April 3, 2012

The Mecca of Electronic Dance Music

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During one weekend every March, Downtown Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard suddenly floods with youth from all across the world, barely dressed in everything from neon colors to bathing suits to animal costumes and anything else in between. This year marked my third time retuning to Ultra Music Festival, a three-day Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival held in Bayfront Park, Miami. Ultra has grown over the past 14 years from a small-scale festival on Miami Beach to an extravaganza attended by 60,000 people each day and over 200 artists.

On the first day of the festival, I arrived at the main stage just in time to catch the start of French House producer Martin Solveig’s set. He played many of his classics, such as “Hello” and “Ready to Go.” He was a terrific act to start off the first day of Ultra, and he left me energized to head over to the UMF Korea tent to catch the 17-year-old music prodigy Madeon. Simply put, Madeon dominated his set. Best known for his remix of deadmau5’s “Raise Your Weapon,” this up-and-comer truly showed that he is here to stay.

Following Madeon at the Korea Tent was another fairly new artist, Porter Robinson. Porter’s main style is electro house and he stuck with the genre throughout the majority of his mixing. Established Australian house producer Dragan Roganovic, better known as Dirty South, performed after Porter. This man has had a hell of a year with his releases of “Alive” and “Walking Alone.” His performing prowess showed in his set, which climaxed with his “I Love Bullet Promises” mash-up, making the crowd lose it. After his set, I took a quick water break, returning in time to catch the end of Groove Armada’s DJ set.

As soon as Groove Armada got off the decks, you could feel the rising energy in the crowd as everyone waited for the Swedish electro house duo that is Dada Life to perform. They started with one of their most recent releases, “Kick Out The Epic Motherf**ker,” which made the crowd go wild.

The majority of my day had been spent at the UMF Korea tent, but after seeing Dada Life perform I decided it was time to head over to the main stage not only to witness what was sure to be a spectacular light show, but also the last act, Tiësto. Although I am not the biggest fan of his productions, the man is an expert mixer. A highlight of his set was when he dropped the Axwell Mix of “In My Mind,” allowing the display of the main stage to truly come alive.

I arrived at the festival grounds of Ultra around 3:30 the second day, in time to see the start of electro house producer Hardwell’s set at the main stage. This was my first times seeing Hardwell live, and I was absolutely blown away. He opened with his single “Spaceman,” but the highlight of his set would not come until he played his “Heard You Were Walking in Paris” bootleg. Sadly at 4:25 Hardwell’s set came to an end, but Colombian-American DJ Erick Morillo followed on the stage with a superb show.

After Morillo, matchless mixer Laidback Luke came on stage. At one point Chuckie joined on to premiere their new collaboration with Martin Solveig, making the crowd go batshit crazy. After Luke ended his set, I made a quick trip over to the BAO Dome where Deniz Koyu, the producer of the well-known single “Tung,” was closing his set, and immediately returned to the main stage to witness the producers of the song “Barbara Streisand,” Duck Sauce. The duo delivered an amazing performance, all the while having a massive 20-foot-tall inflated duck behind them.

Following Duck Sauce I made my way over to the Live stage to see M83 perform and then returned to the main stage to see Justice, best known for their song “D.A.N.C.E.,” who put on a wonderful performance and commanded the attention of the crowd the entire time.

Once Justice’s set had come to an end, I realized I had a spot near the front of the main stage secured, and reluctantly decided to stay to see Avicii’s set. Before he came on, clips from an interview with Avicii came on screen, followed by a surprise appearance from Madonna, whose remarks have caused quite a controversy (courtesy of Joel Zimmerman) in the EDM community. She introduced Avicii, who started with his new remix of Madonna’s “Girl Gone Wild.” It was the best part of Avicii’s set. His transitions were elementary and song selections repetitive. Despite this though, it’s very hard to not have a good time at the main stage headliner of day two, and when “Levels” came on with the a capella of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” the crowd went wild. Once Avicii concluded, the crowd made their way to the streets and into their beds, preparing for the final day of Ultra Music Festival.

The third and final day of Ultra was markedly different from the first two, simply due to the weariness of the crowd, but this didn’t stop me from seeing artists such as Cazzete, Knife Party, Sander Van Doorn, Kaskade and Dash Berlin deliver incredible performances. The final day came to a close with another trance legend, Armin Van Buuren, accompanied by a spectacular light show. All in all, this year’s Ultra proved to be the best so far even with a new venue. No matter what stage you were at, you were guaranteed to experience awesome music, fantastic DJ’s, intricate light shows and, who knows, maybe even a girl making out with a tree.

Original Author: Peter Noback