Sohanny, Francisca Valenzuela Rock BMI Showcase at Billboard Latin Music Conference
Sohanny, Francisca Valenzuela Rock BMI Showcase at Billboard Latin Music Conference
Portishead
The BMI Showcase in Miami's Warehouse District featued a diverse slate of up-and-comers (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

Wednesday night's BMI showcase at the Billboard Latin Music Conference faced challenges from the start. First, a poolside happy hour, intended to last only an hour, got rolling on Miami time. Its planned entertainment, a performance by artists on Don Omar's Orfanato Music Group, didn't get started in earnest until 6:20 -- 10 minutes before the scheduled start time of BMI's event, a few miles away on mainland Miami.

But the BMI party, originally scheduled for a Gibson Guitar showroom in Miami's Design District, moved venues at the last minute, resulting in crowds milling confusedly in the street of the original venue. A chain of e-mails eventually led to the new party spot in a warehouse district further downtown. That, in turn, had to be accessed by an off-street door in the back of an otherwise unused and pretty empty building.

Still, a good 100 people or so finally made it to the upstairs soiree. There, sweet punch spiked with Gran Sierpe pisco helped soothe the arrival stress, and cocktail chatter bounced off the polished concrete floors. This did not enhance the room's acoustics, but the diverse slate of up-and-comers on the bill -- U.N.O., Sohanny, Diego Dibos, Fran Valenzuela, Vicente Garcia, and Tercer Cielo -- seemed to compensate with extra enthusiasm and sincerity.

Portishead
U.N.O., which stands for Uniendo Nuestros Origenes, from Mexico, feature Carlos Law (left) and Pedro Dabdoub and play Huapango-pop (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

Check out all of our coverage of the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards right here.

Diego Dibos, for instance, was a front-runner in the race for the next great earnest soft-rock balladeer. "Let's get a little more relaxed for the romanticism," he urged the crowd, before launching into an unplugged set of midtempo but hooky numbers.

Portishead
Diego Dibos could win the race for next great earnest soft-rock balladeer (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

The most dynamic performers here, though, were the girls. Early on, the pneumatic, taut performer Sohanny swiveled her hips through a high-energy set that spanned several tropical genres. There was no mopey singer-songwriter stuff here. Instead, she appeared supported by a full band -- two guitarists, a drummer, a pianist, a percussionist and a backup singer, accompanied by two male dancers. Beginning with an urban-merengue hybrid, she moved into straightforward bachata and then back through sassy salsa.

Portishead
Sohanny, born in the Dominican Republic, has worked with Emilio Estefan and combines several genres from pop to merengue (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

The other highlight was Francisca Valenzuela, nearly the opposite in sentiment and mood to Sohanny. She appeared solo, accompanying herself on a bright blue Baldwin piano with a kind of plink-plonk playing style that sounded almost cabaret-like. That, plus her throaty, emotive voice put her somewhere in the ballpark of a Spanish-language hybrid of Fiona Apple, Carole King, and the Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer.

Portishead
Francisca Valenzuela on her bright blue Baldwin. Her new album is called "Buen Soldado." (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives

Billboard.biz will be reporting from the Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards all week -- check back every couple of hours for the latest.