WMC 2009: Blog House Grows Up – True Talent Rises to the Top

Posted April 8, 2009 in
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In a city built upon cocaine, its no small wonder the partying is taken very seriously - every event goes all night, slowing only slightly in the mid afternoon for slightly quieter beach parties and pool jams. First of all, Winter Music Conference is a very misleading name for this excursion into debauchery and partimus maximus. There really isn’t any winter to be found, temperatures in the mid-80s, and I don’t think the questionably legal gigs could be classified as a ‘conference’ of any sort. Regardless, whatever WMC is, hundreds of DJs seem to descend upon the retro-luxe South Beach scene every year, littering the streets with glossy fliers, demo CDs, and dance music blasting out of every possible hotel, store, bar, restaurant, and car. It truly is omniscient. I visited a discount shoe store that was blasting some electrohouse so loud a child had to scream at their parents to avoid being left behind. The shoes weren’t even that great.

With such a broad list of guests, WMC finds itself is in the midst of an identity crisis. Identifying with disc jockeys in general is a bit more than anyone can chew - there were plenty of house, electro, drum and bass, dubstep, hipster-club, douche-club, minimal techno, live electronic, and various other subgenre showcases throughout the week, each seemingly with its own audience. For example, I rode on the plane with DJ Shift, a Vegas DJ who frequently plays clubs such as Rehab, LAX, and Pure. It was apparent from our brief plane conversation that our party plans for the week would have absolutely no crossover whatsoever - our only common knowledge was based upon only the best known DJs of the particular genres we carried an interest in. Such a huge breadth of music demands a little bit of predisposition, taste, or planning - a casual fan would likely be left completely baffled by what’s even good.

A single day’s worth of wristbands.

Luckily, having at least somewhat of a predisposition, and a few friends in the know, I was able to navigate myself fairly successfully to the parties of choice - despite finding out I missed an equal number of amazing events. Although difficult to categorize, I’ve always favored new sounds, most recently emerging in the ‘Blog House’ and the electro scene a few years ago. Though the term blog house is as reviled as the word ‘emo’ was a few years ago, what it really encapsulates is the birth of a new group of dance music producers and fans. Just a quick recap: the emergence of powerful professional grade music production software in the past 5 years has created a tsunami of new music and remixes, exploding exclusively through a network of blogs, newsgroups, and message boards to distribute the mp3s - as these remixes (even the most successful ones) never see the pressing plant. Now this is not an entirely new phenomenon - underground DJ networks have existed for as long as DJs have been spinning, as you can only be as good as your catalog, and the best DJs aren’t so willing to share. The problem is the internet makes it a bit too easy to share, quickly and universally (Thanks, Hypemachine). Thus, you have an explosion of interests, new DJs, new fans, and new remixers/producers.

Well, fast forward to WMC 2009. The novelty of electro blog house in itself has all but worn out (although don’t tell some of the DJs still spinning those jams). The new music now combines the cutting edge nature of the blog house roots with a sound that is even more dynamic and polished than the mainstream dance, and you have a more mature and able breed of dance music. These aren’t your traditional douchey club dudes - this is music that is prepared by kids that grew up on punk, indie, and hardcore. For example, I got more interesting comments from wearing a Cattle Decapitation T-shirt than was initially expected from such scenemakers as Steve Aoki (“Wow, I just signed their other band!”) to Patrick Rood (Trouble and Bass), who it turns it was a total hardcore kid.

Philosophically, the new artists are combining the DIY past with unabated technical production knowledge and professional grade mastering.

In my opinion, the reason some of these better known label managers are winning is because of their broad appreciation of music across spectrums, allowing them to quickly identify true gems and call bullshit on re-hacked garbage. Additionally, where the genre of blog house itself leaned towards mainly electro, some mashups, etc., artists today are crossing boundaries and creating (for example) dubstep masterpieces that fit beautifully amongst the electro and French house that formed the scene.

DJ Skeet Skeet threw a little rooftop shindig to kick off WMC in opulent style. The line-up is completely and utterly ridiculous, as you can see by the psychedelic font jamming. I seem to remember everyone playing for like 15 minutes and not everyone playing. Some weird vodka company called Rhythm was giving away this “health food” vodka with vitamins. I though it was some premixed bullshit and drank a full glass. Totally disgusting yet I did feel energized without the need for food. Possible food replacement? Are we talking Jetsons type food at this point that gets you drunk? Maybe.

Anyways, the who’s who of hipster DJ partytimes was a good event, windy rooftops and all. Mega-mainstream DJ dude deadmau5 showed up with his silly head mask and Flufftronix got bumped by some weird old guy who eventually played some ska records. Bummmmmer. Apparently deadmau5 demands “white space” before his set, and also asks someone’s weird uncle in a beige suit to play shitty music before him to make him sound better. Not a good look buddy, not a good look.

Now this partyness was definitely off the proverbial hook. At least I think this is the one that was off the hook. I mean, I saw Drop the Lime about 4 times at WMC, but the party at White Room was complete perfection. Trouble and Bass’s Drop the Lime brings some heavy bass and dubstep jams to the hipster/electro whatever the fuck it is crowd in a way that is intensely aggressive and fresh like new sneakers. On stage, his friends, and somehow me for some reason, were doing all sorts of dubstep dancing. You know, where your arms go up and then down with lots of wiggles? No? Aw, well they are a good look.

Speaking of another event with Drop the Lime at the White Room, this event was a real crowd pleaser. I especially enjoyed Fake Blood’s heavy basselectro monosynth analog sound. Everything sounded like it was coming out of an ARP Axxe or something. Total good news. Coming from the UK, it was a treat to see him spin his originals and remixes, most of which are impossible to find on the interwebs.

Tommie Sunshine looks like a giant hippie and has a lot of hair. His set did not at all sound like hippies or hair, I rather enjoyed it. His girlfriend or whatever she is danced on the side of the stage by herself, which was cute.

Also, former one-time SLUG contributor Flufftronix stormed the side room and opened for Alan Braxe (who apparently by multiple accounts is a big dick and started some fights). I dunno about that, but Fluffy’s set was good, debuting some of his new unreleased material.

(View from Onitsuka Gifting Lounge)

Saturday started with Mark Verbos and I trying to look as cute as the girls to our left at the Onitsuka Gifting Lounge. Someone said it looks like an American Apparel ad? I don’t think so at all. Maybe if you edited us out?

Regardless, the gifting lounge totally killed it. There was tons of free schwag from Onitsuka, Cardboard Robot, and that weird vitamin vodka Rhythm again. Not to mention it was probably the largest hotel room I have ever seen. I got lost about 3 times looking for the bathroom. That night, the Onitsuka crew invited us down to their event at Rokbar.

Cut Copy and the Presets both did a pretty excellent job, playing great remixes of their originals mixed with a bunch of garden fresh electro dancey rock jams.

Yet another totally ridiculous party, located in a warehouse in a fuck-off dangerous portion of WMC. The scene outside the warehouse was totally ridiculous - cement covered in glass bottles, kids sitting in construction equipment, doing blow in plain site, waiting in line for the port-o-potty. My favorite quote was from a cute Asian hipster type girl who kept talking about how bad she wanted to go “#2” but just wasn’t going to go if there wasn’t any paper. The person in front of her in line announced, “no paper!” as soon as he exited the port-o-potty, at which point she just sighed and stomped back into the warehouse (to poop in a dark corner maybe?).

Music was totally fucking off the hook, Sega got the crowd up in a fury, Rusko’s bass was killing it, and shit looked like it was going to explode. Anyways, it was eventually Diplo’s turn to spin (after he was done working the bar), and quickly things got silly. Lil Jon came out of nowhere and started hyping up the crowd, rapping some of his croony jams, and becoming confused when Diplo would mix or change up the song. “Aww…. Shit. Whatchoo doin’ man? Fuckin’ me up. Okaaaaayy!!” Hmph.

Shortly thereafter, the cops rolled up to the obviously illegal party, prompting a fierce competition for cabs back to South Beach.

I didn’t make it to South Beach, however - I had better things to do. I caught the tail end of the Fool’s Gold party. Line-up was something like this: A-Trak, DJ Mehdi, Annie Mac, Treasure Fingers, Jokers of the Scene, Nacho Lovers, Sammy Bananas, Nick Catchdubs. Fool’s Gold has always rocked a little bit a different feel than some of the other labels, but the love was def bein’ shown. Diplo showed up to the Fool’s Gold party wearing a Trouble & Bass T-shirt, rep’ing so many things at once it was confusing. All I know from my personal experiences with the guy is he is pretty funny and likes team sports. Nick Catchdubs was on the tables when I showed up and was spinning some solid hip hop and dance remixes for the steadily decreasing crowd. Good solid party times were had by all, with the party extending to about 7 or 8 in the morning.

WMC is really a who’s who of electronic music and DJ culture, highlighting the best and upcoming electronic dance music by making sure absolutely EVERYONE has a chance to DJ (with the more popular DJs playing multiple gigs, often in the same night). There were numerous DJs who were there not even playing - just there for the fun.

“At WMC, everyone is either a DJ, a douchebag, or a hot chick” - Franki Chan

Like all great dance parties, WMC is as much about the audiences as it is the DJ. As long as I can remember this has been the purpose of a great DJ, to interact with the audience and atmosphere in a manner that builds and creates a unique experience not unlike those of great live musicians. 2009 brought a recession-sized audience, leaving many of the midweek parties in relatively far locations all but empty - but spirits were not to be abated. The event is as much about bringing new music to the fans as it is to create a physical gathering for a scene formed almost entirely in a virtual space. There is no city central to this scene - WMC is an exercise in solidarity and a restatement of purpose. Even the most jaded DJs make an appearance, many on their 10th year of WMC (of which there have been 24). I’d strongly recommend to any fan of dance music to explore WMC, even when your brain is pounding into your skull at 130 bpm, you can still sleep on the beach.