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Miami sound machine: Tracing a musical line between South Beach and the Strip

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Deadmau5, Tommy Lee, DJ Aero and something messy at WMC 2008.
Photo: Drew "Rukes" Ressler

If Ibiza is the nightlife capital of the world, then Vegas is the nightlife capital of the United States.

Or so claims Marc Jay, Vice President of One Global Events and sometime TV producer, whose resume is an impressive timeline of PR and media experience and whose Blackberry is stuffed with VIP contacts.

And if Vegas can be equated to Ibiza, the Spanish island known for wild nights that stretch right past dawn, then anyone with stock and trade in Vegas nightlife better be at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, ground zero for the impending earthquakes of electronic music and nightlife trends.

“At least one representative from every [Las Vegas] venue should be going to find out what’s new in the worldwide music and nightclub scene,” states Jay with a suave British accent, which can be credited to a childhood in Brighton, England. “This is like the Nightclub and Bar Convention, but it’s much more international. Everyone who works in the nightlife industry, from all over the world, meets up for five days to find out what’s coming over from Europe that might come to America. The top 100 DJs in the world, as crowned by the British magazine, DJ Magazine, will be playing shows in Miami, whether at a pool party during the day or in a club at night.”

Those DJ’s sounds will filter down to Vegas. Without most mohawked or stiletto-ed club goers every knowing it, they’ll be dancing to the fruits of WMC halfway across the country and months after the conference has handed out its last glow stick.

This dance move was all the rage at WMC 2005.

This dance move was all the rage at WMC 2005.

“So many songs and tracks are launched at WMC. Bob Sinclair has three shows this year and will be introducing new sounds that he has remixed and will give vinyls to all the other DJs. BBC Radio 1 and BPM Radio will be broadcasting live across Europe. People literally give out records to you as you walk down the street. Their music is going to end up not just in Vegas, but across the world,” Jay says.

Not only a cross-pollination site for music, WMC in a launch pad for other nightlife trends, as well. Some of these trends that we now take for granted as ubiquitous and essential aspects of the clubbing experience, like bottle service, for instance. Bottle service had been offered in London and Paris for 10-15 years before The Light Group saw the, ahem, light and brought it to Vegas.

Jay confirms, “That’s the sort of stuff you’ll hear about, and so it’s very good to go.”

Leach Blog Photo

Things got trippy during Sasha and Digweed's 2006 set at WMC.

Josh Donaldson, Director of Marketing for house music events for The Light Group (specifically Jet Nightclub, The Bank and Bare), definitely got that memo. He has been attending WMC for 12 years in order to be one of the first to spot and stake a claim to the next hot songs, DJs and producers.

“Vegas is a very fickle market,” says Donaldson. “Whoever kills it at the WMC will be the next big thing here. Michael Fuller (Vice President of N9NE Group) and Zee Zandi (talent buyer for Angel Management Group) will be there scouting. Industry people, we’re all viral. We all talk to each other, email and IM each other; it’s all about social media and social network. So whoever is killing it right now, whichever DJ is in their best form, playing the hottest tracks, everyone is gonna come home and it’s gonna be a race to see who’s gonna bring him to Vegas first. … The first person to bring him to Vegas is going to have the bragging rights.”

Donaldson, who will be attending with his girlfriend, doesn’t drink or treat WMC as an opportunity for out-of-market toilet bowl-clenching or naked Twister debauchery. He attends parties but is always waiting for a moment like the time a couple years ago when Fedde Le Grand suddenly burst onto the scene with the now dance floor staple “Put Your Hands Up for Detroit!”

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WMC 2009

“Every year, one or two songs blow up,” he says rapidly, his excitement spilling out of the phone. That spontaneous combustion – the sudden buzz, the fresh rush of pleasure, the contagious refrain and heart-jolting beat – is why he goes and how he gets off.

“House music is something that is a part of Vegas,” Donaldson explains. “Not every single night, but on holidays and during weekly events [i.e. Tiesto at Jet on Christmas night, Perfecto Saturdays at Rain, Godskitchen Wednesdays at Body English], and it’s cutting edge for 2009. What and who is going to be hot comes out of Miami, and Vegas is at the cusp of nightlife and what’s hot, and so all the big nightclubs send a rep and everyone goes down there to make sure we’re booking the right guy.”

Frankie Anobile, a Vegas nightlife legend and DJ, seconds him.

Anobile's August 2007 Weekly cover appearance.

Anobile’s handsome, power-suited figure confidently stares from a summer 2007 Las Vegas Weekly cover with the word “Icons” across his chest. Why? Short version: Anobile threw hotel dance events in the early eighties, before casino nightclubs existed. Largely because of him, MGM opened Studio 54, the first full scale nightclub to open in a casino on the Strip.

Anobile is also known as DJ Frankie. He has been spinning since ’77, has won numerous awards and was nominated one of the Top 5 Resident DJs at the Club World Awards at WMC 2003. He has inspired and helped launch the careers of countless local DJs, including Grammy Award nominees The Crystal Method and Chris Cox of Thunderpuss. As a promoter, Anobile booked Run DMC and The Beastie Boys in Vegas venues before they hit it big. Also a pioneer of Vegas’ electronic movement, he co-produced the first legalized outdoor rave “Desert Move.” He was presented the Key to the City in 2000.

Frankie Anobile sees a direct line between the music showcased at WMC and who and what will played in the upcoming months at Vegas clubs.

Frankie Anobile sees a direct line between the music showcased at WMC and who and what will played in the upcoming months at Vegas clubs.

Despite his staggering background, Anobile projects genuine humility and treats me, a newbie nobody journalist whom he has never met and who just cold-called him for an impromptu phone interview, like an esteemed, cherished friend. He tells me to go to such-and-such hotel and ask for so-and-so. “Tell him Frankie sent you.”

If anyone is an authority on WMC, which he has attended as talent, an events organizer (he and Marc Jay threw a huge 14 club party there in 2005), an award nominee (which he didn’t mention; I found out via research) and a house music fan, and on the subject of Vegas nightlife, and how the two interrelate, it’s Frankie Anobile.

“House music is making a small comeback within the industry, but not a big comeback with the audiences,” Anobile explains. “Even at Perfecto at Rain, the crowd is more spectators than participants. We have promoters and DJs trying to play more house, but people aren’t reacting to it like they did in the late ‘90s and during the new millennium when people loved it because it was smoking hot, not because it was being forced down their throat.”

But that’s not the case in Miami this week.

“People are so influenced by the parties at WMC, where there are people from Spain, France and Greece who love house and electronic music so much. When people from Vegas see their excitement – these cool people who really know how to dress, really know how to throw their hands up, going crazy, loving it – then they are so inspired that they come back and play the songs they hear.

“That’s what I used to do,” continues Anobile, who won’t be attending WMC for the first time in many years. “I got inspired and brought it back and hoped the market would react to it like they did.”

Will the same thing happen at WMC this year? Anobile thinks so.

“What happens in Vegas happens because of us.”

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