keep going back until they do.

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