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Winter Music Conference 2012 Rewind - One DJ's Journey through a Week of Madness


Sander Kleinenberg and Funkagenda spinning Shine at Shelbourne - WMC 2012

Sander Kleinenberg and Funkagenda spinning Shine at Shelbourne - WMC 2012

Image Courtesy of Robbie Russell
What is the Winter Music Conference?  Wikipedia proclaims the Winter Music Conference as “ a week-long electronic music conference, held every March since the mid-1980s in Miami, Florida.  It is aimed at professionals such as artists, DJs, record label representatives (A&R), producers, promoters, radio, and the media.”  I define it as:  Spring Break for the dance music industry!  WMC, in its 27th consecutive year, offered workshops, seminars with Q&A sessions, and parties that went on literally 24 hours a day from March 16-25th.  I was there for the last 4 days of the conference and had another amazing experience including 2 very fun DJ gigs, which I’m going to share with you in this journal.

Thursday, March 24th

Started the conference festivities off with a nice dinner with friends at Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road.  Lincoln Road has been my favorite hang out on each of my last 3 years attending WMC, and this was no exception.  After hoping a short cab ride up to 41st Street, my first stop for the evening was a very intimate and social event called “Pop.Synth.Sex.Beat” at The Well Lounge, which was hosted by Carrillo Music (Rod Carrillo) and Frank Ceraolo (May I Be Frank Promotions).  As soon as my friends and I entered the club, I saw new and familiar faces amongst the crowd in the very quaint setting.  Within moments I ran into my friends and colleagues from StrictlyDanceRadio, DJ Johnny D (John D’Angelo) and DJ Val with whom I was excited about DJing with during the weekend.  It was great to see Lee Dagger (one half of Bimbo Jones), DJ Oren Nizri, and his manager George Coronado again and we all settled in on the sofa around a small stage to watch Shyra Sanchez, Eric Redd, Kelsey B, and Jason Walker perform live in front of us.  I snapped a few photos with most of them and got a chance to chat about music and have a few laughs.  All of them have such beautiful voices and it was really great to see their talents up close and personal.  A highlight of this party was when Lee Dagger pulled me up into the DJ booth and put his headphones on me to snap a photo of us with his camera during his set.  

Off to the next event which was back on Lincoln Road at Score Nightclub.  Score is a really cool multi-level club that always is tons of fun during WMC.  The party this night was called “POP FEVER” and featured performances by Neon Hitch, Guinevere, NiRe AllDai, Porcelain Black, Rye-Rye, and Starshell, with a closing set by DJ Chris Cox.  Unfortunately due to time spent at the previous party, we missed all but Neon Hitch.  Luckily, she just hit the stage when we walked in and caught the whole performance of her hit, “FU Betta,” which reached #1 on Billboard a few weeks prior.

Nearing the last song of the night, we bumped into dance mixer extraordinaire Jody den Broeder.  Jody, whom I've never met, was waiting for Chris Cox and we started chatting after my friend Robbie introduced us.  Chris Cox, whom I've known since the days when I dreamed of becoming a DJ in the late '90s, has always been an inspiration and supportive towards me.  The lights come on after Chris' last song of the night, Daniel S - "The Flow," and we walk out with Chris, his longtime girlfriend/singer, SK8, and Jody, and catch up on a stroll down Lincoln Road back to our hotels.  A nice ending to our first night in Miami.

<Friday, March 23rd

The fun really kicked into full gear after we get going the next day.  We head over to Ocean Avenue to find a place to eat lunch and head down Collins to my first venue for my afternoon DJ gig at 3-6pm.  I walk into a small boutique hotel called the Hotel Shelly and introduce myself to the DJ who is finishing up her set.  Her name is DJ SoFlo from Chicago and part of the StrictlyDanceRadio crew that I am here doing sets for this WMC.  DJ Jeannette and DJ Val, whom I do radio mixshows for run StrictlyDanceRadio, which is the dance music arm of AddictedToRadio. Jeannette called me back in February, and was excited that they were invited by the WMC executives to be a part of the official lineup of events for the whole week, as well as being nominated in the IDMA Awards as Best Radio Station (Global).  I was thrilled that she asked me to spin 2 of their parties with them during the weekend, and this turned out to be a fun, 3-hour upbeat set for me that was broadcast live on AddictedToRadio.com.  The highlight of my set was getting a high-five from some barhoppers that were really digging the new David Guetta song “Wild One Two” and broke out into a small dance floor right in the middle of the bar.  Jeannette arrived to take over the reigns at 6pm and I rushed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner with some Billboard colleagues.

The night begins as I arrive at the posh Italian restaurant, Casa Tua, which I was invited to attend with some of my Billboard colleagues.  Hosting the dinner is Bobby Shaw (record promoter) and in attendance was Gordon Murray (our Billboard Charts Manager of the Dance Club Chart), DJ Lynnwood (LA), DJ Lori (Chicago), David LaSalle (Provincetown), and DJ Kenny (Providence).  The food was amazing and it was no surprise that this 5-star restaurant is a favorite getaway for Jennifer Lopez, who was rumored to dine here quite often.  After dinner, our group heads over to the Delano Hotel for Madonna’s MDNA Album Release Party, which was a VIP invite-only affair for music industry professionals.  This was the most fun party that I attended during WMC, aside from my gigs with AddictedToRadio.  We walk in the entrance only to find the very DJs that helped produce Madonna’s new album either on-stage or mingling amongst the crowd.  Nicky Romero is up on stage behind the decks banging out some hip electro Dutch beats as I slowly start to recognize his signature remix of “Give Me All Your Luvin” that he did for Madge’s first single.  Soon after I run into Tracy Young, who was behind the turntables earlier in the evening.  We chatted for a moment about music and then she was off to the airport to head back to NYC.  Then I got introduced to Ultra Nate who was looking fierce in her sparkled outfit that I complimented her on.  I snapped a photo with singer Kerli and chatted with her manager and a couple of record people.  Before long, the switch off behind the DJ booth brought in DJ’s Martin Solveig, Kim Fai, Sultan & Sheppard, Kid Capri, and Benny Benassi.  Benny Benassi closed out the party with his signature electro beats and live acapella reworks while maintaining a cool-cat smile upon his face.  I don’t know whether it was the décor, the pool illuminated with Madonna logos, the open bar, or the stellar DJs involved… but it sure was a major highlight to WMC 2012.

To close out the evening of parties for Friday night, I hopped a taxi over to downtown Miami with an attempt at attending Paul Oakenfold’s rooftop party called “H50.”  Big names were on the bill, including Starkillers and Spencer & Hill, and it looked like a hot ticket event.  Unfortunately it was sold out and my name on the record label’s guest list wasn’t confirmed so I grabbed a ride back to the beach and called it a night.  It was hard to top Madonna’s party and the weekend was just getting started.

Saturday, March 24th:

After grabbing lunch with friends, we did a little shopping along Washington Avenue and headed back toward Ocean Avenue to do something I’ve never had the time to do during WMC.  I soaked up the sun on the beach with a friend and enjoyed a swim for a couple hours.  After that we headed over to the Palace Bar where singer Amuka was just being introduced to the patio stage.  Palace Bar is a very popular gay bar right on Ocean Avenue and is usually very crowded.  Amuka did two songs and had the crowd in the palm of her hands.  She belted out her hit “Appreciate Me” while everyone sang along, then went into her as yet unreleased Whitney Houston tribute called “Missing You.”  It was nearly time to grab a Miami Vice daiquiri and head back to the hotel to get ready for the night.

First stop for the evening was to see my Billboard colleague, DJ David LaSalle, at Twist Nightclub on Washington Avenue.  We got there early and got to say hi to David as he started off slow and built up to a high-energy peak hour set.  I ran into singer Jason Walker again and we talked music for a while before we all headed out.  Next stop was Score Nightclub to catch the peak hour of DJ Abel’s set, which was also his birthday bash.  The crowd was really into full swing when we arrived and we could barely find a place to stand, so went up to the balcony to get some space.  Abel worked the crowd over and we wound up staying till the very end.

Sunday, March 25th

Started the day off with lunch at a very cool Cuban restaurant and then took a long walk on Collins Avenue to people watch and get ready for the final night of WMC. My second gig of the weekend was at The Catalina Hotel.  Maxine’s Bar inside the Catalina was host to AddictedToRadio’s “Bikini Beach Party,” which ran from 5pm-5am.  I had a great time slot of 11pm-1am, so I was all rested up and headed over a little early to get settled and chat with some of my radio station crew that were there. When I arrived, Jeannette was behind the turntables and the bar and patio was crowded.  Val, John, Carlos and I grabbed a drink and a group photo before I took over the reigns of the live-broadcast evening.  Having played a very commercial pop vocal set on Friday, I knew I wanted to try out some Miami-style house tracks that I seldom have the setting in Atlanta to play.  My instinct was right and before I knew it, I had people dancing in front of me between the booth and the bar.  I looked up, and Lee Dagger was dancing to my music as Beachmonkey photographer Michael Luczaj snapped a couple of photos.  Shortly into my percussive house music set, singer Yovanni got on the mic and performed his new track “Milky Way” to a lively audience.  I closed my set at 1am as DJ Val took over the DJ booth and friends of mine threw me and my CDs into a taxi and hurried into the night to hit 2 more venues.

We pulled up in front of Chalk Lounge where the Just Circuit Awards party was still going strong at 1:30am. Unfortunately missed the performances by Amuka, Barbara Tucker, Shyra Sanchez, and Jason Walker but had already enjoyed their company at the Thursday night party we attended (minus Barbara Tucker).  I did get a chance to swap contact info and photos with Amuka and Lee Dagger (who were still at the club) along with Just Circuit publishers, Shane Rogers and Victor Mauro.  Unfortunately, I missed DJ Ron, whom I’m writing this article for, but we texted during my set over at The Catalina.  It was great to see Justin Ryan (winner of the Best Up & Coming DJ category), David VanNorman (DJ Fierce Tease) and DJ Silvio Carvana.

The final night of WMC was not over and we grabbed a taxi and headed to Shine At The Shelbourne.  I was aware of their famous Closing Parties for WMC but had not been able to attend due to sell out crowds.  This year two powerhouse electro DJs were headlining:  Sander Kleinenberg and Funkagenda.  As more of a commercial dance music DJ, I couldn’t say I’ve ever got to play a banging electro set as what I was about to witness.  I would describe the venue at the Shelbourne as a dark ballroom with an almost level stage area where the DJs were centered. Sander was at full peak, as we got right in front of his CD players and mixer.  The lighting tech kept strobing the lights on and off and at one point put the house lights on while everyone jumped up and down.  Funkagenda stepped up to the decks and threw on some heavy electro beats.  I actually couldn’t help but dance my ass off to these guys and was blown away by the energy of the crowd at 4am.  Just as the party was winding down about 4:30, we headed out and caught the tail end of Sander and Funkagenda playing a vocal sample of Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  A very cool ending to a great WMC Sunday!


In conclusion, Winter Music Conference keeps getting more fun each of the 3 years that I’ve attended.   I’m very lucky to have played shows for the last 2 years I attended and I look forward to more shows in the WMC conferences yet to come.  I look back on how 2011’s conference changed my life and have to point out that if I hadn’t gone, I may not have made the connections that led me to become a Billboard Reporter.  One bit of advice for any new DJs out there:  go to WMC.  You will be glad you attended and there’s a good chance that it will open doors for you such as the ones opened for me.

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