September 19, 2014

Miami Diary, Pt. 2: Beats, Late Nights & a New Tattoo

Jamie Jones - Performance
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Groovin’: Jamie Jones (right) & Art Department’s Kenny Glasgow.
Credit: Ian Witlen/Red Bull Content Pool
Miami Beach, Fla. It was the most wonderful time of the year: Miami Music Week!

Running concurrently with both the Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival this past week, all the events saw attendees tasked with proverbially sprinting through its marathon of late parties, packed clubs, and great music. Was all the schlepping worth the effort? You bet.

My Week: Arriving early Tuesday, I got a full day’s worth of Winter Music Conference activities at the Convention Center. The exhibition hall’s rapidly rising volume sent me upstairs toward Kaskade’s Q&A session, which managed to paint a fascinating portrait of how an ascent to main-stage DJ superstardom doesn’t have to happen overnight. His story about just how little the crowd sizes increased after the release of his memorable 2003 debut, It’s You, It’s Me, put a lot into perspective for every aspiring artist grinding away out there.

Thursday belonged solely to Jamie Jones and Lee Foss’ Hot Creations, which provided one of the week’s best label offerings. The imprint hosted two parties—a rooftop pool extravaganza and Jamie Jones’ seminal Paradise Miami bash—with over 18 hours of nonstop deep house. Taking place at the exclusive Red Bull Guest House, Greg Pidcock and special guests Art Department threw down the afternoon’s best sets to the sun-drenched pool. It was a day of firsts for me—I’d never been at a party attended by Paris Hilton, nor had I ever left a party with a tattoo.

Red Bull Guest House: Who’s that girl? Credit: Ian Witlen/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Guest House: Who’s that girl?
Credit: Ian Witlen/Red Bull Content Pool

After a quick disco nap, I dragged my newly inked body over to downtown’s Ice Palace for Paradise, which offered beats from 10 p.m. until well after sunrise. The garden stage—boasting Jamie Jones going B2B with both Seth Troxler and Dyed Soundroom—hit capacity almost immediately, leaving the party’s center room as the main attraction. Skream’s tech-house set got the crowd dancing from the onset, and Eats Everything took the whole room to the jungle with banger after banger.

The true highlights came from part-time Hot Natured vocalist Anabel Englund, who delivered a pair of show-stopping performances from atop the mixer during Lee Foss’ sets. Her pitch-perfect rendition of “Reverse Skydiving” and cuts from Pleasure State—her collaborative project with Foss and MK—like “Electricity” and the forthcoming “Ghost In The System” even managed to overshadow her pair of crocheted hot pants.

On Friday, Ultra Music Festival delivered top-notch talent, production, and vibes per usual, with Eric Prydz’s Holo set on the Main Stage standing tall as a staggering example of music, technology, and atmosphere converging to create magic. Gesaffelstein’s performance over on the Live Stage later that night seconded this notion, with his brand of trapped-out techno simultaneously awing and unnerving the entranced crowd.

Saturday provided some of the best of Ultra’s hidden gems. Swedish duo Rebecca & Fiona towered over the booth in mile-high Buffalo boots during their early main stage set, teasing their upcoming album with mashups laying their unmistakable vocals over rousing festival electro. I headed over to the Underground Story stage to catch J.Phlip’s monstrous booty-tech set, which was a bumping mix of Berlin techno and funked-out house. The Live Stage was the spot to be that night, with Euro-techno titans Paul Kalkbrenner and Trentmøller playing to dense, enthralled crowds.

Sunday provided the perfect wrap-up for the week: A return to the Red Bull Guest House pool for Los Angeles party A Club Call Rhonda’s takeover featuring disco, drag queens, and the week’s best weather. It was crushing to miss the DJ set from the legendary Giorgio Moroder that night, but Ultra’s final night beckoned, and I made the trek back to Bayfront Park. The trifecta of John Digweed, Gareth Emery, and Chase & Status was the perfect way to close the festival and still manage to catch a taxi before the raver masses were unleashed downtown.

Tanned, satisfied, and a little battered, I’ve returned from the front lines of dance music to retire my tank tops and sandals until next year’s marathon. I’ll miss the beats, boats, and arepas dearly until then.

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