Our Man in Miami: Going Gone with Pete Tong
Labor Day is usually a time when nightlife veterans such as I retreat to anywhere but Miami Beach. The crowds are colossal and their behavior is generally just as monstrous—anyone in their right mind tends to avoid it at all costs. But when Pete Tong is flying in for a spin at SET and you’re offered some face-time, well, dealing with rash behavior seems not to matter so much.
But I couldn’t get gone with Pete Tong without prefacing it with some good new-fangled rock music. So I snuck in the side door at Bayfront Park and sidled up to the stage for a set by Paramore, perhaps the most rambunctious young’uns touring the world these days. It was a strange affair, what with the shrill shrieks and massive crunch of neo-classic power pop. Then again I don’t often stand between 6000 screaming teens and their idols.
On to SET where things were decidedly more adult. That’s not to say there wasn’t some frenzy in the air, mind you—it’s just that the frenzy seemed to be tempered by everyone’s concerted effort to impress each other. Tong of course, has no such need. The cat’s been at it for so long his name is pretty much ubiquitous with the night. And though in person he’s coolly understated, on the decks he’s no such thing. There’s good reason this DJ’s a superstar. Just ask the masses who lost their minds at the foot of his booth.
Tong had flown in from spinning Randall’s Island Electric Zoo, and was set to floor SET before heading out to Vegas in order to do it all over again. That he found time to get with your Man in Miami between spins only means he’s not just a superstar DJ, he’s also a gentleman.
Okay, you literally just flew in from spinning at Electric Zoo in New York. How many people do you think were there? I didn’t count ‘em (laughs). It was a very, very cool location, just at the top corner of Manhattan under the bridge between the Bronx and Queens. The weather was fantastic. When I was back in England there was all this talk of hurricanes, so I didn’t know what to expect. The only unfortunate thing was that I literally just flew in, did it, and flew out again. I’ve been coming to New York since 1979 and this was by far my shortest visit. But taking off from La Guardia I got the most stunning view of Manhattan I’ve even seen. It was a crystal clear night and we flew right over the city. I didn’t think you were allowed to do that anymore.
Tomorrow you’re in Vegas for another drive-by? Yeah, I’ve been coming to America for a long, long time but I’d never done Labor Day because it’s always in the middle of the Ibiza season. But it’s obviously getting more and more hot over here, and this seemed like the perfect year to do it. So you want to sort of maximize it, and do as many shows as you can in a short span of time. It’s three shows in 26 hours: Electric Zoo, SET tonight, then on to Vegas for a daytime party at Encore Las Vegas.
Then it’s back across the pond for Wonderland Ibiza right? I do Wonderland every week for 16 weeks. This last Friday was the only Friday I would’ve missed. It ends on October 1. That is the closing weekend.
Did you open the Ibiza season with another of your International Music Summits? Yeah, we did our third year of the Summit. It’s kind of inspired by the old New Music Seminar and Tony Wilson’s In the City; kind of a hybrid of the two. There really isn’t one in the UK right now, Miami’s Winter Music Conference is in March, and the Amsterdam dance event isn’t until October, so it seemed sensible for me and my partners to do this in Ibiza, and kind of set the agenda for the whole summer.
The Summit itself is about 600 people, and we do a big scrum around the evenings, different showcase events, and then it ends up with the big concert in a heritage site on top of this town that no one’s every used before, which is beautiful. It’s meant to be a bit intimate so everyone gets something out of it. It’s a kind of antidote to Miami, which I now call ‘an exhibition in nightclubbing in one week.’ Most people that come to Miami for Conference don’t even realize there’s a conference going on.
Is this your first time at SET? No, no, I did SET back when it first opened. I used to do a lot of Opium Group shows; then I started doing one-offs – Ultra and Space. Lately I’ve been spinning Mynt Lounge a lot. My friend Roman [Jones] owns it. This time I’m changing up.
Winter Music Conference 2011. What do you have planned? We’ll be doing another pool party, but we may move from The Surfcomber, I’m not sure yet. It’s easy to overdo it during Conference. Last year I did only two events: The Surfcomber and Space.
Underworld, U2 and Spoon are the first three mixes on your site right now. What do you have to hear from a song for you to get involved? There has to be something quite remarkable about it. I always look for some kind of soul in the music – and I don’t mean soul singer soul; just something special, something magic. It’s kind of a sixth sense really.
Kinda like your DJing? Exactly.