Winter Music Conference Miami Beach, FL - March 17 to 19, 2003

Every March the worldwide dance music industry converges on Miami Beach for a week of parties and networking, the exchanging of white labels and to give the summer's hits their first plays. The parties around the conference, which start at noon and go to all hours, have grown so much that hardly anyone attends the conference, preferring the pools, beaches and 31-degree weather. On March 17 the English label Hooj Choons hosted a night of house music at the Opium Garden, an open-air club designed somewhat like the Roman Coliseum, with a tent over the main floor. Highlights of the night included Dutch DJ Sander Kleinenberg playing a rocking set topped by the Plump DJs' "Donna Kebab," a massively acidic break beat rework of the bass line from Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." Medicine8 were also great; the duo played funky and tough house on the main floor; even the guy in the wheelchair was dancing. After them, Tom "Jedi" Middleton opened his set with the theme to Star Wars, which raised many eyebrows, before moving into a wiggly acid house set and playing many of his own tracks. March 18 was DJ John Digweed's Bedrock night at Nerve. Digweed fooled everyone by going on early and ending at one a.m. After Digweed, other DJs took over for a disappointing night of overly-long progressive house tracks. The next day I had the good fortune to stumble upon the free "Some Call It House, We Call It Home" party at the Marlin Hotel. Enticed in by classy Chicago house and the silver décor, I was just in time for Lisa Shaw's live set, as she sang over dubs of her own records mixed by her producer, Swingsett. Shaw has a fantastic, soulful voice, perfectly suited to house music. The crowd barely numbered 200 but were 100 percent into her music. I have rarely seen so many simultaneous smiles from performers and audience alike. After her, Diz continued the "house is a feeling" vibe, proving once again that Chicago DJs are still the best house DJs.