It’s Thursday, March 26th, 6:15 am. I’m in seat 25E. I have a hypothetical visual of what a tailgate party at a NASCAR convention would look like, only with more sideburns and less Budweiser. Not that I look particularly striking myself at this moment, having just gotten back from LA 36 hours ago and rolling out of bed at 4:30 am to make it La Guardia airport on time. But in my haze of jet lag, puffy eyes and crankiness, I still feel confident that my decision to opt against a mesh shirt, Juicy track and cycle of steroids uniform to the rest of Staten Island seated in all 24 rows ahead of me makes me aesthetically superior. Definitely.
I sat between Gary and Liel taking the scene in, Gary’s legs still shaking from lugging my 47 lb suitcase up and down a six-story walk up, Liel crunching on granola and decompressing from getting lost in NYC on the way over. My coffee sucked almost as much as Spirit Airlines. But we knew that in 4 short hours we’d be in Miami drinking mojitos on the beach, buzzing with excitement for the 15 or so different artists and dj’s we’d see over the next 4 days. We landed on time, picked up our suitcases without a hitch (by the grace of God) and bumped into our high school friend Sead along with his friend. We decided to share a van to Espanola Way, where we dropped Liel off at The Clay, said a quick hello to Eduardo and dispersed.
The walk down Washington was interesting. The optimism that wearing aviators and no jacket incites was awesome, however we couldn’t help but notice that the further south we walked, the more the hotels resembled abandoned crack houses. Before we knew it, we were in front of the Hotel Bel Aire in all its bingo hall glory. (Watch “Children of Men” three quarters of the way through and press pause. You’re welcome for the visual.) As we expected, check in wasn’t until 3 pm. We asked to lock our suitcases while we went to the beach and were directed to a community bag check room in the bowels of the building. Mental images of down and out British soccer hooligans selling my shoes for crack cocaine swirled around in my head. Gary smartly asked if I’d rather wheel my bag onto the beach, to which I replied, “YES” as I dejectedly rolled my luggage towards the stairs anyway. A few kicked soda bottles, the removal of a bikini, beach supplies and valuable and a quick change later and I was past the predicament, ready for a drink (a big one) and a tan.
Lesson learned: When the hotel is gray but the waves are clear blue, shut up and go swim in the ocean.
We sat down to breakfast on ocean immediately ordering egg whites and the largest vat of alcohol I’ve ever seen. My bellini frightened me but with the help of Liel, I downed it anyway. Gary and Igor each enjoyed their own mojitos. After reasonable $120 bill for breakfast later a goodbye with Liel and Igor (they went to the Burridge boat party), we were up and ready to (slantily) walk to the beach. This was about where Gary and I learned that together, we almost comprise the wit and sharpness of sack of hair. It took us 3 laps around I-don’t-remember-what-street to find beer, ice, a bathroom and the wrong iPod player, which Gary had to leave the beach to return. We opted against the 15 for the first bit of the afternoon (which yes, I know, proves to be the best method for looking like a deflated basketball later in life.) in order to make the most of our sun time. The water was cool with mild rip tides, flowing knee-deep with steep shelves plunging to 5 feet a few hundred yards from shore. I swam alone before retreating back to the chair to tan and torture Gary with more repeat plays of Butch & Virginia and Rone tunes. We left golden brown and red in the places that eluded our eventual sunscreen application to check into the hotel (the rooms were not nearly as horrifying as the lobby) and to shower (shoes on) before dinner with Shaina and Liel on Espanola Way, where we killed a bottle of wine and I discovered that Italians make tuna the way Fancy Feast makes cat food.
Lesson learned: Italian waiters will call you a pain in the ass directly to your face when you ask them to hold the fennel, anchovies and onions. This is how you know they’re really Italian.
We made it to Shore Club just 15 minutes before Ben Watt’s set. Perfect timing. The entire pool area was lit bluey purple and decorated with palmy little bushes and we chatted with the usual suspects; Greg, T, Shaina, Yos, Annie, Sara, Boston Mike, etc. The mojitos were $18 but worth every penny. Ben Watt was in rare form, ripping into his set with Radiohead, dancing around the booth (which was elevated about 7 feet and resembled a puppet show stage), making maniacal head motions, singing, swigging vodka directly from the bottle… His typical moody English demeanor was drowning in happy WMC optimism. After Ben came Mike Monday tag teaming with Will Saul (Who wears big sunglasses that prevent his vision of the end of the stage. This makes him Gary’s hero.) Their first 7 or so tracks were housey bangers – big, kind of techy but still outdoor-appropriate. The night started winding down for us around 2 am despite an enticing invitation to partake in bottle service at Nikki Beach. A few mojitos and a near scrap with a juiced up guido later and we decided to retire to the hotel. We passed out almost immediately.
It’s Friday, March 27th. About 10 am. I wake to Gary’s baby blues this close to my face. He’s already dressed for the beach and leaning over the bed asking what I want from Starbucks . Christmas has nothing on today. Friday is usually a big day during WMC. It’s when the trance big boys get to exercise their Ferry heart, God pose and angry point, as well as when the crowd really hits South Beach. But for us, that Friday was our wide open day. We had no plans for the night, just intentions to hit the beach and relax, letting party ideas come to us at will. Or not. Whatever. Unmotivated to rush, we sat in bed for a bit reading the paper and drinking coffee. Gary complained about the air conditioner “pwning him” with Nordic air the night before as it blasted 60 degrees of punishment into his face for 8 hours. We then decided that his instincts are completely broken, otherwise he would have rolled over.
Lesson learned: 60 degrees is too cold for an air conditioner… Retards.
A short brunch on Ocean, another beer run (where Gary discovered that sand pails double as beer coolers) and we were on the beach. It was another gorgeous day despite the passing clouds. We were much more generous with the sunscreen today. Drinking and lounging ensued before the wind inspired us to leave early around 3, drop off our bags and troll around Collins in search of a pool party. Somewhere past Espanola, Miami started to look a bit more… Jersey. We could tell by the rubber platform sandals and frosted lip gloss that we were close to a Jonathan Peters party. We waded through the Belmar transplants to the National Hotel for the Beatport party, which we forgot was still going on. The door girl let us in for free and told us to make up for it by buying a lot of drinks (I pounded two pina coladas strictly as a thank you to her, of course.) We arrived to meet Igor and Boston Mike towards the beginning of the Martinez Brothers’ set, cute little fellow 201-ers that were no older than 19. I saw what the hype was about. For the past 10 months I’ve heard a lot about them but never actually made it out to see them. Just 2 years ago they allegedly were still playing Jersey dive joints, presumably still too young to even get in.
Dennis Ferrer went on next, keeping up the energy and playing upbeat, Latin-inspired tunes. Early in his set, we started to notice what sounded like phasing, if not blatant train wrecking. What sounded like noise filtering over from the neighboring hotel was now completely drowning out Beatport’s massive sound system. Someone was waging war on the other side of the fence, inspiring both irritation and curiosity on our side. Noticeably aggravated, Ferrer upped the volume, eliciting cheering and a round of applause from the crowd. Not 5 minutes later, the volume on the other side of the fence rose, which is about when Ferrer’s laptop crashed. Using his headphones as a microphone, he told the audience what was happening and apologized for the momentary silence to us and God only knows how many people that were also listening to him on Pete Tong’s radio show. The silence only lasted about 2 minutes and his laptop was back up and running in no time. The rest of his set was housey, venturing into fruity at times with vocals. Despite this not typically being my cup of tea, he kept me dancing along with him til the end of his set. Despite playing an upbeat, dancey set, he had great presence.
Ferrer was followed by Louie Vega who, unfortunately for us as well as him, was NOT my cup of tea so we left out the back exit. Upon passing our adversary in the Decibel War of ’09, Gary and I decided to crash and see who was playing. The door was unlocked. There was no doorman. I found this strange until I opened the shoddy wooden fence to find a shaded, dirty pool with four red-eyed, miserable looking people sitting in lounge chairs around it. And the DJ, of course. Pathetic. We left laughing and retreated back to Abu Ghraib to shower and get ready for the night.
Lesson learned: The grass is not always greener on the other side. But sometimes the pool is.
At around 7 pm we decided on a party. Gary and I spotted a discarded James Zabiela and Nic Fanciulli flyer on the way home from the beach that inspired us to go. They were playing downtown at a club called Studio K, a place that looked every bit as wholesome as it sounded. We met up with a high school friend Jaime who treated us to dinner on Ocean before we ventured over to the club. We arrived at the club a little after midnight happy and sad to see that there was no line. Of all the Conferences I have been to, this was the most sparse with attendees. Nevertheless, I didn’t complain when we were able to walk right in and pay only a $30 cover on the most notoriously expensive club cover block in Miami. Kos was the opening DJ, a young guy that looked elated to be playing. I immediately liked him as well as his moving, proggy musical style. At around 1 am, Fanciulli came on, which, sad to say, was less than inspiring. I’ve seen Fanciulli several times over the past few years in New York, Miami and Ibiza. In New York, he was good but unimpressive, in Miami he was so boring he made Zabs seem dull as they tag teamed and in Ibiza he was phenomenal. After this party, he stood at 3 for 1 in my eyes and was officially not my cup of tea. Gary and I spent the rest of his set chatting and drinking next to the stage away from the speakers and the crowd. I find this to be a real shame, since technically he is very competent and his track selection isn’t bad. It’s his lack of imagination that fails inspire me.
While we ignored Fanciulli I caught a shock of blond hair out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, it was Zabs smiling and lugging around gadgets in preparation for his set. Gary and I moved to the front to catch what is inevitably ALWAYS the show. Zabs was scratching and playing before he was even completely set up, sneaking wires here and computers there and plugging thissies into thatties between songs. And when he lifted his head to drop something monstrous, he bounced a little and swung his hair and jumped up and down for a few beats, which sent the audience into fits of yelling and dancing. Beyond his technical ability, you can read the love Zabs has for what he does and who he meets all over his face time after time after time. This juxtaposition between himself and just-ok-Fanciulli was a shining illustration of what EDM can be and where it often falls flat resting on complacence. The night wound down at around 4:30 am for us. We hopped in a cab and headed back to the hotel. Gary passed out before I finished brushing my teeth. I covered him up to his neck with the bottom two covers hoping he knew enough to roll over tonight should Norway blow his way.
It’s Saturday, March 28th. 11 am. The sun is blaring. The screen is hanging out of the filmy window. We’re tired. And excited. We roll out of bed and walk around for 20 minutes before finding a simple brunch place near our hotel. We eat quickly. My cappuccino sucks. I’m so very happy. It was the most enticingly gorgeous day in South Beach so far. Since we woke up late, we only had a little time before we needed to leave the beach for the Bentley party. Originally, it was supposed to be held at the Water Club, an outdoor venue. The day prior I had received a text informing me it would instead be held at a place called Electric Pickle. I replied, “Is this downtown? Is it outdoors? Is Bill Patrick still playing?” to which the promoter on the other end replied, “Yes. In and out. Yes.” While downtown was not a draw for me, I had already bought tickets for the party and really looked forward to seeing Bill Patrick, Butane and Will Saul play so Gary and I had to decide whether or not it was worthwhile to leave.
When we got to the beach, we tanned and listened to music as well as took 20 minutes or so to jump in the water and get out to hang with Liel for a bit. It was perfect outside. At 3ish we had to make the game time decision to leave or not. We decided to go. As long as it was partially outdoors and we could grab some drinks, we could still enjoy the weather, right? We get in the cab and tell the driver the address, which causes him to pause for a second before driving. Really? That far? We near downtown and bang a right instead of the usual left to Space/ Nocturnal/ Studio K/ etc. There are rusty Buicks, self car washes, run down buildings, weeded lots, urban sprawl up to wazoo. And train tracks. Train tracks that we are going over? Really? Oh… and there we are. We are officially on the wrong side of the tracks.
The car stopped in front of a well-graffittied building with a skinny, tormented looking white kid sitting outside of it. Liel turned to us and informed us that there was no way in hell she was staying and decided to take the cab back. Gary and I ventured out and watched the cab evaporate into a tiny yellow dot before turning the corner and driving back to normalcy without us. Fuck. I approached the door guy to give him my internet tickets and asked him where the outdoor portion is, to which he responded, “Uh, there is none. We were screwed over. Again.” My rage was palpable. We entered with the intention of making the most of a bad situation to find that there were 4 strung out people in a pitch black and slightly red room that smelled like every 60 year old bar littered across Jersey City. We immediately retreated back outside, where I had my obligatory mid-trip meltdown. I kept it to a low roar, clasping my pointy little fists and exclaiming how pissed off I was. Gary checked his phone, looked up at the sky, contemplated his shoe laces, avoided me, etc. I was calm after a bit but almost wanted to cry. We decided the only way back to civilization was up the block past the railroad tracks, so we briskly walked and then ran to hail a cab, leaving the electric pickle that royally fucked us in the dust.
Lessons learned (and this is two-part, my friends): 1. If you think you have something better to do than be on the beach on the most perfect beach day of your vacation, you DON’T. 2. Don’t ask for money back from a starving promoter that probably blew his savings on some fiasco you’ve left early. He needs those 30 bucks more than you do.
“Hookah?” Gary knew just how to cheer me up. We vented for a little about how much that place SUCKED and I fought off the urge to cry over a wasted sunny day, the one lost vacation necessity you can’t buy back down at the CVS. Unfortunately, the suckage continued at the hookah joint. The wait staff (who was pre-tipped) seemed to be rolling so it took a while to get our hookah. We ordered cappuccino flavored shisha. Unfortunately after a 15 minute delay, the waitress realized they were out so she gave us the closest flavor: mixed fruit… Ok... We smoked for a bit while trying to avoid eye contact with the half-naked, cumulatively 500 lb couple across from us that were simulating ugly public sex. We laughed about the day and people-watched, all the while looking forward to our last night in Miami.
Dinner was slow and cozy. We went back to Hosteria Romana on Espanola Way, where the waiters call you “bella” as well as “pain in the ass”. We sat for 2 hours drinking wine, splitting the bruschetta (best I’ve ever had – ever) and seafood linguine. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted someone glancing in my direction (undoubtedly watching my hair expand to inconceivable volume). Yep, Nic Fanciulli. We toyed with the idea of sending him a drink and toasting to him playing to his full potential but we decided to leave him be with his entourage. Strolling ensued, followed by a jumping on the bed war (I won) and we got dressed for the Circo Loco party at Nocturnal.
Now, every so often, I muster up the cajones to wear The Purple Boots. They mystify me in awful ways but their bad luck is subtle enough to discourage me from throwing them in the garbage. Over the past few years, wearing them has caused me to miss Christian Smiths farewell Barcelona set, get into altercations with ominous looking vandals in Washington Square, made Liel AND Jorge get tripped down the stairs… the list goes on and on. Every six months or so I’ll break them out and think long and hard about wearing them. I believe this started when I bought them for just $3 with a really negative ex-friend 4 years back. Great and awful luck all at once. I’ve tried to exorcise them numerous times and I was hopeful that my last attempt at injecting good juju into them before WMC ’09 would do the trick. I put on the boots, my signature black leather mini and my Mexico shirt and Gary and I left for the party. I told him I was nervous about my footwear. He didn’t seem to be worried.
We arrived at Nocturnal to a bit of mayhem at the door. Ticket collectors seemed flustered, not remembering whose ID’s they had seen, whose tickets corresponded with the ID’s, who should enter with whom, what bracelet went to whom, etc. For some odd reason, 18 year old girls were allowed to enter but guys had to be 21+. This in conjunction with rude security and the bathroom attendant allotting you a fistful of toilet paper like a child really turned me off to Nocturnal, not to mention the fact that they were charging patrons without presale tickets $100 at the door. Space seemed to be creeping up the block.
Once inside, we checked out the terrace first, then downstairs. There wasn’t a lineup in sight and when I asked the staff where I could find one, they informed me that they didn’t know what a lineup was so we resorted to asking the people in the very front of the booth who each DJ was as they came on. Tequila, vodka and Jameson shots ensued til we were excitedly chatting, dancing and yelling as we ran up and down the stairs between the La Terraza (teehee) and the main room. We decided on the terrace as our permanent spot for the night at around 2 am and listened to Andrew Grant and what I found out was Tiefschwarz through neighboring party people. A guy in a white polo pulled up alongside me and asked who was playing. I pointed out the 2 members of Tiefschwarz to him, which he seemed thankful for. Not 5 minutes later, he took my hand and showed me just how thankful he was. Gary and I were set for the night.
And then, my friends, The Purple Boots came out to play. 30 seconds later, the music cut out. The noise police had shut the party down because the brilliant Tiefschwarz duo would not turn the volume down (and allegedly, cranked it back up while yelling, “fuck the police.”) Great. Gary and I stood in silence littered with frantic chatter. After getting the low-down from security, calling a British dude a dick for telling me to shut up (he looked like he was going to cry) and assessing the situation, we decided to leave downtown and all its $130 cover glory and head back to South Beach for the Sullivan Room party. Good thing too, since the closures had a domino effect on the entire block… the beginning of the end of WMC in South Beach?
We arrived at the Sulli party at around 4 am and walked in for free. I made a beeline for Liel and Igor and had a seat on the top of the couches in front of the booth. Demi banged out the end of his set and we sat and bopped and smiled. Not 45 minutes later, The Purple Boots expressed their desire for us to leave again and Demi played his last record. Really? I stood up on the couch and stomped Godzilla-style from table to table screaming, “Put the effing music back on! Three more tracks!” to which Demi replied, “Ten more tracks!” The next 30 seconds went this way with us screaming back and forth at each other until I had enough. I dismounted the table and left to search for another party with Liel, Gary and Igor.
Clubs were letting out now that it was around 5 am. People got pizza, drunkenly hung on each other, walked home, catcalled, etc. We laughed, opened unattended club doors. I found a twelve foot palm that I carried a block as Liel urged me to put it down. I cursed The Boots aloud while Gary congratulated them for killing the music everywhere we went. He was now a believer. A crazy wandering man cursed The Boots too. “Lookin’ like a fucking jellybeeeean.” He walked with us drinking a little drop of Elephant and shouting out his peeps in B-more. The ones in Newark. Also Harlem and no he was not from there but his favorite rapper was. I glanced away and turned around to find another drink in his hand, muddy orange and potent looking, which had materialized out of prickly nothing with a little bit of hoogie boogie. We chanted “Fuck the fuuuzz” high-fived and hand jived and whatnot until he was distracted by a Noreaga poster leaving us to drift down Washington in search of our next party alone. Liel bought ice cream and told me, “No, she doesn’t want me to come in with her because I’d probably make her buy a banana. No offense.” I erupted into fits of giggles.
We made it to Espanola Way where Igor and Liel parted ways and went home. Gary and I found ourselves standing outside of the Armin van Buuren party at Cameo. $20 each for an hour of music. We walked away and came back, sucked it up and paid to enter into a, “wall of trance.” We bought 2 Coronas (which we pounded for breakfast) and made our way to the center of the dance floor with the barrage of happy guidos doing herkies in bucket caps. They were eager to dance and take pictures, do the angry point and Ferry heart, light our cigarettes and enjoy the music. Say what you will about guidos (as I often unapologetically do) but at 6 am, they are the nicest party people in South Beach. AVB played til around 6:30 am and was succeeded by who I assume was a local. At around 7 Gary and I said goodbye to our new Union City guido friends and turned to leave. The music cut out again. Great. We walked faster. Just as were were almost off the dance floor, the DJ dropped Gui Borrato – Beautiful Life and I exploded into a billion twitching pieces of happy little Jessica. I ran around the dance floor high fiving bewildered looking alpha males while their thin and boobied girlfriends smiled and danced. It was perfect. We danced til the end and excitedly spilled back onto the street wishing security and passersby a good morning on the way.
The sky melted from dark blue to soft morning as Gary and I raspily chatted about the night. I concluded that maybe The Boots weren’t bad or good luck, but perhaps they just needed to be worn on a night where you were ready for unexpected happenings. Nights where a wrench thrown into the gears means sparks and fire – the good kind. The sun started to rise and we decided to make the most of it. We sprinted three blocks onto the beach, took our shoes off (Boots and all) and watched the sun rise, peeking through gray and silver clouds to reveal hints of pink over the ocean as we stood with our feet in the water. By 8 am we were exhausted and ready to retreat back to the hotel barefoot and disgusted with ourselves for making skin-Collins St contact. Gary turned to me and laughed, “Is it sad that I’m considering putting my shoes back on when we get into the hotel?” I laughed and assured that I wouldn’t blame him.
Lesson learned: It isn’t always a beautiful life per se, but if you’re lucky enough to survive the Winter Music Conference, it’s pretty fucking good.
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