It’s been nearly a month since Miami Music Week, which kicked off the 2012 festival season. This year’s Winter Music Conference featured bigger and better events than ever before. From Swedish House Mafia’s Masquerade Motel to an endless string of pool parties, the week was capped off by what many consider to be the main attraction – Ultra Music Festival.
Ultra, which hosted over 200,000 attendees over its three days, returned to classic Bayfront Park boasting an entirely new festival layout. To recap the festival we have decided to take a different approach this time around, providing you with snippets of various thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a festival attendee.
Ultra Music Festival moved from the downtown Bicentennial park location to Bayfront Park this year. Some positive aspects of the new venue were that there was grass to lie down on and rest, seating in the live stage and that there was ample room to move around (versus being packed like sardines at Bicentennial Park last year).
Factors of the new location that we did not favor were that the siphoned off pathways resulting in many bottlenecks, slanted pavement at the UMF Korea/Brazil/Ibiza stage, and the convoluted layout of the venue itself which was both difficult to traverse and made locating stages unnecessarily complicated.
The Main Stage would have been favorable if you enjoy being part of a spectacle, meanwhile the UMF Radio stage provided intimacy for festival goers. The ASOT (A State of Trance) Stage was a sensory overload, featuring outstanding light production. The Live Stage provided seating in an amphitheater-like set up, versus the BAO Dome gave fans space to romp around. Lastly, the Korea/Brazil/Ibiza Stage was home to body thrashing and die-hard fans.
Highly Acclaimed Sets
There were several notable sets that stood out over the course of the three days. I’m not a huge dubstep fan, but Knife Party hands down owned Sunday. “Internet Friends” was already one of the most frequently played tracks of the weekend, but the energy of crowd when Knife Party dropped it was incomparable.
Next, Felguk (the Brazilian duo) played concurrent to Avicii and offered a non-stop heavy hitting electro set that had the crowd in the BAO Dome in a frenzy. Lastly, the EDM veterans, Tiesto and Armin van Buuren both gave outstanding closing sets at the Main Stage.
With every festival, there are certain artists whose sets you attend specifically to see what all the hype is about. For me, these artists were David Guetta and Steve Aoki. It was no surprise that David Guetta headlined the Main Stage, as he is “the man that means more to electric dance music than anyone in the United States.”
Funnily, I thought his performance was the most bizarre of the night. Although I enjoyed the set, it felt abnormally short and incomplete. I conclude this was a result of frequent pauses in between tracks with Guetta speaking, and then the now predictable act where Guetta invites the audience to pull out their phones for some purpose.
On the contrary, Steve Aoki is known for his wild stage presence. Fans going to an Aoki show can expect awesome music, crazy energy, a wild crowd, pie in your face, champagne spraying, loud screaming – which is exactly what he delivered at Ultra. I think Aoki’s live performances are brilliant, and will continue to be as long as crowds are able to feed off his manic presence
There were notable absences in notable EDM artists this year. Ever since Swedish House Mafia started Masquerade Motel, we’ve been left wondering if the Swedish trio will ever headline Ultra in the future. Deadmau5, Chemical Brothers, Infected Mushrooms, Kinsanity, Arty, and Ton!c were also among those missed.
With every festival, there are signature songs that are commonly heard in various DJ sets. This year, everyone from Tiesto to Skrillex dropped Knife Party’s “Internet Friends.” Next, the new Swedish House Mafia single, “Greyhound” was played frequently, as it is a high-energy track that is guaranteed to get the crowd going. Another anthem was Tiesto’s “Maximal Crazy” which always took the dance floor to the next level. Not much of a surprise here, but yes Avicii’s “Levels” was still heard.
In the end, for every festival – especially one such as Ultra where there is so much to do in Miami itself – your journey should culminate over the course of three years. The first year, you attend Ultra and take part in all the headlining and ‘cannot miss’ acts.
The second year, you attend Ultra to explore the other artists and the pleasant surprises on the smaller stages, which is usually where you have your best experience. The third year, you attend the pool parties and take part in the local festivities. With that being said, see you in Miami next year!