MIAMI is IBIZA for grown-ups.
Take the flight over, for example. On every trip to Florida this weekend, scores of industry characters swig white wine and suck on cigarettes for as long as is physically possible. Until, that is, an irate captain tells them to stop smoking in the toilets. Most flights ran out of alcohol hours ago. Never let it be said that we Brits don’t know how to party.
The Miami Winter Music Conference has begun, a chance for the US to see the best of Brit dance music talent, and fo us Brits to see the best of theirs. It’s also where dancefloor trends for the year to come are set. Only we’ve not even stepped foot in a venue or seen even the spin of a turntable yet. Nevertheless, when we touch down near Ocean Drive, many are decidedly worse for wear. Boys’ Own founder Terry Farley is more raucous than Mos Def while Back to Basics‘ eager beaver Dave Beer is jumping round the terminal like a man possessed.
Not that it starts well.Saturday March 25th’s Ultra 2000’s South Beach party promises much but ultimately delivers little. Paul Van Dyk, Lee Burridge, Sasha and Craig Richards are all due to play here – but there’s a saying that fits this place perfectly. If it can go wrong, it will. DJ slots are pulled all day, artists sulk over hastily shortened sets and tempers flare in the sweltering sun.
Nu-skool breakbeaters Hybrid fire sleek, searing missiles into the crowd but suffer from a poor sound system. Worse still, local DJ George Acosta gets impatient during their encore and starts playing mid-finale! Mike Hybrid does his best to avert an on-stage stampede – but only just manages it.
Still, the sights alone are worth the price of entry.Twenty-something Gatecrasher wannabes melt under pink velcro, sultry beach girls wander round in little more than pink thongs and the Brit contingent wither under their pink-tinged noses. Colourful isn’t the word. We slip into the house tent and watch red-faced ravers groove at five in the afternoon.Think Glastonbury without the mud, sweat or tears. No-one in Miami looks anything less than immaculate. Even the teenagers have six packs.
Come sundown, the party has moved to another venue. At Liquid on Washington Avenue, Deep Dish are playing deep, dark techno and bruising tech-house to a new breed of clubber. Intense Anglophiles hang in every corner, the club a new shrine to Renaissance in Nottingham. Bedrock’s John Digweed pops by to check out the friendly competition and 2,000 ravers groove to ‘True’ by Morel, another sure-fire hit from the duo’s Yoshitoshi label.
Everyone from Plastikman Richie Hawtin to London’s Layo & Bushwacka step inside to see the light.
But generally, the emphasis in Miami seems to be on dark, dark grooves, metallic house with fewer frills. Ali and Sharam know this too. Liquid is a murky, grey swamp of funk. By the end of the year, they may be as big as Sasha, who’s currently helping Madonna out with her new album. Stranger things have happened…
The following day, Sunday 26th March, starts with a different flavour. “That’s my husband up there!” yells a slightly hyperactive former Radio One DJ Zoe Ball to someone who looks like a typical Florida-style jock. I know,” comes the London-based DJ’s reply. “You’re smaller than you look on the radio!”
Miami 2000 is teeming with Brits. They’re on the beach, they’re in the bars and they’re certainly in the clubs. And this year’s Astralwerks Party is no exception. It’s midnight on Sunday and Ms Ball’s husband Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, is slipping Southern Fried funk into dark, choppy acid electro at The Level. Cheese is no longer on the menu, it seems.
He certainly looks like he’s having a, um, ball. With a cigarette in one hand and the next slate in the other, Norm’s almost as excitable as his podium-bound wife. Little wonder, perhaps, when you’re an MTV-slaying superstar with more US sales than the rest of his peers put together. Like chill-out merchants Groove Armada, the elegant duo waiting in the wings, we came to praise him. Like we should, naturally. And the crowd at The Level would surely agree.
Unlike Norman, Basement Jaxx have promised a slew of fresh slates for the tune-hungry punters. Moving closer to their American contemporaries like Junior and Roger Sanchez, Felix and Simon drop booming ragga and Subliminal-style garage, a glorious testament to the power of house. A twitchy cut up of ‘Jump and Shout’ sends us flying while ‘Bingo Bango’ causes a massive outbreak of grins. Even the Americans are impressed. Wherever you look, arms are aloft. The Jaxx’ attack on the US has started.
Down at The Shadow Lounge, meanwhile, Sasha is spinning pulsating progressive house to an ever-growing legion of Global Underground fans. Backed up by John Digweed and Jimmy Van M, this sleazy sweatbox is well-suited to the mind-crunching sounds. The event is a total lock-out. The rumours are true, then: that British invasion has just begun.