Photos by LP
“It’s only about the music, man. That’s what the fuck we came to give you,” said Flying Lotus on the last day of Ultra Music Festival. One of the truer and less drug induced statements heard this weekend, I felt it was a blunt and heartfelt declaration that deserved recognition. Though many may attend the infamously wild festival for it’s slurring bikini clad chicks and passing of freshly rolled joints, I can now confidently say that it is not fair to assume that’s the whole of it. To undermine UMF for it’s South Beach party life appeal is to infer that it passes by without musical influence or weight. And to presume this is turning a cheek away from what is the past, the present, and the future coming together with every drop of a bass.
After UMF’s triumphal 2011, it wasn’t hard for promoters to get dance fans pumped for the year to come. But just in case, on the Wednesday before the festival they premiered UMF, Can You Feel It?, A film the Ultra peeps made with footage and interviews from last year’s lineup. Shown at the Bayfront Amphitheater, which in just a few days would be smothered with flashy fist pumpers, attendees found it hard to stay in their seats and leapt up to dance along to the memories shown in neon on screen. It’s safe to say the film excited the already hyped ticket holders
Reeling in a record breaking 165,000 people, this year’s lineup was right on the money. Divided up on eight different stages that were dispersed about Bayfront Park, there was a time and place for every act and its crowd. And though many may refuse to believe it, the lineup WAS diverse and well rounded. The acts showcased EDM’s ever growing place and musical style. From the legendary origins of dance music, New Order and Kraftwerk-whom fetched their slightly older die hard fans and tossed them into a mess of glowing pacifiers-to dancey synth tapping bands like Metronomy and Miike Snow, to the slower and sexier hip shakers like Little Dragon, SBTRKT and Flying Lotus, and finally to the headlining fist pump inducers, body thrashing puppeteers, like Justice, Tiesto, Bassnectar, Armin Van Buuren, and many, many more.
One thing about an Electronic Dance Music (or EDM) live show, is that it’s never simply a DJ and his equipment. With hypnotic and pulsating lights and screen art at each stage, the artistic and technological aspect of these live experiences do not go unnoticed. In that same vain, a standout set was the Bloody Beetroots DJ set held on the Live Stage. The non-stop, explosive, INSANITY of the music was exemplified by the flashing white strobe lights and the dark foggy smoke machines. It was a set that you couldn’t pull your eyes away from, and to cease dancing wasn’t an option.
One instance where standing still WAS the only option, was while waiting for the highly anticipated M83 performance on the second night of the festival. Attracting thousands to the usually less crowded Live Stage, we counted down the minutes for their appearance on stage. But appear they did not, not until 45 minutes into their one hour set. With roadies and stage techs running frantically about the stage while their performance time slowly slipped away, there were some obvious technical difficulties that couldn’t seem to get figured out, making the crowd antsy and impatient. “I NEED TO GET TO JUSTICE!!!” one fan cried out in desperation, as the headliner’s set grew closer and closer. Finally they ran onto stage and stormed right into their hit, “Midnight City.” Opening with your most popular track? We knew something was up. After playing the addictive song-not without a technical blip though, the sound went in and out at a point, and sounded a bit fuzzy- they apologized for the equipment problems, which seemed out of their hands. As to not affect the rest of the Ultra schedule, the long awaited M83 were forced to drastically cut what would’ve been an incredible and energetic set, to merely two songs. An unfortunate and uncontrollable predicament for both the fans and the band, they put everything they had into those two songs, which left us defeated and wanting more.
Another event that was bizarre and beyond our control was Madonna’s appearance with Avicii, in which she set tempers afire by prolonging the start of his set. Rambling on in a nearing self indulgent monologue about how electronic music had always been in her life, dramatically stating that “a DJ had saved her life,” fans awaiting the music were uninterested and impatient. When we thought the self-aggrandizement was over, she blurted out in a ridiculous publicity stunt and attempt at youth relevance, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?!,” a reference to ecstacy, or MDMA. Marketing method? You figure it out.
Though the statement was insipid and unnecessary, you do see some crazy stuff at Ultra that may or may not have been done under the right state of mind. Such as one of the most delusional acts I saw all weekend, a dazed girl with slowly slipping short shorts and a bikini who was full on making out with a tree. This was, predictably, highly documented by spectators. Thank god for iPhones, the men were thinking.
Yes, some fans did some crazy things, but under the influence or not- you can’t deny the beauty in seeing a wave of thousands upon thousands of people coming together as one for a weekend, setting all differences aside to dance under moonlight. Ultra is a festival whose only demand is that you let go and escape in the music. And an EDM fan or not, witnessing 165,000 do just that can’t be a bad thing.