A music festival for industry insiders along a warm sandy beach? Who wouldn’t want to go. Year after year, we’ve been trudging out to Miami from the West Coast, seeking a bit of metropolitan paradise during the Winter Music Conference. But in recent years the scene, music included, fell flat. Even the once aerated crusty cubano tasted stale and unpalatable. Ok, well that’s probably a lie, but the vibe of the place wasn’t all it used to be, and perhaps that rubbed off on the perception of the food. After taking a couple years off to focus on building a new company and pop out a rave baby, I decided to return to Miami this year. Why the hell not? A chance to break away from wearing applesauce as a “textured face mask” and get some real “adult” time amongst my eternally youthful DJ friends sounded like a great vacation. Sadly, I missed BPM. So, I figured even if the scene sucks, there is always the ocean, and I can write this trip off. Boom.
I was a little apprehensive about returning after my last stint in 2012 when all the underground parties were downtown. If I wanted to rave in boxes and cement, I would go to Detroit, where at least it’s dirt cheap and I am supporting an economy that really needs my charity. But Miami? For all the hoochie’s and hustlers I’d hit head-on amidst a clusterfuck of honking taxis and dodgy hotels, I’d better at least be getting some fun in the sun at rooftop parties by the beach with that $40 shitty cranberry vodka. This had not been the case.
Oh what a difference a couple of years makes. With the ease of the app world at my finger tips, AirBnB, Uber, and Yelp pretty much made for an easy slide into SoBe after my red-eye flight. I was thrilled to discover that the duplex apartment we had rented was just as pictured: shabby chic with a wrought-iron-fenced patio filled with colorful plastic chairs and tropical plants and a giant ashtray. Forgoing the luxury hotel experience is hard to do, especially as a homeowner with some fairly posh residential digs, but it was reminiscent of my communal living days and the nostalgia was welcomed.
Bunked up with one of my BFFs and my BF, we had kind of a Three’s Company thing going on, but that made for a dynamic trifecta. I was so pumped to get out and explore, hit all the right parties, and watch the sunrise. After a disco nap, Mama was ready to rave! The jump off was at the Disbehave party that we were throwing at the Astor Social Club. A kind of last minute jam to throw this gig together, we brought on the babelicious Lisbona sisters, our favorite Dirtybird DJs, and our Burning Man buddies Yolanda Be Cool, to DJ this little industry mixer. A total experiment, we were clueless how this party would go down. Did we make a grip of cash? No, we walked away with four twenties and five $2 bills. Did we cry about it? Fuck no. We got a hotel to give us license to rage it up in their swank ass lounge while our insanely talented homies tagged on the decks all night. #Winning. This Victorian speakeasy with a dapper mixology menu was a far cry from the chachi-cheat-me Miami I had grown apart from. I was in love all over again.
Post party, we staggered down the sidewalk in a wolf pack of ten or so colossal hellions in search of more rave. After much deliberation (over a sloppy two foot slice of pizza munched by all) we skipped Do Not Sit On The Furniture and headed to the girl’s hotel. We sparklized, conceptualized a music video, started pulling shapes, and made a giant effort to do some 5am beach yoga. Day one in Miami: Huge Success.
Sleeping in. What a novelty. I almost forgot what it was like after a year of deprivation. Granted I went to sleep at 7am, but I slept until 2. Now THAT is amazing. I stayed in bed until nightfall. Because I could. And as the sun fell down, I got up, and slowly headed out to find something my mouth found divine.
Where to eat? Decisions, decisions.
Yes, I am hugely fond of Puerto Sagua for their classic Cuban cuisine and non-pretentious vibes (and 2am feasts that end with a much needed after-dinner smoke purchased at the throw-back little deli counter). I also love to grub down on some kebabs at that sketchy little Mediterranean sidewalk cafe, Sultan, next door to the Shore Club. But on this trip I sought to discover all of the amazingness that is dining in South Beach; and more in particularly, SoFi.
Sofi is quiet. It is classy. It is intercontinental. And so off the radar. A perfect reprieve from the madness of central South Beach. Although there are a handful of topnotch dining enclaves, we found one that stood out as superior from all other dining we have discovered in over a dozen trips here: La Gloutonnerie.
After some Yelp scouring, I stumbled upon this gem, and B-lined over once I realized it was still open after eleven. (God you’ve gotta love that!) This place is the real Miami. As I walked through the arched stucco patio softly lit by glowing fire, I felt prettier, more affluent, like hot shit. I thought, “The Godfather would like this place”. So I called him up and asked him to join (my BFF in tow coincidentally is my daughter’s Godfatha’).
I sat down to an ice-cold glass of golden prosecco, effervescent with streams of tiny bubbles sparkling in the glow of the night, accompanied by a basket of fresh baked olive bread served with a round of creamed butter and a dish of velvety pate (this was all complimentary). If I get arrested in Miami and shall die in jail, at least I know where I want my last meal to come from. Just the bread and pate will be fine, thank you. It wouldn’t be just to say that the oysters and tartar weren't brilliant. The Godfather concurred. Deliciousness. We left floating on air.
The week cruised by, and we danced and dined, and danced and dined. I had listed us for at least two dozen events and figured since I wasn’t actually working this year, I could kind of go where the salty breeze swept me. I probably made it to half of them. It was a good time. Maya Jane Coles at Trade, Gina Turner at The Dream, Rhonda with Soul Clap at Soho House, Sweat It Out, Matt Tolfrey at Get Lost…so many parties, it did not disappoint. But, I honestly could have just lived at La Gloutonnerie all week and died happy. But then I would have missed Seth Troxler’s Big Tittie Surprise, and that would have been a travesty.
Let me just say, the Red Bull Guesthouse dominated this year. Like, seriously dominated. Working in brand development for years, and now owning an experiential marketing firm, I always keep tabs on who is doing what in this business. Red Bull has always been a pioneer in the field, paving the way for the followers. They wrote the book on it, and the guest list, and you are lucky if you are on it. They always do cool shit. From the Red Bull Music Academy to the Flugtag, even skeptical haters are impressed. Once I promoted a ridiculous party they threw on Alcatraz Island, and that was probably ten years ago when experiential branding wasn’t even a “thing”. You want to talk brand meets experience - they got this. So, I knew it would be cool.
What was so outstanding was not the cool-factor, or the over-the-top mind-blowing concept of this activation. It was the quality in the execution. There were countless layers to this around-the-clock 5-day event, and everything was perfected. I found my senior raver heaven around 3am at one of the highlighted parties: Seth Troxler’s Big Tittie Surprise. Let me tell you, my big tittie’s were surprised as hell! The party was so good.
The lavender lighting made the room feel like a spa in space, toned down enough to create a sultry mood but bright enough to find your friends. The sound was engineered by God; the bass deep but not reverberating, intense but not loud. Tactile. Seth Troxler’s mixing massaged my ears and made sweet love to them. I was not on ecstasy. The crowd was industry, dancing with sophistication, socializing with finesse. Although there were quality cocktails, I didn’t need a drink. There was no wanting. Only enjoying. I enjoyed a push-up that conjured up sweet summer memories from childhood. I had a Red Bull that gave me wings. And as I floated to the back of the room in search of a bathroom, I happened upon a Dionysian spread of gourmet soul food: fluffy spoonfuls of mac n’ cheese, and miniature chicken and waffle treats that made me orgasm with every bite. Although exhausted from partying for 20 hours straight, I was able to leave feeling revitalized and uplifted. The way you imagine every vacation should be. The way I feel like parties should be. The reason I started Culture Vulture, was to aspire to this kind of greatness, to work amongst these masters of craft.
Sunday morning, I returned to La Gloutonnerie for their brunch. It was a sacred experience. One consisting of charcuterie with truffle honey, fresh oysters with lemon, croque monsiuers and pickled carrots, macarons and panna cotta, nutella crepes and chocolate covered berries, served with fresh roasted espresso and endless pours of delicate champagne. We savored and soaked in the satiation. Divine heaven in a culinary masterpiece. I am still in awe this happens every Sunday. So baller.
Conclusion: With endless parties to attend, you must refuel and can do this guilt-free (cuz you are dancing your butt off), while living la vida loca in Miami. Although there are plenty of exceptional smoothie and “green living” cafes, as well as authentic Cuban cheap eats, we chose to indulge in the haut monde of South Beach, because, you know, that’s how we roll. Save the kale smoothies and quinoa salads for cleansing when you get home. WMC is always about indulgence. Go ahead and skip downtown. I mean, go for the good parties to break up the trip, but don’t stray too far from Collins Ave. South Beach, still quaint and charming in its deteriorating art deco ghetto glam, instantly allured me. Perhaps it’s that my tastes have matured or my energy is magnetizing higher vibrations. Either way, I will be back next year. And I’m coming for Art Basel too. Miami you won me over again….in all your diva glory.