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Miami's Annual Winter Music Conference A Disappointing Experience

Daniel Rais |
April 5, 2013 | 10:27 a.m. PDT


2013's Winter Music Conference was a disappointing experience. (Screenshot)
2013's Winter Music Conference was a disappointing experience. (Screenshot)
Friday, March 22, 2013. It was 4:30 in the morning and I was somewhere in Little Haiti (Midtown Miami) in a place called Churchill’s Pub. I hadn’t yet seen the artists that I wanted to see, and my legs were starting to give out after an intense day of beer and electronic music. Just before 5:00 a.m., after waiting a bit to see what Night Plane sounded like, my brother, my sister and I decided to leave Churchill’s. As badly as we wanted to see Slow Hands, PillowTalk, Tanner Ross, Soul Clap and Wolf+Lamb at the Crew Love Party, we really just needed to get some sleep.

For the more experienced Winter Music Conference (WMC) partiers, lateness (or earliness) didn’t seem to be a problem. Some people were just starting to arrive, and we kicked ourselves for having gotten there at 1:00 a.m. The smart move would have been to go to sleep at around 11:00 p.m., wake up around 4:00 a.m., and then go to the party. Indeed, powered by cocaine, MDMA and Christ knows what else, WMC regulars are used to even longer schedules. Party from noon to sunrise. Sleep for two or three hours. Wake up. Eat. Rinse and repeat. And the Crew Love party was just a tiny part of it.

Founded in 1985 by Louis Possenti and Bill Kelly, Miami’s annual Winter Music Conference has been drawing thousands of partiers to South Florida for 28 years now, filling dozens of venues with people thirsting for electronic music in its myriad variations. There are literally hundreds of events. Big and flashy. Small and intimate. House. Techno. Dubstep. Trap. Hip-hop. Funk. Electro-this, electro-that, everything you can think of.

For many, WMC is a sacred tradition, a yearly clubbing pilgrimage rivaled by none other. For others, WMC is big business, as Miami hosts industry folk from label owners to venue representatives and everything in between. For me, though, WMC 2013 was a totally new experience, and let’s just say I was a little disappointed.

To begin with, the Wolf+Lamb Crew Love Party that my siblings and I went to on Thursday night/Friday morning was supposed to happen at The Electric Pickle, an intimate little venue in the Wynwood Arts District with a killer sound system and three different stages. Legendary within the electronic music community, the Pickle hosts the most talented DJs on the planet on a regular basis, and not surprisingly, it’s one of my favorite places in the world. My favorite indie label at my favorite club venue? What could be better? I thought.

At 5:33 p.m. (Thursday), though, Wolf+Lamb posted the following on the event page on Resident Advisor, an online magazine dedicated to all things electronic music: “THE EVENT HAS MOVED TO THE LEGENDARY CHURCHILL’S PUB > The Electric Pickle has been closed for the night. Doors open at midnight and the event will now go until 10am! Address is 5501 NE 2nd Ave.”

And that was it. No information about what had happened to the Pickle, no information about who was playing at what time, nothing. But we went anyway, naïvely hoping that the venue change would not affect the party.

Unfortunately, Crew Love was tainted by a number of problems, all of which cut deep into the flow of the event. Power failures during Navid Izadi’s set, long delays in setting up the inside stage—these and other issues made it tough to enjoy the party, and by 4:30 a.m, exhausted and irritated by having to wait so long to see the artists we had come to see, my siblings and I walked out of Churchill’s and drove home.

It was simply too much. I’d been to the Dirtybird BBQ at Villa 221 from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and it was getting hard to stay energized. The technical difficulties were preventing me from getting into a groove, and I was left unhypnotized to focus on my headache and sore knees.

That was only one night, though, and I wasn’t going to let one shitty event ruin the rest of my WMC. So, after resting on Friday and early Saturday, I picked myself up and drove to South Beach for another party at the Delano Beach Hotel. I wanted to see Goldfish, a South African duo who specialize in a swingy, jazzy, melody-oriented type of electronica complete with live sax and bass. Tickets were listed at $50 online and I told myself it was worth it, since there were several other artists scheduled to go on after them. At the door, however, tickets were being sold at $100, and there was no way I was going to pay that much, especially not with the bouncer’s pretentious little “you’re not dressed with expensive enough clothes for this” attitude.

So I went home, disappointed but with a full wallet, eager to find out what else was going on that night. After doing some research and talking to some friends, I caught a ride to Downtown Miami for the Windish Agency’s WMC Party at Grand Central. Breakbot, Four Tet and Poolside were playing amongst other DJs and the venue was close enough to Bayfront Park so that my friends could meet me after they got out of Ultra Music Festival. Luckily, everything went well this time. Except maybe that the sets were too short. And that I had to take a $53 cab ride home from Downtown Miami.

Disappointing though my experience may have been, I understand it as a result of a series of circumstances I had previously not considered. The first of these, the fact that I spent much more money than I wanted to (even though I also could’ve spent much more), is due to the fact that WMC is not what it was 28 years ago. EDM has exploded into the mainstream, and with two weekends of Ultra Music Festival, Miami was full of kids trying to party. This brought prices up dramatically, from the $10 beers at the venues to the $100, $80, $75 ticket prices for some of the big parties. Secondly, after doing a bit of research, I found out that venue changes were happening because the city (meaning the police and fire department) was cracking down on a lot of the venues after a fallen screen seriously injured some of the stage hands while they were setting up for the first weekend of Ultra. Turns out, it wasn’t only the Pickle that was shut down, and indeed, many parties were being moved because of legal issues.

As a Music Industry major, I get it. Shit happens. You gotta deal with it.

Whatever the case may be, the weekend taught me some very important lessons.

1) I don’t have it in me to party all day and all night. 2) Electronic music gets a little saturating after a while. 3) Though Ultra may be responsible for mainstreaming WMC, maybe I should’ve gone. My close friends described it as both “the big-mac of parties” and “drug-induced, fun-as-hell mayhem.” 4) Music-business things are done totally different in the world of electronic music. 5) Partying is expensive. 6) Partying in Miami is very expensive. 7) People do a lot of drugs. 8) People do a lot of drugs. 9) People do a lot of drugs. 10) Finally, only go to Miami during WMC and Ultra if you’re prepared to either: a) do a lot of drugs, b) party all day and all night, c) spend a lot of money or d) all of the above.


Reach Contributor Daniel Rais here.



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