Every year, it’s a familiar routine for electronic music aficionados in South Florida: every DJ, producer and record label worth its name descends en masse into Miami towards the end of March, to gather, mingle, network, and most importantly-party.
And it’s not just the creators. The fans, the consumers who fanatically devour every beat, also make the yearly pilgrimage to Miami to hear their favorite artists perform at the finest venues the city has to offer. Of course, the week in question is Winter Music Conference.
WMC started in the mid-80s as a purely professional gathering for those in the electronic music industry. Over time, it grew into the perennial party week not just for Miami, but also for the electronic community at large, which is flourishing in Europe and Latin America while struggling to take hold in the United States.
One partier eager to share his love for the conference is Toby Haley, 26, who flew in from Toronto to enjoy the festivities. “It’s the party. I really enjoy the simplicity of it,” Haley said. “The DJs are the partygoers themselves.” Haley started off his festivities with sets by progressive pioneer John Digweed and Canadian duo MSTRKRFT (pronounced “mastercraft”) at Pawn Shop, before hitting up club after club before finally descending on Ultra Music Festival over the weekend.
“The thing about WMC is that there are nine different parties that week that you want to hit up,” he says, noting there were a couple of venues and parties he wouldn’t be able to attend. “Every DJ and their mom is playing this week,” he adds.
Dennis Lang, 23, is drawn to the community that revolves around dance music, one that evokes a heightened sense of unity. “There’s a whole subculture that’s fascinating,” Lang said.
“This is music that makes you want to get up and move, instead of sitting in your room and being depressed,” Lang said. “It’s music with a message. It’s not words, but it’s there.”
WMC is just as significant to those who make the music. Steve Porter, a Massachusetts DJ who promotes his own, distinct mixing style (“Porterhouse”), calls WMC “the dance music’s New Year.” Porter, like other DJs, uses WMC as an opportunity to launch their new work. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase your work,” he says. “It’s the one time of the year in electronic music where you put all your effort and all your focus on.”
Ultra: the ultimate party
It’s not until Ultra, however, WMC’s official closing event, that the party reaches its climax. This year, Ultra delved into new territory by extending the event over two days, Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th of March.
The party, now in its ninth year, seems to get a life of its own at sundown, as the big names start spinning records, entranced fans start waving glowsticks and speaker after huge speaker booms in conjunction with lasers, spotlights and screens flashing images and video.
In addition to the stages, there were several booths set up in the middle of the park.
Aidan Fisher, 21, is a British exchange student and a sophomore at UM, described the festival as amazing. “Ultra was the pinching thing that made me choose Miami,” he says, adding it met all his expectations. Javier Romero, 21, is visiting Fisher in Miami. “Unreal,” he said. “Much better than anything like that in the UK, such good atmosphere.”
Nicole Garcia, a junior, also loves Ultra. “It’s my favorite time of the year in Miami,” she said. “Everyone is incredibly friendly, it’s a great vibe.”
While the first day’s lineup doesn’t nearly approach the second day’s, it still had enough big names and loud systems to get the party started. Deep Dish, Shiny Toy Guns, Junkie XL, Sander Kleinenberg and Ti