Traffic jams clogged every conceivable artery traversing through the shimmering neon din that gives the streets of South Beach their character, nearly as much as the numerous inebriates, tourists and other assorted creatures of the night that line its sidewalks. The bustle was mirrored overhead as an expansive cluster of lights and explosions intermittently laced the skies with a frenetic latticework of pyrotechnics. There was no doubt that New Year’s Eve was in full swing, and that festivities were far from over, even after the coming of midnight. The scene inside South Beach mega club, Mansion, was no less immune to the chaos unfurling outside, as a crowd of VIPs and zealous house heads alike swarmed the dance floor, moving in lockstep to the beat as they imbibed freely from the open bar.
On the decks, a burly, bald and bespectacled Carl Cox looked down onto the compacted mass of bodies that had entrenched the area directly in front of the booth, bobbing with the energy of a much younger man as he manipulated the beats and occasionally shouted his signature catchphrase, “OH YES, OH YES!” into the microphone. Cox’s legend in dance music has become almost mythical, as he possesses the rare gift not only of longevity, but also a propensity to be able to mix just about anything. There are few if any other DJs that can replicate his almost revelatory ability to blur the lines between genres and meld them into a cohesive form that is entirely his own. At fifty years of age, he nullifies any notion of the artist’s capacity for innovation deteriorating with age. He alternated smoothly from track to track, always maintaining the same sort of tone sonically throughout; the dominant theme being crafting the perfect soundtrack to New Year’s mayhem. The pacing was relentless, rarely yielding a respite from the up tempo, bass –riddled dance floor bangers that seem to beg the conspicuously drug-addled party set that had convened in the center of the room to dance without cease.
The area in front of the booth became a raging pit of rhythmic movement, as party goers donning shades, reached in the direction of the booth exhorting Carl for more, pronouncing his name at the top of their lungs, a demigod of dance, now within their line of sight. The track selection was precisely what one could expect of a DJ as seasoned as Cox, arcane and unfamiliar, yet entirely compelling and vital. He basked in the admiration of the crowd, almost as much as he did in his own sweat, which drenched him increasingly throughout the course of his set. It was truly a sight to behold to watch the dazzling lights glisten ubiquitously along the ceiling, shifting their hues in harmony with the music, criss-crossing, clashing and crashing, casting their shadows over the booth. The bottles continued to flow into the VIP with remarkable constancy, as embers flew out of ignited flares adorning their necks. This was a showcase of the highest order, as Cox spun from nearly midnight to 6 AM, never once compromising the fluidity of his set and spinning mainstream.
The sounds were decidedly representative of the underground techno that Cox has championed in his Carl Cox and Friends arena at Ultra Music Festival, without question the most masterfully curated musical installment to have graced the festival. When innovators can exert free reign over their art in an increasingly commercialized landscape that values catering to the tastes of the bottle service set, there is just something even more special about the occasion in which they do so. The fact that it just happened to take the form of Carl Cox delivering a marathon set on South Beach made it so much more rewarding.