Pitbull with Sophia del Carmen (and a furry, branded friend) at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, April 28, 2011 (Photo: Getty Images)
MIAMI--After a joint show-closing performance by Jencarlos Canela, Pitbull, and T-Pain, the audience at the Billboard Latin Music Awards was ready to keep dancing. So hundreds thronged to the afterparty in the adjacent "Field House" of the BankUnited Center, on the University of Miami campus. The room filled up quickly and many would-be partygoers did not get in.
For the occasion, the sprawling, hangar-like building had been converted into a mod ice palace, full of white leather and silver, mirrored surfaces. Glass tables along the perimeters heaved with Latin-fusion hors-d'oeuvre. Floor-length ball gowns and black suits weren't going to stop anyone from eating after the four-hour program, and many otherwise prim attendees attacked dishes of shredded pork and mini burritos with gusto. A few even stopped waiters carrying mounds of scallop ceviche meant to replenish individual serving glasses, instead poking at the trays with their forks.
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With appetites quickly sated, the crowd loosened up quickly, lubed up on cocktails made from low-cal Voli vodka, and pumped up by spinner DJ Africa, who was perched atop a tall silver column at the room's center. His soundtrack for the evening continued the conference's bilingual pattern, skipping from Don Omar to Swedish House Mafia to (the far less polite) album version of Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight."
The main event of the evening, though, kicked off around 12:15 with live performances by artists from Pitbull's label, Mr. 305 Inc. The star and host of the segment was up-and-comer El Cata, who had also headlined the conference's official Billboard Bash at the club Mansion the previous evening.
He kept things moving by performing just one solo number, his new single "Colesterol de Amor," before dueting with labelmate Fito Blanko, and then introducing a couple new females. The first, Anael, chirped through a merengue-styed, Spanish-language version of Rihanna's "Only in Girl in the World."
The second, Sophia del Carmen, was clearly the new act on which the label was betting its hopes, as she got the most stage time, and by herself, at that -- save for two backup dancers. With her penchant for hard disco beats, the tiny blonde seemed to position herself as a Lady Gaga for the Latin set.
As soon as del Carmen left, onto the stage came a DJ, a hypeman and, finally, reggaeton duo Alexis y Fido. For the red carpet and awards ceremony itself, they had gone for a grown-up look in Italian suits, but for their performance they were back to street, in sunglasses and combat boots.
They clearly had many fans in the crowd, and the dance party started in earnest from their first song. Sticking to straight, aggressive reggaeton, their set included relatively new material like "El Tiburon," as well as older hits like "Soy Igual Que Tu" and "Eso Ehh." Nearly an hour later, both crowd and performers were more or less spent, though the cocktails kept flowing and DJ Africa didn't let up on the turntables.