For music lovers, Winter Music Conference is like Christmas in Miami. Sure, the Magic City is known as a frequent stop for big name acts throughout the year—but during this one sacred week in March, we get all of them, all at once, all week long. For locals and tourists alike, navigating the oversaturated party scene is something that takes months of careful planning. Our problem isn’t deciding what to attend, it’s figuring out how to cram as many events as we physically can into every precious hour. And then there are those spontaneous word-of-mouth invites to super-secret pop-up parties that threaten to upend your painstakingly-crafted schedule on a moment’s notice. So this Miami Music Week, in addition to the headlining Top DJ performances at mega clubs like Mansion and Story, we decided to explore the more local, underground side of WMC. Here are five of our favorite moments:
Shall Ocin’s set at Trade – Friday, March 27, 2015
We may have gone to Trade to see Maceo Plex, the headliner and star of last Friday’s Ellum showcase, but it was Argentinian artist Shall Ocin (above) who really stole the show. Slated as the opening act of the night, and the warm up to Danny Daze and the label mogul himself, Ocin had the always-fun challenge of prepping a room that usually doesn’t begin to fill up until 3:00 a.m. It proved an easy feat for the young artist, who’s deep and melodic brand of techno had Trade’s main upstairs room packed shoulder-to-shoulder before the early birds had a chance to order a second round of drinks. Soulful and rhythmic, Ocin’s set told a story that was so dark and achingly beautiful we found ourselves hardly caring if Daze or Maceo ever came on.
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Essential Showcase at Maps Backlot, Wynwood – Saturday, March 28, 2015
We were searching for the Anjunadeep showcase at Cafeina on Saturday and happened to wander into Maps Backlot quite by accident. It was possibly the best mistake we made all week. Large and spacious, the open air venue provided the perfect setting to enjoy a show on a breezy spring night in Miami. When we walked in, Oakland-born DJ Mes was spinning chic, W Hotel style beats from behind a massive, LED-covered DJ booth to a sparse yet steadily growing assortment of what seemed like industry types and locals. Just as the sun set, Los Angeles native and house legend Marques Wyatt (above) took us back to the days of fabled parties such as BBC, Does Your Mama Know and MAC’s Garage. His thrumming, disco-inspired house sounds were not lost on a crowd that actually remembered the house scene of the ‘90s and early 2000’s. For any well-versed music fan, it was a refreshing change of pace from the week’s more mainstream parties and younger, neon-clad festival-goers. Other notable artists on the talent roster included the Boston-based Miami favorites, Soul Clap, and Chicago-born house heavyweight Mark Farina.
SHADED and Reelow at SHOTS Miami, Wynwood – Thursday, March 26, 2015
SHOTS Miami is one of those venues that has a lot of potential once it’s armed with a good headlining DJ and a crowd that’s ready to move, according to Emma Chambers, publicist (and girlfriend) of rising SCI+TEC star, SHADED (above). We couldn’t agree more—in the daylight, the space looks like little more than a sketchy and derelict warehouse surrounded by equally sketchy and derelict warehouses. At night, though, with a DJ like SHADED behind the decks, it transforms into an underground party oasis where literally every inch of flooring is fair game for dancing. The California surfer-turned-techno producer kept revelers stepping in complicated, erratic patterns with a steady stream of his signature dark and space-y alien techno at this free (yes free) party. Laugh if you will at the desciption, but it’s the only way to accurately convey the essence of the forward-thinking sound that has made Skyler Taugher one of the most respected and watched talents in Dubfire’s SCI+TEC family.
Get Physical and MOODNight at Trade – Saturday, March 28
Just one visit to Trade is usually enough to convince even the most snooty of music snobs that there is no such thing as a bad show by the guys from LINK Miami Rebels. And when it comes to special events such as Art Basel and Conference, there is no such thing as a show that’s less than phenomenal. Their Saturday party combined two showcases into one night. Those lucky enough to score press passes got to enjoy the best of both worlds: upstairs, Nicole Moudaber played several hours of hard, booming big room techno, keeping all the focus on the power of the bassline. Given the power of Trade’s sound system, earplugs were definitely a must. In the intimate downstairs space, Bob Moses played a live set, combining DJing and a live guitar. Maya Jane Coles also got partygoers moving with a set that alternated from tech house to techno with some breaks thrown in for good measure.
Electronique Showcase at The Social Lubricant- Wednesday, March 25
A prettier, more intimate version of SHOTS Miami, TSL is a gorgeous half-hidden outdoor oasis that gives the impression of a crumbling ruin slowly being overtaken by lush vegetation. Colorful graffiti work covers nearly every inch of wall space, and guests of all ages, social groups and economic backgrounds can be found interacting as they smoke hookah from any of the venue’s long white leather couches. Last Wednesday, Berlin-based techno label Electronique took over the venue for a 15-hour party that began at 3 p.m. and ended sometime around 5 a.m. the next day. Their air was full of friendly good vibrations as artists such as Reboot, Yaya, Fosky, Christian Nielsen, Nitin, Perry and label manager Si Heslin served up deep, driving European big room techno to a locals-only crowd. Meanwhile, a team of chefs served up complimentary chicken kabobs to anyone who needed a fuel-up to continue dancing. Need we say more?
SCI+TEC label showcase at Basement Miami – Wednesday, March 25
Owned by Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager, Basement Miami is every inner child’s paradise. However, the bowling alley and ice skating rink seemed insignificant when Dubfire himself pulled us into his table to share slushy drinks, sake bombs and alcohol-infused candy with him and the SCI+TEC family. Featuring SCI+TEC’s best and brightest, the evening’s music was a fantastic departure into a dark and futuristic techno underworld, but we still can’t get over taking a selfie (above) with the label boss himself.