The arrival of this year’s Ultra Music Festival brought in a heavy dose of rain throughout most of Friday morning. There was a lack of music along the strip of South Beach unless you passed by the extensive lines of restaurants gearing in people with local DJ’s and meal discounts. By the afternoon, the sun had shown bright over most of Miami’s landscape. On the way from breakfast we were lucky enough to run into a few Ultra headliners taking in the local cuisine.
By the late afternoon, we made our way over the bridge connecting South Beach with Downtown. You did not have to look very hard to see the massive white tents and neon lighting stages that took over Bicentennial Park. All day parking is available across the street for about $30 – $40 per vehicle. Before stepping out into the street you could feel the vibrations bouncing off the towering hotels and condos and straight into your eardrums.
There were no words to describe the massive amounts of different people from around the world. Some were fanatics to one particular label or artist, some to show off their year’s work into their fairytale costumes, and some to just enjoy the music and take in as much as possible. Naturally, one is expected to wait during the general admission lines. Applause was heard for those bold enough to jump over the 10ft. double fence.
Once inside it was difficult to figure out where to begin your musical journey. To your left, Adam Freeland’s set was strong under the Biscayne Stage; however, it was the giant eye-catching domes that caught our attention. A small hill climb up towards the entrance, and it was clear to see why many were drawn. Steve Porter made sure that no two feet were still, while the rest of your body enjoyed a spray down of water guns. Timo Maas began his two and a half hour set under the Carl Cox Arena, a massive tent complete with live recording cameras, dancers, and an extensive light showcase.
If you thought electronic music was the only thing to listen out for think again. Just across the walkway was the Ibiza Space Arena featuring the first solo DJ performance of WILL.I.AM. During his hour set you were sure to bust out with some Michael Jackson moves and a few old school hip-hop beats. Eric Prdyz transitioned well back into the EDM mode but it was Kaskade that took the cake. No one in the arena missed a word of “Angel on my Shoulder” and even asked for an encore. Closing out Friday’s Ultra Festival was Tiesto on the Main Stage; Rabbit in the Moon 3D on Bayfront Live; a back-to-back set of Carl Cox and Green Velvet; Felix da Housecat at Ibiza Space Arena; and Plump DJs at Biscayne.
Like the saying, ‘one door closes and another one opens’, midnight certainly did not mark the end of the day, or night’s, performances. A quick dress change later we entered Miami’s premier Club Space, which is located right next door to Club Nocturnal. Complete with three levels of world-class entertainment, stacked bars on every corner, and restrooms stocked with all of life’s last minute necessities. The main room featured a line-up of Sander van Doorn, Paul van Dyk, and Giuseppe Ottavani. The bass man himself began with a two-hour explosive set of all the van Doorn you could handle and then some. The perfect opener for the next guest, Germany’s own van Dyk; who opened up his four hour set with Cosmic Gate’s beautiful remix of Avatar’s “I See You”.
His main genre of the night featured Progressive House to keep the Miami beat in flow while filling in a few spots with classics like “Home” and “We Can Be as One”. Closing out the main stage and well into the morning light was Ottavani. Unfortunately, our bodies did not seem to last past five a.m. and missed a spectacular closing show.
Saturday promised clear skies and warm temperatures. What better way to get in the Ultra spirit than a mixed concoction of your choice at Wet Willie’s and a walk on the sandy shore of South Beach. Since most main headliners perform on Saturday, twice as many people are more likely to be there. The best transportation would be by taxi for half the price of parking. The trick is getting a ride back after the closing ceremonies. Be sure to have a back up just in case.
We began the evening with a stellar performance by Benny Benassi on the Main Stage who opened for the talented duo, in that case three, of the group Faithless. Maxi delivered a solid performance on the microphone while his female accompaniments showcased live drum sets and, of course, the classic ones and twos. Next, the world’s best drew in the biggest crowd, leaving no one un-satisfied. He touched base with new and old tracks including remixes of every vocal track performed: “In and Out of Love”, “Lost”, and “Broken Tonight”.
The cheers and hums from the ocean of people brought together a new kind of coexist to the world around us. The Brazil Arena showcased a wide variety of trance talent. On the way to the arena, Gareth Emery got a little confused on his venue location; luckily, we were able to direct him to right venue just in time for an amazing set. He brought out the Garuda newbies and Five A.M. oldies, which suited well with the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.
Global DJ favorite, Markus Schulz, delivered a high performance in which Sander Kleinenberg returned the favor. The trio of Trance certainly did not disappoint the crowd, which extended well outside the tent arena by then. Each tune bursting with Anjunabeats flavor and what Above & Beyond set would be complete without a little Oceanlab? ATB matched the vibe extremely well and for an instance, I still thought the Anjuna members were still performing. The crowd harmonized with the vocals and together we were as one.
We ended our Ultra experience with the Techno club favorite: Carl Cox. It is not hard to recognize why he earned his own arena tent. His energetic personality made it difficult to just stand besides the railing. Those that did got a small taste of Cirque du Soleil from the ceiling. Carl also did not hesitate to cool off his massive moving fans. Half human and half fog machine dispenser were lifted high about our heads and filled the entire arena with fog, which felt more like a cooling summer’s rain. Also closing out the night was Paul Oakenfold under the Brazil Arena; Ghostland Observatory at Bayfront; Deadmau5 on Main Stage; and LTJ Bukem at Biscayne.
On a more concerning note, the array of empty water bottles and trash and overflow of port-a-toilets should be under more control. Be prepared to wear tennis shoes, drink plenty of liquids, and eat before performances. Overall, Ultra was an incredible experience for every electronic/dance music lover. I earned a higher level of respect for the artists and the people I share this musical world with. Written by Abigail Duran aka VeraNationGirl Photos by Abigail Duran and Jason Carr