Thirty-one years ago Florida saw delegates representing the dance and electronic music industry come together for the first Winter Music Conference (WMC), a conference that has since grown to a concentration of more than 400 events, parties, seminars and workshops. In 1999 Ultra Music Festival began as a one-day festival, expanding since to a sold-out weekend with over 150,000 in attendance. Then, in 2011 the electronic music industry saw the foundation of Miami Music Week (MMW), a collection of music events that now includes Ultra and, while it used to coincide with WMC, this year split up from the conference and took place the week before.
When things first started concentration was on pool parties in South Beach during the day and events at a selection of clubs, of which only a handful were in Downtown Miami, at night. There is no doubt that in its second decade of operation, Club Space remains one of the quintessential venues to attend whenever making the trek to Miami for the week. It regularly hosts marathon parties and sets that go deep into the next day’s afternoon and this year it was no different.
On Wednesday night the Club’s Terrace played host to an selection of artists the likes of Shaded, Carlo Lio, Pan-Pot, Kölsch, Gardens of God and Agoria before a grand finale that saw Dubfire go back-to-back with Chris Liebing beginning at 7am and ending at some point in the middle of the afternoon. The atmosphere was electric to say the least, with people making the short trip between the Terrace and the Main Room, which hosted a high-caliber list of Incorrect Music artists such as UMEK, Anthony Attalla, Uner, Prok & Fitch and Supernova. A large contingent remained as downstairs closed to witness the first of the many sunrise-into-the-afternoon performances of the week. Carlo Lio and Pan-Pot set the stage on the Terrace perfectly, playing heavy sounds with minimal to no vocals – setting a welcome and dark opening atmosphere for the closing set to follow. When I left the club at some point in the middle of the morning, the SCI-TEC and CLR bosses were still going at it with a large army of techno fans still on the dance floor.
I was to make my way to the Terrace once more the following night for a Marco Carola marathon that followed sets by Leon and French trio Apollonia. Shonky, Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom know how to work a room, carefully selecting percussion-drive tracks and groovy gems with signature effortlessness. They commandeered the majority of the crowd who didn’t seem to be saving their energy for Carola, but instead danced away for several hours to their infectious performance. They have been playing Carola’s label parties for a while now and it’s no secret why, they are a perfect fit for his ideology and focus on quality of music above all else. While the Italian Music On maestro is no stranger to long sets on the Terrace, he usually performs alongside Loco Dice as “LoCarola” during Miami Music Week so it was a welcome change to see him play solo and for an extended period of time. As usual his funky brand of techno was exactly what the crowd needed, with hundreds arriving past sunrise to see him perform until around 4pm in the afternoon. Shazaming or attempting to ID tracks is near impossible with Carola in control, especially so considering his pride as a track selector. Both him and Apollonia both played that weekend as guests at Carl Cox & Friends’ Ultra stage, while Carola also closed out his label winter residency alongside Paco Osuna on Saturday night with set at Story Miami in South Beach. Check out a small clip of Apollonia at Space below:
Do Not Sit By The Ocean is the perfect example of this winning formula. Held across the span of 12 hours, this day party took place at The Deck at Island Gardens, a super yacht marina with a deck overlooking the most exquisite view of Miami’s skyline. The vibes were thick, with an entire entourage of music professionals listed to play against one of the most beautiful backdrops we have seen for a Miami party. Huge sailboats, mega yachts, palm trees, the ocean and the sun setting over the entire city as music from Lee Burridge, Alex Niggemann, YokoO, Hoj, atish and others poured out of the sound system. The entire event was captured by Be-At TV and can be viewed below.
This year Anjunadeep held their party at Cafeina Wynwood, with Jamie Jones‘ Paradise returning to Mana Wynwood for a party lineup that featured such top names as Steve Lawler, Bob Moses, Stacey Pullen, Skream and The Martinez Brothers. Elrow used the same venue for its signature crazy celebration, while Disclosure, Eric Prydz and Luciano all opted for Wynwood’s MAPS Backlot outside space to throw their parties this past week.
Most notably, however, it was Get Lost Miami that kept setting the trend. Celebrating 11 consecutive years, the Crosstown Rebels-run party has been bringing thousands of party goers to Downtown and Midtown Miami spaces for the last several years. For this edition, they made the bold move of relocating to Little River Studios, a brand-new site in the city’s neighborhood of Little Haiti. I say bold because it was announced only two days early and is probably the furthest any party during MMW/WMC has ever gone. But it worked, and it cemented Get Lost Miami has the must-attend party of the entire week.
Truthfully, simply calling Get Lost a party is a little disservice to the tremendous work Damian Lazaruz and company put behind the event. It runs for 24 hours straight, beginning at 5am and ending at 5am of the following day with no interruptions. Four stages run simultaneously for almost the entirety of that time, with a lineup that this year listed over 50 acts. Forgive me if I begin to refer to Get Lost as a one-day festival, for it truly feels like one. Curated to its smallest of details, it delivered and it delivered well despite some expected small first problems at its new home. Each of the four stages provided an entirely different experience both musically and visually, specifically curated to allow attendees to wonder and live the entire 24 hours of the party without ever feeling like it was repeating itself.
The main Keys stage sat nestled beside a large tree, its branches nestled above the wide dance floor overlooking a set of small wooden homes. Inspired by the Florida Keys, the spectacle included white sand, beach chairs, lifeguard posts and more, all part of the illusion created to transport music fans to a new temporary world. Ornaments, decorations and make-shift sign posts all added to the magic, with Serge Devant first and Felix da Housecat later providing the afternoon music that welcomed the hundreds in attendance to the magical sunrise above them. Felix in particular had one of the best sets I witnessed the entire week, blending both the soulful and jacking elements of the very same Chicago house that has launched his illustrious career. One of the most signature moments of Get Lost came toward the end of his set, as Seth Troxler was readying to take over. With Jamie Principle on vocals he performed a tribute to the late Frankie Knuckles and the legacy of house he gave the world – everyone’s hands were in the air as they danced and paid homage to the music that united them.
The smallest of the two indoor areas, the Studio, reminded me of an artist loft. Dark, yet bright, thanks to its curved white walls and partially white floors, it delivered as an intimate stage with powerful sound. BLOND:ISH in particular were phenomenal, their set fusing fast-paced house, tribal elements and repeated percussion to perfection. Visionquest later did what they do best with a selection of well-picked high-octane house tracks that composed a seamlessly curated performance that strayed away from the dreamy deep house played later by the likes of Red Axes, Bedouin and DJ Three. Red Axes in particular had one of the stand-out sets of the week, managing to captivate the tens of people who decided to choose the duo over bigger acts playing elsewhere. The change of pace was simple yet acted as needed balance in the eclectic roster that formed Get Lost’s deep lineup.
Next door, The Nest stage provided the closest thing to a dark warehouse setting. Filled with smoke and armed with colorful lasers, it was practically impossible to see the DJs performing unless you were stationed right in front of them. Strangely it was fairly empty for Pete Tong earlier in the day but hundreds filled the room for Cassy and DJ Sneak’s tandem performance in the late afternoon. It was powerful and it made people dance, as you would expect from both the seasoned vets. Fur Coat later on drew one of the biggest crowds to the stage with the type of performance that saw them clinch a recent debut on BBC Radio One’s Essential Mix.
Needless to say Detroit’s Carl Craig and Damian Lazarus drew some of the biggest crowds of the evening. Sandwiched between Seth Troxler and the party’s boss, Craig kept things interesting by straying away from the Detroit Techno sound at times, beginning his set with the intro/theme song of 2001 A Space Odyssey and incorporating “You’ve Got The Love” by Florence And The Machine into his set. The wizard closed off the main Keys stage with a set that went past his allotted time, perhaps just a way to let everyone know who was in command, filled with tribal tracks, cosmic tunes and the sort of atmosphere only he can create best. As his set ended so did the music at that stage, leaving the hundreds present with no choice but to spill into the three smaller stage that were scheduled to play music until closing. An unmissable live set by KiNK led the way for Thugfucker and a special back-to-back performance by Gorgon City and Kidnap Kid at the Santorini stage while Rumors boss Guy Gerber first and Skream later were entrusted with closing duties at the Nest.
During the week I attended other parties. A beautiful sunset cruise with Kölsch and Anthony Attalla organized by Paradigm Presents and Vested out of Chicago, the always special Crew Love reunion at the Electric Pickle and a super-packed Yoshitoshi showcase on the Patio top floor of Heart Nightclub. Notice the trend? Not once in an entire week did I cross the Causeway to step foot on South Beach and with the exception of a one-hour lunch last year, this is now the second year in a row where I failed to attend any parties or industry events away from Downtown Miami. Plenty of industry friends informed me of half-empty pool parties, separate events that joined forces last minute due to lack of ticket sales and other indicators that pointed to what seems to be a changing of trends with MMW/WMC and essentially the landscape of the electronic dance music industry. As I was in the middle of penning this piece, Beatport released an article entitled “A Very Honest Chat About Miami Music Week on Slack” that touched on these exact same observations and what appears to be a shift within the way this iconic week is organized and takes place. The evidence is there for all to see and there is absolutely no denying that Miami Music Week as we used to know it is no longer. But why?
On one side of the argument, the split and rivalry between MMW and WMC has undoubtedly caused a shift in how the week in Miami is perceived in the first place. Let’s not forget that this started as a convention to bring industry professionals together through a series of panels, discussions and events aiming to serve as an essential platform for electronic music to grow in the years to follow. It also served as the opportunity to give new talent the needed stepping stone into a scene that is hard to break into, for up-and-coming artists to be noticed in what can otherwise sometimes be a dog-eat-dog scene. It appears that the split between MMW and WMC has essentially watered down the purpose and importance of this yearly trip to Miami, with parties focusing on making money with big line-ups of already-established acts and DJs playing up to 7-9 parties in a matter of days. What used to be one of the key electronic music conferences of the entire global industry is now being overshadowed by the mere selection of all-too-similar parties that form it (150+ MMW parties this year), and by the expanding nature of other important industry gatherings and conventions such as ADE, Decibel, The BPM Festival, SXSW (the same week as MMW this year), etc. How about the fact that SXMusic Festival debuted in St. Martin a mere week before MMW with a selection of top-tier artists across the space of 5 days? At which point does cost for those faithful to MMW/WMC become a real issue with the increasing saturation of events that are filling up electronic dance music fan’s calendars on any given year?
Clearly, however, not all was gloomy on the MMW front. Space was packed as usual, popular sunset cruises (Sasha, Stereo Productions and tINI & The Gang are just some examples) sold out and Get Lost cemented itself as the must-attend party of the week with a bustling crowd that kept the party going for a day straight. And to be honest, reports coming from some of the most popular pool parties such as All Gone Pete Tong do mention great crowds. But the shift is as visible as it is inevitable if nothing is done to change things. Not only were there less people in Miami during the week but the focus moved from the pool parties and South Beach clubs to the venues in Downtown that remained opened deep into the next day’s afternoon or, like with Paradise and Get Lost, events that offered immensely stacked line-ups, as well as new and bigger experiences for the right price.
It’s sad to say, but it may be impossible for MMW and WMC to team up again with the purpose of revamping and reinvigorating what seems to be a dying industry must-attend week. There were plenty of parties to choose from the entire week but if one thing is for sure, it’s that Get Lost alone might represent the future of MMW in the years moving forward. Cookie-cutter club nights and pool parties will always remain fun, but if Miami wants to regain the large slice of industry attendance it seems to have lost in recent years, it will need to look at those events that bring something fresh to table as an indicator of what works and what will keep on working in future years. Creativity, giving space to fresh talent and offering something no one else can have made Damian Lazarus’ series of parties (Get Lost and Day Zero) stand-alone events of their own regardless of the plethora of other functions happening around them. While the Terrace at Space will always be packed for Marco Carola’s never-ending sets, the same cannot be said for the tens of other events that don’t work to reinvent themselves when they need to.
It may be wishful thinking at this point, but here is to hoping that Miami learns something from 2016. It’s hard to imagine the world of electronic music without MMW/WMC and I am thankful that Get Lost and other leading promoters continue to strive on imagination and change to keep the week alive. Here is to hoping that in 2017 and beyond other promoters can do the same, or, and this may be stretching it, the powers behind the conflicting MMW and WMC can find a way to bring back the spirit of Miami in March as we used to know it. But for that, a little helping hand for Ultra may be needed.