Call it a huge South Beach business lunch– Winter Music Conference style. That was the scene on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Moonshine Music’s Beach Barbecue at The National Hotel Beach Bar. With several prominent heavy hitters in the electronic dance music industry wandering about, it was the perfect opportunity for an ambitious disc jockey to shake a few hands and chat business in between hamburger bites.
“It’s all about a friend meeting your circle of friends, people who might be advantageous to him and might help him out,” said Miami resident Omar Hernandez, who was on location filming for an upcoming Miami-based television show called Bump. Electronic dance music is at the heart of Bump. “You see Joe Schmoe the producer talking to the vice president of promotions for Virgin records.”
While some used the relaxed barbecue setting to their foot in the door, the majority of visiting partygoers arrived for the event’s cocktails, tasteful food and roster of live music. Given the reputable dance music scene in Miami, it wasn’t a surprise that people on Moonshine’s guest list were from various nooks and crannies all over the globe. This city has always been willing to accept progressive music like electronica with open arms, making the WMC the perfect place for labels to arrange meetings, throw legendary bashes or do a varying mixture of both.
“There’s just something about the humidity in the air, the sheer amount of alcohol that flows, the women in bikinis,” said Los Angeles resident Bradley Burlingame, also known as DJ Medi4. “Miami is an East Coast version of Vegas.” “This is where the all of the buzz happens for electronic dance music,” he added.
Moonshine Music, an American independent dance label, had scheduled for a talented line up of artists to pump out beats into the night, including Gus Gus, Tall Paul, Dave Aude and DJ Feelgood. However, a consistently strong breeze was just enough to send a turntable’s needle into an involuntary frenzy and hamper the performances.
Unwilling to call it a night, Herb Legowitz from Gus Gus took to the tables, spinning countless house mixes from his personal collection. He went on to play compact disc after compact disc for almost three hours, making sure that the crowd has something to dance to. By the time nightfall arrived and the winds subsided, the crowd was blissfully content with the music. No one seemed to notice that the other world-renowned artists didn’t play, possibly because they had been taking advantage of the cocktail bar since 3 p.m.
Things broke out into a full-scale dance party when Legowitz joined up with fellow Gus Gus members Stefan Arni and Urdur to spin tracks from their upcoming Moonshine release Attention. Although the songs were met with great enthusiasm from the crowd, it was didn’t match the wilder reception that Gus Gus is used to in Europe, especially in their native town of Reykjavik, Iceland.
The group took off in 1992, drawing off the energy and talent of one of the biggest bands to ever come out of Iceland, The Sugarcubes. Instead of following The Sugarcubes down the punk rock path, Gus Gus became engrossed with trance and house mixes and gained notoriety in the Britain with their 1997 release Polydistortion on Warner Brothers. It was the group’s only album released under a mainstream label before they found a more suitable home at Moonshine.
“One of the reasons why major record labels haven’t been able to properly market dance music in the United States is because it is still considered a fringe culture here,” commented Burlingame. “In the UK, dance music is the culture. It’s embraced by radio, television…everyone. America is still 10 years behind the UK in terms of dance culture.”
Moonshine is one of the rare electronica labels that succeeds in gathering talent from overseas, and then feeding it to Americans starved for a solid diet of new dance music. So, while some people might speculate over Gus Gus’ decision to switch to an indie label and step away from mainstream America, the move seems all the more comprehensive when observing the label’s track record.
“It’s always difficult to get some kind of focus towards dance music from a major label in America, so Moonshine is a perfect fit,” said Gus Gus member Biggi Thorarinsson.
In the end it may be true that America is not tuned in to the UK frequency of dance music, but judging from the raised glasses and smiling faces mingling about the barbecue, it’s definitely a place that appreciates it when it’s heard.