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  Winter Music Conference 2002

Darbi Aranio & Brett Abramson
Sterling McGarvey
Shannon Petrick
tF (forum archive)
Photos by Darbi Aranio

Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed

[Click on the other staff names, to read their respective reviews. This is Darbi & Brett's WMC 2002 experience.]

Brett & DarbiAh, springtime! And that can only mean one thing: the Winter Music Conference in Miami. The WMC takes place in March in balmy South Florida, which means they should probably rethink the winter moniker. Packed clubs everywhere you turn and 85-degree weather make this weeklong dance music celebration and schmooze-fest far from frigid. The one thing you've got to realize when heading down to Miami is that you can't do it all. There are far too many parties, panels and poolside events to keep track of. But that didn't stop us from trying to see it all.

Brett finds Atlanta/Lunar people at Nikki Beach 7:30am
—We were so excited to get to Miami that we stupidly booked our flight to leave at 7:30 A.M. on Friday, March 22. Waking up at 4 in the morning met by 30-degree weather outside was not a good feeling! We knew that good things were to come, however, and dreamt of palm trees and pounding bass. Luckily, several familiar faces at the terminal met us: Trey Smith, Jonathan Allyn, Amanda, Craig Seymour, Christine and Carrie all represented on the flight down.

1:30pm—So let's move on to the good stuff the parties. Even though we were dead tired upon finally Derrick Carter at Nikki Beach arriving at our room in Miami, the excitement overwhelmed us, and we headed to South Beach for the first installment a free Radio One party at Nikki Beach being held and broadcast over in England. Pete Tong was on the mic as soon as we entered, laying down the Essential Velveeta tracks, and, of course, not mixing any of it. He also was playing these inaudible, prerecorded phone interviews in between songs. After settling into our new tropical surroundings, Derrick Crowd at Nikki Beach during RadioOne Carter stepped up to the decks to lay down a slammin' thirty minute mini-mix. Next up was DJ Dan. As he prepared to drop his first tune, Chris Lum's "Bigger Tool," Pete Tong introduced Dan as "one of the few U.S. DJs that matters." We all looked at each other dumbfounded and asking, "Did he really just say that?" Not that our opinion of Pete was that high to begin with, but this made him a downright snake. But it's easy to forget such nonsense when you are in clubber's paradise. After Dan's hard house set, one of the members of X-Press II played a DJ set, highlighted by their very own "Smoke Machine." We left about 4:30 P.M. as Danny Rampling came on, so we could start preparing for our first night out in Miami.

Lee Burridge at BillBoard Live 8:51pm—After a quick catnap, we were back to South Beach to party hop. We started at Lola, where John Digweed was having an industry party. Jimmy Van Malleghem was playing some chilled out tunes and the shmoozing was in full effect, including a surprise meeting with Nick Muir, Digweed's Bedrock partner. But we weren't feeling it, and moved on to Billboard Live for the Balance Party. This venue was incredible, with three different levels of DJs, extravagant waterfalls and wild lights. An unparalleled lineup had you running around, trying to decide whom to hear next. John Graham, aka Quivver, was on the mezzanine balcony as we arrived. Many Atlanta peeps were in attendance, including Darryl & Brad of Redshift, Scott and Gene of Darkdriver, Eddie, Gabe and Lily of Lunar Magazine, Dave Elliot, Chris Coleman, and Carrie. As we headed downstairs to the main room, Steve Lawler instantly caught our attention. This was the set of the night and one of the highlights of the conference, as he tore the place apart. This was the best set we've ever heard from him, as Lawler showed a progression in his sound. Still on the tribal tip, but this time with nasty bass lines and hard, techy house sounds abounding. Anthony Pappa, Parks & Wilson and Lee Burridge played in the upper two levels, but this was Steve Lawler's night to shine. No one else could compare to the energy he was feeding, and we went back to the room after a great day of music.

—Saturday was another epic day that began with the most attended and publicized Paul Oakenfold backstage event of the week, the Ultra Festival. At 3 PM, the deluge of dance music began from the several different tents set up. At the Progressive Arena, we ran into a rawkus crew of Parks & Wilson, John Graham, Steve Lawler, Dave Ralph, Max Graham and others, several of who jumped on a tiny golf cart and nearly tipped it over. At the shmooze-fest, otherwise known as the Brett & Deepsky at Ultra4 backstage area, we encountered heavy hitters such as Oakenfold, BT, Perry Farrell, DJ Craze, Deepsky, Prophecy, Goldie and George Acosta. The Main Stage was filling up quickly and turned into a sea of several thousand ravers, who were surprisingly up for the eclectic lineup that flowed from techno to drum and bass to trance. After attending past Florida freak shows such as Zen and Usuaya, we were prepared for the worst, but were pleased to see a crowd that seemed like they came to dance and have a blast, not just lie on the ground.

4:37pm—Back at the Progressive Arena, we finally had the chance to get some interviews under the belt with Steve Lawler and John Graham. Lawler was first, and told us that he doesn't take the Winter Music Conference too seriously.

Brett & Steve Lawler backstage Steve Lawler: It's just about meeting people you haven't seen for ages and making new contacts. It's more about friendships.

[He] also gave a heads up on his highly anticipated new Global Underground series.

Steve Lawler: It's a three CD set. The first two are what I do at a club, and the third CD is called After Dark, and it's more about what I would do at someone's house party, or if I am playing for eight hours somewhere. It's what I would play as the sun is coming up. I'm just going to do one a year. That's it

Goldie backstage In terms of touring, Lawler described the unfortunate set of circumstances that forced him to miss out on many U.S. dates last year, including a night in Atlanta.

Steve Lawler: I was playing at Space in Ibiza, and as I traveled to America, all my records were missing for ten days. It was really depressing because at that point, I didn't even know if they would turn up. So I had to reschedule the whole tour. Then, after what happened on September 11th, I couldn't get a visa. So I had to cancel another tour. I've been pretty unlucky in America lately.

Surely his luck will change as he comes to Atlanta for Liquified and eleven50 on June 7th.

6:21pm—Next up was a chat with the wild man, John Graham, aka Quivver, who played an extended set at Ultra when the next DJ showed up hours late. When asked about his thoughts on Atlanta...

Brett & Quivver backstage John Graham: I used to love Atlanta. I made a lot of friends in Atlanta, but they all moved to L.A. I go there now, and I don't really know anyone.

We can't blame him for his indifference after the depressing turnout for his Halloween show in 2001. [We asked].

Brett & BT at Ultra4 John Graham: It was fucking awful. That was my worst Atlanta experience.

Lunar: So what's in the works for this brilliant producer?

John Graham: "I'm doing an album at the moment that's very different. It's Leftfield meets Depeche Mode. It should be finished by the end of the year.

One can only imagine what this will sound like, but chances are it will be brilliant, judging from Graham's past groundbreaking efforts and willingness to adapt his sound. At this point, the sun had set, Deep Dish was playing on one stage, and Josh Wink was rocking the Final Scratch on another. But it was time to get ready for the next massive event.

Delta Heavy at the Miami Arena 10:40pm—There are two words for Saturday night: Delta Heavy. We had heard lots of hype about Sasha and Digweed's tour, which they had creative control over. The lasers, the visual graphics, decorations, and, of course, the critically acclaimed Phazon sound system, which helped to make Twilo such a successful club, were all in effect. The event took place in the Miami Arena, and there was plenty of space to dance or just kick your feet up on one of the thousands of bleacher seats available. A dark, eerie feeling permeated the space, everywhere from the strange faceless statues of sticklike people, to the tribal graphics that moved with the beat of the music and the sway of the crowd, to the lasers that grew in intensity as the night progressed, to the huge pillowy, bedlike Delta Heavy at the Miami Arena, color lasers VIP area towards the back of the stage. We don't want to give it all away for their upcoming performance in Atlanta, but from the moment we walked in, we knew that this was going to be something different from the norm.

11:52pm—The Phazon system was amazing the best we've ever experienced before. It was loud, but so perfectly tuned with the bass, mids and trebles that even if you were standing right in front of the huge, 20 ft. tall speakers, your ears weren't hurting at all. Jimmy Van Malleghem opened the night, playing that slow tribal sound that he has perfected after opening up for Sasha and Digweed so many times. As John Digweed came on, he stayed with the tribal theme, but picked the energy up a notch. For the rest of the night, Sasha and John went back and forth, entrancing the crowd with some incredibly deep and brilliant tracks. All aspects of the event came together seamlessly. The vibe was different from other parties. Most of the crowd was not dancing too much, but seemed to be in a haunting cross-dimension. We highly recommend attending the event in Atlanta on May 21. It will surely be an unforgettable experience.

Brett djing at Riande Riande pool side noon
—On Sunday, Brett played in the afternoon at a Satellite customer appreciation party at the poolside of Riande Continental Hotel, where Satellite was showcasing DJs from the Boston, New York and Atlanta stores. He spun an hour-long set of deep, tribal tech house for the beautiful Miami peeps in attendance. This was a nice opportunity to relax and have a few drinks after a wild night.

8:50pm—The nighttime brought the Matter/:Form & DJ Times party at Club Goddess, a sexy nightclub that had a real intimate feel and an incredible design. Mirrors lined the walls as you walked in, and then there was an upstairs area where you could view the main room dance floor below somewhat reminiscent of the Warehouse in Atlanta. Mike Bryant from New York was on in the main room as we entered. All we can say is watch out for this guy. He is an incredible up and coming talent. Next up was the infamous Terry Francis, who tore it up with some deep tech house Girl dancing on stage during Terry Francis rhythms. This set was another musical highlight of the conference. Upstairs, "Evil" Eddie Richards was on the decks in a dark but beautiful side room. Later, Mr. C took over from Terry Francis in the main room and played his own energetic brand of tech house. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for Layo and Bushwacka's set later on. Sources say that they ripped the club to shreds.

—Up until this point, we had been looking ahead to Monday's events as the highlight Darbi & Lily at the BBQ of the week. Needless to say, this marathon day did not disappoint. During the day, we chilled out at the aptly titled Rest, Relax and Recovery BBQ presented by Gourmet Recordings and 20/20 Vision. This was an all you can eat and drink event that was a perfect start to a wild night. Lots of people were there hanging out, including Marcos Pieras, Michael Scott and his lovely wife Catherine, who were representing for Soco Audio at this tech house event. Terry Francis, Casey Hogan and "Evil" Eddie Richards were among those chillin' at the patio of the Fairwinds Hotel where the event was held, while DJs such as David Duriez and Fred Everything provided wicked good beats.

9:45pm—As we geared up into party mode once again, we began Monday night at the Red Ant and Hands on Deck party at Bash. Once again, Mike Bryant was displaying his smooth mixing skills and incredible track selection on the open-air terrace. Unfortunately, this event was somewhat of a disappointment overall, as the main room lacked a vibe and missed many of the DJs that were scheduled to play. We waited in anticipation for Lee SoCo at Steam Burridge, but had to move on to other spots on the beach. Next up was Atlanta's own Soco Audio event at Steam. Even though the crowd was not huge, they were vibing on the tech sounds generated by DJs such as Fred Nasen, Pure Science, David Duriez and Azad Rizvi. Props go out to the Soco boys for providing such a great lineup at their first-ever Miami event.

Crown in B.E.D 1:30am—As we entered the next party, Danny Howells at Bed, we knew that the night was building in intensity. The best was yet to come. Danny Howells was rockin' this very small and unique space with straight-up techno tracks. The deep, progressive sound that is usually associated with Howells was nowhere to be found this night. Instead, we were treated to jacking, gritty tracks that wouldn't quit for a second. Even though the décor of this spot is filled with large, comfortable, white beds, no one could think of relaxing with this techno madness. Danny Howells really showed his versatility and reinforced the fact that he belongs in an elite crowd of the world's best jocks. This was a great vibe and a great party that will not be forgotten.

Danny Howeels at B.E.D 5:30am—The only possible event that could upstage Danny happened to be next on the agenda. Nothing can be said that can truly describe Danny Tenaglia's annual extravaganza at Club Space. "Be Yourself," as the night is entitled, can only be explained as an unparalleled three ring circus of music, clubbers and Danny himself in the center ring, playing an unfathomable twenty-hour set! As we arrived around 5:30 A.M., all areas of Club Space were packed to the brim. The vibe was intense, and the music was slammin'. This night, there should have been an MC title in front of Danny Tenaglia's name, as he was talking on the mic the entire time. There were so many big shots in attendance, that as he played each new track, he would point to the producers in the crowd that were partying with everyone else! To try to put the sound Danny played into words is quite difficult. As many others have stated before, it's just Danny's own sound. You can't really call it house, and you can't really call it trance, even though it contains elements of both. It didn't even matter that Danny's mixing was, shall we say, quick, because every track was just so amazing. Highlights were Carl Cox and Christian Smith's "Dirty Bass," Weekend Player's "Into the Sun," and a new mix of Donna Summer's groundbreaking "I Feel Love." But alas, as 9 A.M. rolled around, our bodies could take no more, and we had to leave despite the incredible vibe that just would not quit.

Tuesday was more of a rest and recovery day. To be honest, we were pretty much partied out at this point. But there was one last event to attend: the Satellite Records and Remix Magazine party at Steam. This was a killer progressive lineup that boasted Dave Seaman, John Creamer and Stephane K., Parks and Wilson, Blackwatch, Moshic and Zidan and others. But as was the case with the Soco party held at the same location the previous night, the vibe was somewhat missing. There seemed to be mix-ups with the lineup, and Dave Seaman played the majority of the night while we were there. His set was exactly what we have come to expect from Seaman: tight mixing and good tracks, but nothing mind-blowing.

We must concede that we were not "up for it" on Tuesday. We had accomplished what we came to do: party our asses off, meet some cool people, and leave all worries and responsibilities behind. The last two days were more of a relax and recover time, so that we could get back into the swing of things as we returned to Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon. The 2002 Winter Music Conference proved to be a wonderful time and a big blur of partying. There were no big new tunes of the conference that we noticed, and attendance seemed to be down from previous years. But that did not stop those that were in Miami from doing it up. So to those who weren't able to make it down to South Florida this year, not to worry. Next year will assuredly contain the same madness.

Best of WMC 2002

  1. Incredible music everywhere we went
  2. Surprisingly friendly security at the clubs
  3. Hearing Chris Lum's rockin' track "Bigger Tool"
  4. Lack of ate-ups at the Ultra Festival
  5. Atlanta's representation at events, such as Soco Audio and MJQ

Worst of WMC 2002

  1. Pete Tong's comment about American DJs
  2. People who thought they were cool because they could sing along with the words to "Smoke Machine"
  3. Hearing "Bigger Tool" forty-two times
  4. $7 Bottles of oxygenated water and ridiculously overpriced drinks in general
  5. Low attendance at some of the coolest events

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