Ultra Music Festival, renowned as one of the greatest dance music venues in the world, revisited Downtown Miami for the 19th straight year last weekend. Being with EDMsauce.com for almost five years, I was blessed with the opportunity to cover the spectacle they called “Ultra” for the first time in my life. Gathering from every corner of the globe, music lovers from all ethnicity's, origins, and walks of life came together for an extravagant weekend of ID music, architectural stage marvels, incredible productions, and of course, the greatest DJ's in the world.
UMF takes pride in its stage designs, architecture, and overall production of the event. The immense, yet superbly unique structures of the main, worldwide, and resistance stages didn't come across as set designs, but more as art forms and meticulously planned masterpieces.
Bayfront Park in Miami provided a perfect backdrop to this festival and really is the perfect spot for this type of event that conveniently included very minimal walk-times between each stage. Overall, there was something about the Miami vibe that attaches itself to Ultra as a whole, rather than simply providing a venue for the festival.
The main stage was entirely made of perfectly shaped L.E.D. displays, equally distributed across the entirety of the construction that really floored every festival goer as they turned the corner and laid eyes on the giant architecture. Picture a perfectly symmetrical completed TETRIS level made of massive grey display boards that synced artist's visuals seamlessly.
Over the course of the weekend we caught some unbelievable performances at the main stage. While many artists showed us a great time, the one who stuck out above the rest was French future house act Tchami. Tchami signifies all that is right with the dance music world. He has the ability to mix on the fly with grace and ease and simultaneously can read a crowd perfectly, even the ones the size of the main stage at Ultra. He provided us with a consistent groove that forced our feet to keep moving no matter how tired we were.
Complimenting this stage, a short walk away was the Ultra Worldwide Stage that featured a massive, single arc of L.E.D. displays that seemingly spanned hundreds of feet in the air over a crowd of thousands beneath. This was considered an engineering masterpiece as the arc was completely self-supporting and included synced visuals flowing from behind the stage to the back of the arc. Truly remarkable in every way.
Many acts graced this stage over the course of the weekend, but it was bass music that dominated the area. Already established big name acts like Datsik, NGHTMRE, and Bro Safari took this stage to the next level providing head banging and trap arms for Miami's bassheads. If you wanted some heavy levels of energy, Worldwide was the place to be.
Across the path, house-heads and trance fanatics found their way to the rightfully named MegaStructure, which included the most intricate light-show and overall production value of all the stages. The MegaStructre was filled with rotating spotlights, an infinite amount of laser electronics, and complete with octagon shaped ceilings that raised and lowered over the crowd, bringing them face to face with colorful displays. This stage was by far our favorite production and lighting wise. The sound was literally music to our ears and stuck out against all the other stages at the festival.
Tech heads got a major dose of their favorite drug on both Friday and Saturday of the festivities, and who better to show their stuff and headline the first night than electronic legend Carl Cox. There's a reason that Cox sits on his throne at the top of our scene, and he showed fans exactly why that night. While the first two nights were amazing at this stage, neither compares to the final day when A State of Trance took over and turned the Megastructure into a venue of seriously intense bliss. Seeing acts like W&W and ASOT founder Armin Van Buuren play sets that brought us back to their dedicated trance days was one of a kind, and the Megastructure was the perfect place for it.
Although these giant productions were really the heart and soul of UMF, one cannot attend the festival without visiting the metal, fire-breathing spider at the resistance tech / deep house area where DJ's spun from inside the head of the insect while attendants danced underneath its giant legs. No matter who you saw on that stage, you were always having a good time. The eeriness of the spider welcomed in the deep tech-heads from all corners of their dark universes. Adam Beyer really lit up the crowd during his super deep tech set! Check out some clips below!
A uniquely plain stage that most definitely did not get overlooked was the UMF Radio stage featuring incredible bass, trap, and dub artists that hosted the likes of Mad Decent and OWSLA labels and set perfectly in a tropical jungle and bamboo covered arena.
This stage brought with it arguably the best set from a smaller name on the lineup. OWSLA's own Joyryde absolutely torn this stage a new one and proved himself as a serious name to watch in the next few years. His complex combination of UK grime, hip-hop, and jack house landed perfectly with attendees as his crowd great three times in size over the course of his set. Seriously impressive stuff.
We were able to snag this cool video of Joyryde's opening!
Lastly, If you don't already know, Ultra is a very unique dance music festival that features not only DJ's spinning controllers, but also features a live music stage that melds together a nice crossover of organic and electronic elements. The UMF Live stage was a traditional amphitheater that not only allowed festival goers a great place to sit and relax during the tumultuous weekend that inevitably comes from music festival attendance, but provided a perfect venue for electronic dance music artists who feature cross over productions, classic hip-hop artists, and full band sets.
One of the most iconic dance music artists blessed this stage last weekend as Justice brought with them the early dance music vibes that many attendees may never get to experience again. As the final act on the final day at this stage they sent us home with energy in our blood and a love and appreciation for our music that is hard to match.
All in all, compared to many festivals out there, there is honestly something for everyone at UMF while providing perfect outlets for these hard working musicians to express themselves.