Imagine that a dozen or so of your coolest friends decide to throw a pool party at an oh-so-swanky location. They love electro. They love to party. And they’re also pretty damn fierce DJs. This was the vibe going at HARD’s Miami incarnation at this year’s Winter Music Conference -- except for the fact that your friends probably wouldn’t charge $18 a pop for vodka cran.
Held March 25 at the Fountainbleau Miami Beach’s Blade Pool, the sold-out (capacity 600) party featured sets by a veritable who’s who in electro (deep breath): Erol Alkan, Boys Noize, Busy P, DJ Mehdi, Fake Blood, Aeroplane, Annie Mac, Boy 8-Bit, Brodinski, Jack Beats, Destructo, Rory Phillips, Kelis, Gina Turner, and DJ Skeet Skeet. Having already spent the early morning hours with some of the aforementioned at Ed Banger and Friends’ Oui Bang party, I missed a fair bit of the early part of the day. (I managed to catch a bunch of those DJs at other WMC events, the nice thing about WMC’s insane scheduling.)
Despite the hotel’s overpriced beverages, lack of food items inside the event (which lasted nine or so hours), and eventual deficiency of toilet paper, HARD Miami maintained a pretty upbeat vibe throughout the day. While the crowd ranged from sedate hipsters to fist-pumping South Beach types to fluorescent-clad rave kids, the small size kept things manageable and drama-free. (The same cannot be said for WMC’s Ultra.) Gender ratios became most obvious in the bathroom lines, where dudes queued up as the ladies breezed right past. Accessories of the day included HARD beach balls (which nearly pelted some of the DJs at various points) and water guns (which nearly pelted my digital SLR camera at various points). The Miami weather was perfect for standing outside all day, but at 70-something degrees, it was sunny enough to tan but not quite warm enough (save for a few brave and/or drunken souls) for swimming.
Of course, none of that really matters; it was the music that reigned over the day. Clearly the electro scene is a close-knit one, given the overlap of DJ sets, visible camaraderie, playing of each other’s tracks, and pop-ins by non-performers like A-Trak and Surkin.
I arrived just as Busy P took the stage with another killer party set: Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s Your Head At,” Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want,” Aeroplane’s amazing remix of Sebastien Tellier’s “Kilometer,” and of course shout-outs to Ed Banger family members including Justice (“Waters of Nazareth”), Uffie (“MCs Can Kiss”), and Mr. Oizo (“Positif”). (Pretty sure Mehdi’s “Pocket Piano” was in there too, though the back-to-back days of Busy P may have me a little fuzzy.) As always, Pedro appeared to have a blast, especially during the “Busy P, what the fuck?” chants.
Erol Alkan stepped up next, maintaining the high-energy vibe with a sick electro-house set that included both the Chilly Gonzales and regular versions of the anthem “Waves,” the first of his collaborations with Boys Noize’s Alex Ridha, as well as the duo’s latest explosive track, “Lemonade.” As their back-to-back sets overlapped, Ridha joined him on stage, feeding the crowd’s frenzy, then launched into his own heavy set that mixed his own tracks (“Sweet Light” and a raging “Kontact Me”) and stuff like a vocal-stripped version of Lil’ Louis’s classic “French Kiss.”
As the sun started to set, Aeroplane’s Stephen Fasano and Vito DeLuca took their turn at bat. The disco maestros churned out the perfect dreamy, chilled-out soundtrack for a Miami evening, exhibiting their trademark lush, pop-friendly beats with choices like their own crowd-pleasing remixes of Friendly Fires’ “Paris” and Sebastien Tellier’s “Kilometer” (for the party’s second time, not that I’m complaining), selections from their monthly mixes, and dance-floor favorites like Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman.” Unfortunately, by the time they closed the set with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” a good deal of the crowd had dispersed, presumably in search of food or rest before the start of late-night festivities.
Britain’s sweetheart and champion of all things electronic Annie Mac was on next, bringing up the tempo with dance-floor favorites like A-Trak’s remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and the Jack Beats versions of La Roux’s “I’m Not Your Toy” and representing fellow Londoners/mates like Fake Blood (“I Think I Like It” and “Fix Your Accent”) and Boy 8-Bit, who both showed support onstage. Some audio nonsense seemed to occur as sound guys began prematurely disconnecting things (or at least that’s how it appeared), but Annie kept her cool and kept the hardcore attendees dancing. Boy 8-Bit closed things out with his sample-and-beat-heavy brand of dirty but melodic electro, unfairly having to display his considerable talents to a small crowd of dwindling stragglers (and few hardcore fans) as his boy Fake Blood swilled beer and danced alongside.
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