Party Monsters

Winter Music Conference: It's about the drugging and drinking and, oh yeah, the music

Tommy Lee is rumored to be on tap to rend asunder Olivia Newton John's "Physical." But Lee never shows, sparing the crowd the possibility of witnessing a portal to hell.

So stylistic
"It all starts with the figure eight," says Max, a 16-year-old from Fort Myers, trying to explain his glow-stick dancing maneuvers on the grass outside the Sound Stage at Ultra. "Then you spread it out and keep going." Max is performing a one-on-one light show for a friend, moving twin yellow wands in circles around the boy's face, making the cylinders blur and then stop. "I'm trying to make him dizzy," Max admits. But his friend holds on, moving with the big-eyed nods of an acolyte.

There are hundreds of glow-stick dancers at Ultra, each with a technique. Mike, a journalism student from Fort Lauderdale, is fierce and frenzied. Shifting positions with black, dirty, bare feet, he pummels the air with swift jabs. "I'm not moving to the music," Mike insists. "The music is moving me. I am the music." While glow sticks were the most popular prop at Ultra, Anah, a 22-year-old from Los Angeles, brought her trusty hula hoop. In fact, she was hired by Bacardi to perform with her troupe, Hoop Revolution. "Hula hooping is something people discount as fluffy and light," she says. "But it has a transformative nature. It shows the relation between your thoughts and your physical manifestation in motion." She explains that if a dancer is inhibited or having negative thoughts about himself, his hula is likely to wobble or drop. "If you have positive thoughts," she says, "it moves beautifully."

Bunny, front man for Rabbit in the Moon, freaks out the freaks at Ultra.
Deirdra Funcheon
Bunny, front man for Rabbit in the Moon, freaks out the freaks at Ultra.
Above: He wants your sex: Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner. At right: A fairy gets ready to "rave it up" at Ultra.
Audra Schroeder
Above: He wants your sex: Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner. At right: A fairy gets ready to "rave it up" at Ultra.

Representing another dance style, legendary Miami popper Chillsky was holding court at the break-beat stage with his crew of homeboys, Deadly Venom, decked out in bright-red Adidas sweats and chunky sneaks. "Basically, I like painting pictures," Chillsky says. "Anybody can do the robot. But not everybody can paint pictures and send out ideas, especially in front of the public." The crew's message at Ultra seemed to be "Don't fuck with us," as it symbolically stomped and killed rival poppers.

Molten wax
Emitting an edge of Miles Davis, aspiring dance-music producer Afrocat waits patiently behind fierce sunglasses outside the Starlight Ballroom in the Wyndham Hotel, WMC headquarters. Afrocat has traveled from London and paid hundreds of dollars for a registration badge so she can play a snippet of one of her original creations for the high-profile A&R executives lined up at the first of three official WMC "listening sessions" on Sunday afternoon. "It's a bit unnerving," she confesses, eyeing the arrival of dozens of CD slingers who crowd the hall, hustling and hoping to make the best of their 45-second shot. The event turns into a total meltdown, however, when the sound system malfunctions, and everyone is abruptly informed the listening session has been canceled and to return the next day. The would-be stars who have their own portable CD and MP3 players clamor around the execs, thrusting headphones their way. Others storm out, saying, "This conference sucks," perhaps on their way to numb their frustration with a $10 kamikaze shot.

Needle exchange
"I'm an old-school DJ," confesses San Francisco Bay-area turntablist Behrouz. At the crack of noon on Sunday morning, the heavyset industry vet is recovering from an all-night spin at the Yoshitoshi Party at Club Space and rehashing one of the industry's oldest arguments over a breakfast of Corona beer. "I still like the warm analog sound of vinyl," Behrouz sighs. "I don't know why."

He is talking with the DJ/producer duo Gabriel & Dresden, who survived last night's show on Ultra's Progressive Arena. "Man, if they could make anything more disorganized and more unfun, it would probably be jail," David Dresden complains about the festival. "There was nobody in charge."

"I had an amazing time," his partner, Josh Gabriel, disagrees.

Nor does the pair agree on sound: Dresden spins CDs while Gabriel works strictly from his laptop. Dresden shrugs: "My partner is playing in a different medium than I am." Gabriel laughs, "It definitely fucks us up."

"I never bought the argument about vinyl," Dresden says. "Then I became a producer and heard the difference when you take sound off vinyl. I definitely believe the hype now."

Gabriel still isn't buying it. "You hear: analog is warm and this and that," he scoffs. "Give me a break. What the hell is going on here? A blank vinyl record has a sound." He purses his lips and imitates the crackle of white noise. "That adds the same quality to every sound on the record. So all of a sudden, the sounds are unified. That's why people like the sound of vinyl. When you produce with that in mind, you can make things that sound different."

"Using these computer programs will take DJing to another level," Dresden concedes. "It will give people more opportunity to express themselves than they have on turntable."

"Once I use my tools, I want to throw them away and get new ones," Gabriel confesses. He is already fantasizing about his next kit. "I want to make an Xbox thing where I'm really playing live with a joy stick. Where I literally can take the crowd where I want to [take it], almost like a video game."

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