Once a year, Miami is transformed into the international Monaco of the dance music culture - and the Winter Music Conference is its Grand Prix.
Throughout the year, the world's most revered DJs, producers and electronic artists - including progressive house godfathers Sasha & John Digweed and 12-hour marathon man Danny Tenaglia - make sporadic stops in South Florida, a demographic already bent on debauchery, excess and a taste for the exotic. (where else can you find a nightlife scene equal parts London, New York, Tokyo and Buenos Aires?)
But come late March, just about every DJ who is anyone - or aspires to be - sets aside the week to be part of the rhythmic flood that overflows this scltry, sensational tourist mecca. Call it Miami's own March Madness.
"It's everybody's time to shine a light - or crash and burn,"
The conference, begun about 15 years ago by local DJ Bill Kelly to prove to Grammy voters that dance music wasn't a fleeting fad, officially spans five days of pulsing euphoria from Saturday through Wednesday, though several clubs are starting early with Thursday and Friday night galas.
Sure, the WMC - again converging at Miami Beach's Radisson Deauville Resort - is a crucial opportunity for record-label execs, publishers, promoters, managers and delegates to schmooze with artists, orchestrate panels and workshops, and brainstorm on the future direction of dance. But for everyone else, it's all about letting loose and enjoying the greatest concentration of mind-blowing beats, parties and ego you can find.
Bill, still the man running the show, recognizes this concern, but feels things will be vastly different come this weekend. "Nightclubs last year where very disrespectful to the audience," he says. "But this year, Crobar, Shadow Lounge and Level have the same owners as last year for the first in a while - I even recognize the bartenders now at these places. It's easier to work with them."
Ophir offers a different concern - about WMC's exponential growth: "It's definitely geting bigger, getting a lot more attention, getting a lot more corporate feedback, but I also see a lot more competition for the dollar versus competition for the music. I personally liked the bohemain feel of the past - because it was the world's great music coming together. It wasn't a business exchange like it is now.
One rumored change is that the whole damn show might move from sunny South Florida to splashy, convention center-heavy Las Vegas. "It's difficult because South Beach is very small," Josh Wink, "Lots of people can't get into parties because of overcrowding. This year there will be an extra 20000 people, and I'm very excited to see how the city will deal with this - because everybody's on the guest list and everybody's more special than the other."
"It just keeps getting bigger and bigger."
WMC2001 Postcard gallery