After spending four hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport because I couldn't get on an earlier flight, I'm finally back - just in time to fly to Ohio tomorrow. I like travelling, but my work schedule has left me exhausted lately. Just keeping up with the emails feels like moving a mountain.
I've been to the Miami area several times, most recently last summer in Hollywood at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel (the very same place where Anna Nicole just died). I've been going to Winter Music Conference since '99 or 2000, skipping only two years since then (once when I was unemployed, and last year so I could go to Budapest).
This year's trip to WMC made me want to not go back.
First of all, it was rainy. And cold. So cold that not only could I not swim in the ocean (one of my favorite things to do), but I couldn't even dip a toe in the hotel pool. I was wearing long sleeves and jeans (which had to be rolled up because of the downpour).
You have to understand, WMC is all about the hang. Nobody except radio programmers and aspiring DJs actually go to the conference itself (the panels etc), so you have to make yourself as visible as possible at all the parties, most of which are poolside or on a roofdeck. That kind of sucks when it's raining.
The events that were inside this year seemed more disorganized than ever. I felt like I was always arriving everywhere too early, with events starting 30-90 minutes late, open bars not happening, no free food where there was supposed to be free food...
Plus - and maybe it's because I was away last year - I felt more alien to Miami Beach than ever. I actually got turned away from The Setai for wearing flip-flops (at the beach!), and when I returned with heels on, the party I was there for wasn't even starting for another hour. I'd been there the night before as well for a Tiesto release party, which apparently Tommie Sunshine got turned away from though I got in. That was a disappointment too, since there were no free drinks or food for us - only for the suits in the back room who were having some kind of law firm corporate meeting. (One lawyer named Sergio stole a white wine for me, thankfully.) I also got turned away from the Delano for dinner, even though there were a million empty tables. The excuse? Too many reservations.
So I trotted over to The Raleigh, where I felt welcome. I could listen to the great music coming from the Stones Throw party at the pool, and I had a nice, reasonably priced meal with impeccable service. Screw the snooty Delano. I'd rather sit on a patio with lanterns swinging in the breeze above me, and a twisted-trunk tree with an orchid growing out of it in front of me. Until I can afford to actually stay there, I think I'll keep making reservations at the Richmond, the hotel next door. At least that worked out well.
My trip wasn't all bad. I met lots of interesting people: the PR manager for J. Sisters (resulting in a free manicure), the co-owner of Rowland Coffee Roasters (manufacturers of Cafe Bustelo and their new cafe con leche in-a-can), and a hot model/rapper/actor/political activist named KDubb The Truth. Besides standing in front of BT in line at Walgreens, I also managed to get some meetings in and see and be seen, which is really all you can do down there. I wish I could've accomplished more, but the rain definitely thwarted a lot...
I spent most of my time at Cafeteria, which is ridiculous because that's one of my favorite New York places and you'd think I could find something different in Miami. But generally unless you're at a nice hotel, the food is touristy and a rip-off, and chain restaurants (even fast food) have such bad service and are so dirty you don't even want to go in there. Cafeteria had great events, great networking, good food, and a hot bartender named Joshua who works nights til 6 a.m. and was making me gigantic tequila gimlets in big plastic cups.
An exception to Miami's bad food problem is the late night must-visit Raffy's, which looks totally scary but it's great cheap Cuban food and they have a nice overhang to protect you from the rain. It's part of the Rabrinni Hotel which looks terrifying.
Definitely the best part of the trip wasn't even officially related to the music conference, though it fit alongside it well: Night Tennis, hosted by Sony Ericsson, which was a UV tennis tournament set to dance music. Let me say that again: glow-in-the-dark tennis. !!! They played all these crazy remixes and mashups (like one of my favorites, Party Ben's "Pump Up the Doorbell" MP3) and there were strobe lights and video projection - it was like being in a videogame. Plus it was open bar, and closing out the evening were DJ sets by Paul Oakenfold and MURK (who I really wanted to hear but I was too tired and had to make it back from Downtown Miami).
I was really hoping to track down some of the event organizers or someone from Sony Ericsson but it was really a consumer event, so I had to just enjoy myself. I was standing courtside, so close that I actually got hit in the elbow by a tennis ball. Awesome! Best of all? The whole thing was FREE. For everyone.
For more photos from my trip, check out my photo blog.