Ultra Music Festival.  Those three words literally area music to raver’s ears being a world-renowned festival in the EDM scene. This electrified 3-day festival has grown to huge proportions over the last 15 years.  Once just a small one-day gig they have now announced that they are going to be throwing the festival over 2 weekends this year, the first of it’s kind to do so.   Held in the beach side city of Miami, FL the weather during this festival in late March is perfect and all the spring breakers are so ready to rage.  Having the advantage of being over Miami Music Week AND Winter Music Conference every single DJ you can even dream of is there.  It’s pure magic!  They did get into some trouble this year with the city of Miami because they didn’t want all the ravers there for 2 whole weekends despite the millions of dollars in revenue it would bring in.  Since it is Ultra’s 15th anniversary this year the city of Miami made an agreement with them that they could have it the 2 weekends and see how it worked out then decide for next year.  Besides the drama, Ultra is a simplistic festival.  Ultra doesn’t try to draw you in with added tricks and gimmicks like EDC does or offer lots of other little activities on the side, it draws it’s crowd in with it’s ridiculous line up.  They get artists from all over the world like Deadmau5, Tiesto, Avicii, Afrojack, Pretty Lights, Kaskade, Hardwell and literally hundreds more.  Ultra has always been about the music and that’s exactly why they’ve been so successful.  This line up attracts people from all over the globe and you’ll see flags from different countries waving high up in the crowd.  There are not many other events that can bring such a diverse community together in such a positive way.

 

My experience at Ultra last year, 2012, was unforgettable.  When my friend Louisa and I decided on a whim in October 2011 that we were going to venture out to Ultra the coming March we didn’t have a doubt in our mind that it was going to be mind blowing, and it was!  Since we got there on Tuesday in the middle of Miami Music Week the first several nights we got the opportunity to experience the club scene.  We saw so many artists before Ultra even started like Dillon Fancis, Diplo, Zeds Dead, Savoy, 12th Planet and so on.  It was all just a preparty leading up to the main event.   Having driven past Bayfront park everyday before Ultra started we could see the progress of the stages being built.  Huge LED screens and something that looked like a giant, long dome (later we found out it was a ‘cocoon’ for the Carl Cox and Friends Arena) were being constructed for our entertainment. 

 

The first day of Ultra we got there hours before the gates opened because we didn’t want to miss a second of it.  Waiting in line for the gates to finally open we were all so eager to finally experience this.  Right at 4 o’clock the lines start moving and everyone starts to cheer, the anticipation is over!  Right inside the gates we were face to face with the first stage and to our left we could see the huge cocoon of lights.  First up on our massive list of sets to watch was Nicky Romero.  Even with everyone’s energy levels so high, he brought it to the next level, perfect way to start Ultra.  After seeing a bit of Nicky Romero we were all dying to see what the rest of Ultra held in store. The rest of the day consisted of seeing Tommy Trash on the main stage, Paper Diamond right next to the ocean, Benny Bennasi, the bass banging Skrillex, Kraftwerk, the German Electro Project from the 70s, then finally finishing off the day with a killer set by Teisto, and the very last minute of Pretty Lights set with surprise fireworks and tons of confetti. Perfection.  And thus concludes Day 1 of Ultra.

 

Day 2 began around 3:00pm to see Skream! + Benga at the Korea Stage.  They were amazing, by far one of my favorite sets of the entire weekend.  Next we headed to the Main Stage to see some of Hardwell, a Dutch electro house DJ that I’ve heard nothing but good things about.  After that we went back to the Korea Stage to hear 12th Planet rage it hard with Skrillex.  This dubstep duo was a match made in heaven and had all the YOLO girls making bass faces.  Day two featured some more chill music including Little Dragon and M83 at the Live Stage which is super nice because it had a grassy hill you could lay down and relax on that was actually fairly clean too.  Duck Sauce, one of my must-sees of the weekend, threw down one of my favorite sets on the Main Stage all weekend.  To finish up my Day 2 I went and checked out DJ Shadow at the Live Stage.  He was absolutely mind blowing, mixing like a true professional on his decks.  He was placed in this giant white globe with a white background and all through his set colorful and detailed projections were mapped out on it.  I wish I had stayed for Avicii because my friends said it was insane and Madonna made a surprise appearance but I was getting tired and still had a long night ahead of me.  I headed over to one of the clubs near Bayfront Park to catch a PLM extravaganza.  With Griz throwing down mad hard, Michal Menert playing his beautiful tracks and a surprise appearance by Pretty Lights himself at around 4 am I was so glad I got to experience it even if I was on the verge of falling asleep.

 

The third and final day is always a bittersweet moment during any festival.  The day started off with some SBTRKT, a great start to a fantastic day of music.  After we went over to the big cocoon of lights for the end of Cosmic Gates and an impressive set by Sander Van Doorn.

His set was when I realized how globally Ultra is recognized too.  There were some people with a Brazilian Flag next to us dancing and another group with a blow up kangaroo from Australia.  In this moment I realized how important Ultra is to the EDM community all around the world and how it can really bring us together.  The day continued back at the Live Stage for Magnetic Man, then some Fedde Le Grand, and the number one man, Armin Van Buuren himself.   To end the night of Ultra we caught Chase & Status’s heart pounding set and finally, I could think of NO better way to end this beautiful 3 days of music and bliss beside Bassnectar.  One of my absolute favorite DJs, Bassnectar knows how to deliver and knows how to control a huge crowd.  I have to give a lot of credit to artists that can make such an original sound for themselves, especially in dubstep.  At the end of Bassnectar’s set there was confetti shooting up covering the stage and fireworks in the background.  After the final moments of Ultra the entire crowd was still buzzing with energy but sadly it was over.

 

We left Bayfront Park and the streets were insanely packed with ravers running up and down and vendors selling last minute Ultra gear.  We figured since it was our last chance we should probably buy a cheap Ultra shirt.  My group then headed back to the hotel our friends were staying at to hang out for a while before getting a cab back to our house we were staying in.  Not quite ready to believe Ultra was over we recapped the past three days and even started planning for next year.  Ultra was everything I’d dreamt it would be and more.  The craziness, the music, the entertainment and the whole production we saw were all out of this world.  The entire time there in and out of Ultra was an experience I can never forget and I can’t wait to go back again next year!