Like moths to a flame, thousands of ravers once again flocked to Miami for the annual party pilgrimage of Miami Music Week, Ultra Music Festival, and Winter Music Conference these past two weeks, partaking in enough late nights and all-day beach parties to get their fill for a full year. The DJ Times staff was no exception, as we spent a full week amongst the Miami shuffle to take in as much music—and arepas—as we humanly could.
This year’s festivities were a bit different than previous ones, as Miami Music Week occurred the week before Winter Music Conference—with Ultra taking place during the weekend between both—rather than running concurrently. This broke up the action somewhat, with the crowds across the board seeming slightly less packed. While not drastic enough to warrant a Chicken Little-esque “the sky is falling!” type of panic about the state of #EDM, it was noticeable enough to illicit a response amongst veterans (as was the ease of grabbing cabs and Ubers this time).
As expected, the week offered some of the best music and vibes of the year. Here’s a taste of what we experienced.
Wednesday, March 16
A late-night arrival to MIA caused the action to get started slightly (read: much) later than usual, with our actual entry through the doors of South Beach’s Treehouse for Dusky’s showcase clocking in somewhere around the 2 AM hour. The club itself seems to have gotten a slight makeover since Miami Music Week 2015, with subtle LED strips placed right underneath the ceiling in the main room making the vibes seem far less overwhelmingly dark.
The party boasted one of the early week’s strongest lineups, with Dusky being joined in the main room of the club by Jackathon matriarch Heidi and San Francisco-based collective Honey Soundsystem. The latter provided one of the most surprising sets of the entire of the week, with member Jason Kendig throwing down a furious Berghain-ready techno set that simultaneously managed to channel the euphoric spirit of early 90s house.
Over in the darker second room, Jackmaster went back-to-back with Chicago’s own The Black Madonna. It was a pretty unique set sonically, as both artists are well-known for being wild cards with their unexpected selections in their own right. Brought together, the pair bended soundscapes, rhythms, and genres in a way that kept that floor absolutely packed until 5 AM.
Thursday, March 17
The first full day on Miami Beach was devoted to DJ Times TV, which caught up with a trio of Dirtybirds—Claude VonStroke, Ardalan, and Justin Martin—at their pop-up at the Gale Hotel as well as Robbie Rivera, Sharam, and more over at the Sirius XM Music Lounge at the 1 Hotel South Beach.
That night, we headed over to Jamie Jones’ annual 12-hour party gauntlet: Paradise Miami. Taking the magic of Jones’ weekly DC10 residency in Ibiza and compressing it into a single night, Paradise routinely boasts strong lineups bringing together club legends, current tech-house superstars, and buzzing up-and-comers, and this year’s bill was no exception. This year’s setup featured two stages—a cavernous main room and an intimate, albeit bare, second stage—and a “secret” outdoor stage that hosted sunrise sets.
The main stage featured the usual suspects, with killer sets from Jamie Jones B2B The Martinez Brothers, Stacey Pullen, and Bob Moses packing the house start to finish. Over in Room 2, Lee Foss’ chunky house cuts (namely, DJ Deeon and Lee Walker’s smashing Defected track “Freak Like Me”) proved to be the highlight of the night, just like last year.
The funniest moment of the evening? Catching David Guetta hobnobbing in the middle of the stage during Jamie Jones’ headlining set. Whoever said David didn’t love a little tech-house?
Saturday, March 19
There was one place to be on Saturday, and that place was Get Lost. The annual 24-hour party is the baby of Damian Lazarus and his Crosstown Rebels label, bringing over 50 artists to a high-concept, fully-rounded experience that challenges the simple notion of a party. This year’s installement—the 11th session—was a four-room extravaganza that spanned from 5 AM Saturday morning to 5 AM Sunday, with a simply incredible lineup that included dance’s most celebrated names as well as some of the hottest new acts in techno and house around today.
We headed over to the secret Little Haiti location right at the drop of 5 AM to catch Sasha’s opening set, which was a brilliant way to start the dance marathon. The Last Night on Earth head honcho got things grooving from the get-go, with a thumping house vibe that got the revelers moving. However, it was David Morales’ sunrise set right after that stole the show.
Morales’ history in the pantheons of the clubland is well documented, but it was truly impressive just how well he schooled the decidedly heady crowd of Get Lost. Deftly transitioning from house classics (Alison Limerick’s “Where Love Lives”) to present-day bangers (Carl Craig’s Brainy Grimlin remix of Aphrohead’s “Grown Man Cryy”), he brought The Nest to its knees amongst the pumping fog machine and rising sunrays.
For the evening shift, Heidi kicked the proceedings into high gear, dropping Denney’s “Acid (You’re Free)” as well as a massively slowed down mix of the rave classic “French Kiss” over in the outdoor Alley stage. Other highlights on the night included Bedouin and DJ Three’s masterful sets over in The Studio, perfectly complementing the tight quarters with sinister house offerings.
Ultra Music Festival – March 18-20
Of course, Miami Music Week’s crown jewel lies far and away from the packed streets of South Beach, with hundreds of thousands of raver descending upon Downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park for Ultra’s three-day blowout.
Ultra once again stepped up the production even further than one could imagine, with the Main Stage going from “massively impressive” to “simply staggering” in terms of sheer magnitude. That sort of next-level technological design trickled through all aspects of the festival, even to a live LED timeslot board that updated throughout the day.
While Ultra’s Main Stage usually features a revolving set of some familiar faces, its live stage always surprises with some established favorites and quirky, out-the-box dance-adjacent acts. Purity Ring, AlunaGeorge, and Icona Pop provided solid showings, with Rabbit On The Moon’s reunion on Sunday providing an unforgettable experience for attendees.
Our favorite? Peaches’ delightfully irreverent performance on early Sunday afternoon. Pulling material mostly from her recent Rub LP, Peaches stripped, straddled, and strut her way through an hour set that was shocking, hysterical, and incredible all at the same time. Even her closing number—her staple “Fuck The Pain Away”—still managed to have jaws dropping some ten years after its release with its electroclash-cum-punk aesthetic.
However, one of the highlights of the installment was definitely the mind-blowing Resistance Stage. Last year’s installment of the “underground-focused” stage boasted an in-the-round 360-degree layout, which Arcadia designers took and ran with for the 2016 edition. Transformed into a giant mechanized spider with a suspended DJ booth in the center, the Resistance Stage was a flame-spewing behemoth that carried some of the weekend’s most inspired bookings.
Friday night’s Resistance lineup read like a clubber’s wet dream, with Joris Voorn, Hot Since 82, John Digweed, and Jamie Jones all taking to the decks sequentially for what was possibly the most stacked evening of the weekend.
However, one of our favorite moments of the weekend came courtesy of Lee Foss and Skream, who turned their separate slots into a single extended B2B session that really got feet moving on Sunday afternoon. “Freak Like Me” made another appearance, but it was Foss’ drop of MK’s rework of his Hot Natured crossover smash “Reverse Skydiving” with Anabel Englund that proved to be the high point of the performance. Miss the set? Catch the whole thing (and the rest of the Resistance performances) from BE-AT.TV below.
All in all, it was another Miami Music Week for the books. Until next year, South Beach! The memories of your warm beaches (and piping-hot arepas) will sustain us for another 365 days when we return to your sunny embrace.