Ultra Music Festival is almost as indescribable as it is surreal. 150K freaks occupied a small waterfront corner in the great city of Miami two weeks ago. Three days of nonstop music and debauchery had the city on its knees in utter disbelief. Not only did the festival grounds span about six city blocks and four avenues, but its enormity spilled out of the park and took over a main street as well. Eight stages and 150+ artists attracted people of all walks of life. This was not your ordinary festival by any stretch of the imagination. From your neon wearing, glowstick twirling 13 year olds to the shirtless raving bros wearing (YOLO) hats – all the way to the guy dressed as a hornet-stinger-bee on stilts; there was no shortage of weird.
In efforts to avoid such un-pleasantries, our crew did our very best to stay away from main stage acts like Avicii and David Guidetta. Not only did this help us avoid the newbies, but allowed us to experience some of the best underground music in the world! For a festival of this size and publicity, I imagined underground beats to be far and few between. Let me tell you- I’ve never been happier to be mistaken! A large portion of our time was spent at the Worldwide stage, where I witnessed what I’m able to call some of the BEST sets in my rage career.
Lost in Sound was fortunate enough to be granted press access, which couldn’t have put a better spin on this otherworldly weekend. So, allow me to give you a play-by-play of how WMC and Ultra was raged through the eyes of Lost in Sound. Keep reading for exclusive interviews and on-stage footage…
Thursday, SMOG vs. Basshead
We kicked off this wild weekend at Mekka, where SMOG vs. Basshead’s epic event took place. Five different rooms played host to some of the biggest names in the bass music industry. Zeds Dead, Dirtyphonics, Pendulum, 12th Planet, and Drop the Lime were just some of the artists that got down at this dark, sweat-ridden, bass-thumping rager.
After Caspa warmed us up with some styling samples and relentless baselines, overcrowded mosh-pits directed us towards Drop the Lime. I can’t say enough about this dude – not only did he start one of my favorite labels, Trouble & Bass, but he brought the heat! He had a pumped up electro sound that put me in a constant vibrating groove. Each leg acted like a pogo stick as we all bopped and hopped around the more spacious dance floor. Kudos to the crew at SMOG and Basshead for throwing a great start to what was shaping up to be an epic weekend.
Friday, Ultra Day 1
Let the games begin! The first day of Ultra was full of anticipation and unknown expectations for what this massive festival had in store for us. We started off the day with a few extra tasty mimosas on the 33rd floor of a penthouse apartment, looking out over South Beach with Ultra in sight just a flew blocks north. An unbelievable view, introductions to great new people, and the dopest bulldog named Murphy got us feeling groovy. Once I obtained the all-important Press Pass, the first task of the weekend was an interview with Nobody Beats the Drum.
My first interview as a rage reporter for Lost in Sound couldn’t have gone better. These three Dutch producers were as inspired as they were energetic, and as excited as they were friendly. Check out Lost in Sound’s artist spotlight and exclusive interview with Nobody Beats the drum HERE!
After I got acquainted with the press tent and those that occupied it, I grabbed a few free waters and made my way into the festival grounds. First stop was the Carl Cox tent to meet up with the crew, where I was immediately impressed with the setup Ultra had to offer. Richie Hawtin gave us the perfect first set of Ultra – minimal beats got us raging this tent which had one of the most amazing lighting rigs I’ve ever seen. Due to popular demand, we decided to stick around to see the infamous Carl Cox headline his own tent. He was definitely not on my list of acts to see, but as I gazed at this tent in pure amazement, I was curious to see how he would do. It seemed as if this would be the recurring theme of the weekend – being pleasantly surprised! It was a hybrid of trance and minimal as Cox layered sounds with great technique, sending the tent into a frenzy!
The night was winding down and much of the crowd headed towards the exit or the main stage. I glanced at my timepiece and realized that Nobody Beats the Drum was due to come on at the Worldwide stage in 5 minutes. The majority of our crew were ready to keep it moving elsewhere until I said “C’mon y’all, I interviewed them, we might as well check it out.” A long journey it was to the other side of the festival grounds, but it couldn’t have been more worth it. Due to the unfortunate circumstance of bad taste in music, the masses flocked to the big names like Tiesto, but those lucky enough to make it to The Worldwide stage were able to properly rage with these Dutch masterminds. It turned out to be EVERYONE’s favorite set of the weekend, as we jumped and hopped and toe-dragged the faux out of that stage. Kudos to Nobody Beats the Drum- that unique Dutch electro rage was the perfect way to end an already spectacular day.
Saturday, Ultra Day 2
We started Saturday off in the same elegant fashion, with extra tasty mimosas on the bossin’ balcony. I have to admit I had some pre-womp jitters, as my interview with Flux Pavilion was quickly approaching. I made my way to the press tent and introduced myself to the Flux, who was sitting patiently, rolling a cigarette that he had clearly brought overseas. Unfortunately, our videographer/photographer couldn’t make the trip, so I had to record the interview on my iPhone. Regardless, it went very well, and Flux couldn’t have been a nicer dude! Once we finished up, I looked over my shoulder to see Borgore kicking it with a drink in hand, talking to a few ladies. After we exchanged pleasantries he finally agreed to a quick interview. This was 100% improvised and on the fly, which made it quite hilarious- especially when I asked him “what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?” Check out LostinSound’s exclusive interviews with Flux Pavilion and Borgore HERE!
After the interviews, I got all my eggs in da basket and rage gear sorted. The ever-so-handy Ultra app revealed todays lineup, full of bass-thumping dub-stepping dons. The UMF Brazil tent took the cake, with acts like Skream + Benga, Zeds Dead, 12th Planet, Flux Pavilion, Pendulum, Datsik, and Borgore all gracing the crowd with their subsonic womps. However, because of this stacked lineup, we had to pick and choose which sets to rage – that tent was HOT like sauce and full of 13-year old neon e-tards.
We took a break from the dub to check out our favorite little happy place, the Worldwide stage. Brodinski was spinning some deep tech house, which served as the perfect escape. I got on stage to catch this moment, which is when I noticed how gorgeous the Miami water looked off in the distance. It was almost like an entirely different world, as we had space to drag our toes and flail our arms in peace. A much needed doja break took place, multiple times, as we prepared for the troop back to the UMF Brazil tent to rage the rest of Flux’s set. We met up with fellow Lost in Sound rager Ladybinx, who did an amazing job reviewing Flux’s set:
“My crew loves ze bass, so we rushed over to the UMF Brazil tent for the back-to-back Flux Pavilion and Doctor P set. We got there just in time, as 12th Planet ended his set with surprise guest Skrillex. We found a spot on the grass just beyond the vortex of Miami heat that was trapped under the awning. Flux opened strong, with Roksonix’ “Music in Me.” Besides any festival where I’ve seen a late-night Bassnectar set, this was one of the largest crowds I’ve been in. There were people all around me, emitting crazy amounts of body heat and raging face. We were surrounded by neon spandex, sweatbands, I <3 Avicii apparel, and half-naked females head banging and dubstep stompin’. Everyone was dancing so hard, it seemed like there was more bass than anyone could handle… in the best way possible. Remixes were dropped of songs by Example, Jamiroquai, and Camo & Krooked, to name just a few. Faces in the crowd crinkled their noses and closed their eyes so their bodies could effortlessly move to the music. Doctor P and Flux masterfully switched back and forth on every track, mixing the dirtiest Circus Records beats. Their set ended with Flux’s “I Can’t Stop”… which we couldn’t. Even after an hour and a half of fresh dubstep, we wanted more!”
Next up on our relentless schedule was Dillon Francis on the Annie Mac themed Worldwide stage. I was filled with an extra dose of excitement -it was my first time seeing the up and coming Dillon Francis throw down. The upbeat-pumping-electro-bass fueled rage drew quite a large crowd for one of the smaller stages. Everything was in its right place, as the mixture combined with the music got us in a dancing frenzy. I went on stage to get a better look of the man at work. As I started recording a video, the infamous Benga made his way into the booth with Mr. Francis. I could barely hold it together once they faced off and did their dance in unison (see video below). Annie Mac brought in the talent for the Worldwide Stage, and now it was her turn to spin for Miami. I’ve always had mixed feelings for DJ’s – sometimes they throw a great show and sometimes the absence of making their own music really dulls the set. This was not the case for “The Queen of Bass Music,” a quite fitting nickname that was dubbed by Skream! Annie Mac’s big floppy curly hair was about all you could see behind the booth as she transitioned swimmingly from banger to banger. At one point, Skream came out, they made an Avicii reference (not a favorable one) and moments later dropped what was one of our favorite individual songs of the weekend. Smiles and laughter erupted from our faces when we heard the oh-so-played-out Etta James sample “Oo-oooh sometimes, I get good feeling. Oo-oooh sometimes, I get a….” SUBSONIC GROUND SHAKING BASS WOMP TO THE FACE! It was almost like Ms. Mac said “Everyone and their mother has used this sample – this is a fuck you to all of them in the most appetizing, delicious form of bass.” You could feel the vibe of the whole crowd in a state of pure happiness that we were here, and not at Avicii.
Saturday Night, John Digweed @ The Vagabond
The walk back to the apartment was always a journey of weird proportions, as we passed some shit I can’t even bear to reminisce about and include in this article. Once we got past the 600 water vendors and the dudes selling “fresh ice cold ones” (not a beverage), we rallied the crew to make the next move. We went upstairs for a quick freshen up/refuel/beer chug/doja sesh in efforts to keep it moving at The Vagabond. John Digweed was spinning at this mysterious, dark, sheek, lounge that served as a great post-Ultra rage spot. There was the main entrance bar room, which led to an amazing outside patio centered around a fire pit, featuring a bar, restrooms, and some dude manning a grill with an eccentric menu. Outside also provided access to the third room, which was occupied by John Digweed and some music fiends. The dance floor took up the whole room; pitch black with disco balls of all sizes as the only decor. Despite my legs feeling like jelly, I slithered my way to the center of the floor, surrounded by homies old and new. I let out a bit of a snicker as I took out my laser pen and aimed directly for the disco balls. The dark atmosphere was perfect, and to my surprise 2 or 3 other lasers joined mine and we lit the place up! Once we went outside for a smoke, my sauced legs took me towards the grill. I told the dude to chef me up something nice, which translated into a black bean cajun burger. For someone that doesn’t like beans- WOW! Hands down one of the best experiences of my weekend; I felt like a starving child eating for the first time- and it was in style! I can’t say enough about our choice of after parties. John Digweed served as the perfect host; the deep, deep tech-house kept us moving ’til sunrise!
Sunday, Ultra Day 3
The plan was to get up early and catch Big Gigantic‘s 2:15 set time at the Live stage… so much for that idea. We woke up in a foggy state of mind, craving food and more sleep, but it just wasn’t on the day’s menu. What was on the menu for the day was the Live Stage at Ultra.
It was almost like a bowl shaped amphitheater; the front half filled with seats and the other half a massive lawn which slanted downward towards the stage. We weren’t crazy about the seated area, but the line-up at this stage will go down in the books. Big Gigantic, SBTRKT Live, Flying Lotus, Katy B, Magnetic Man, Bloody Beetroots, Chase & Status, and Bassnectar all had the pleasure of gracing the crowd with an hour of beautiful beats. We made it just in time for SBTRKT, one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. For some reason I had this vision of SBTRKT throwing down deep, dark, wild jungle dub. While that might remain true for his DJ sets, boy was I mistaken for this live ensemble. Two dudes had a crazy set-up of drum kits, synths, bongos, and different types of software. They mixed live, sang over beats, and wooed the crowd into a chilled swaying dance with smiles stretching from ear to ear.
Before the next set, we ran into our friend Lucy, and yes, she had her Diamonds on. The excitement started to settle in as Flying Lotus followed in great form; he turned up the tempo a notch, with melodic, intricate bass music that primed the crowd for the super group Magnetic Man. Katy B played a short but sweet set in her little blue overalls and French braid pigtails. Magnetic Man was next and lived up to every one of my expectations. As soon as “Fire” ft. Ms. Dynamite started to play I ran up to the front row, ready to rage. Benga, Skream, and Artwork make a badass team. Just seeing them stand next to each other behind the decks was an admiring sight. The two dons of dubstep – Skream and Benga – legendary enough in their own respects, manned both ends of the booth while Artwork took care of the lyrics and samples, front and center. They kept their original beats flowing with ease. Everyone in the crowd screamed the words to “Getting Nowhere” ft. John Legend and “I Need Air” ft. Angela Hunt. They switched it up a bit by dropping “Ping Pong” – a shoulder shrugging house beat with a heavy baseline. Magnetic Man’s ability to mix house, pop, dub-step, melodic violin, reggae, and drum n’ bass into one set is extremely impressive, and the trio seemed to enjoy it just as much as we did. Katy B came out for their last song perfect stranger and killed it, obviously. Her voice serenaded the sweaty fans and left us all wanting more Magnetic Man!
Just to get a change of scenery, we wandered over to the UMF Ibiza tent, where Steve Lawler had a relatively smaller crowd dancing their hearts out! I saw Steve Lawler this past NYE in NYC and had the time of my life. We swam to the front of the crowd, praising this minimal god, busting out the freshest dance moves in our arsenal. The vibe during Lawler’s set was unlike anything I had felt at Ultra that weekend. It was almost like our own private show, with all the kiddies and newbies and neon freaks on the sidelines. All I have to say is: Minimal beats fo’ days!!! After we purchased some much needed water, we decided to make our way to the massive geodesic dome to catch Joachim Garraud. Just to give you an idea, the walk to the BAO Dome/Worldwide stage from… anywhere else really… is a good 15 minutes and about 6 city blocks and 2 avenues. So about halfway through this journey, we arrived at the UMF Radio stage. By far the smallest stage at the festival, set up right on the curb in front of the massive street, where most of the walking traffic took place. “What the foxxx is this! Lets get it!” I eagerly checked the Ultra app on my phone to see what this spectacle was. Cuci Amador and Smurphio are the eclectic duo that make up Afrobeta. Let me tell you, this was some cool shit. Cuci’s sexy persona worked perfectly with her upbeat party rocking vocals. Smurphio (once Pitbull‘s keyboardist, ironically enough), was rocking what looked like a high-ranking old-school British army uniform, with two vertical rows of big gold buttons going down the frontside. It went quite well with the massive afro and funky ass baselines that erupted from his workstation. They transcended genres with ease, pumped up the crowd, and had unbelievable chemistry, all to my surprise. Afrobeta was hands down the most funky-cool-fun-weird-different set of the weekend.
We all felt a shockingly real feeling of the festival coming to an end, with only one set left to go. Some went to our happy place (Worldwide Stage) to get down to Seth Troxler. No no, I thought in my head, I need to give Miami the most proper send off possible- ensue the power walk to Bassnectar! I let out a chuckle when I heard Lorin’s voice exclaim “Holy shit! There’s a lot of fucking bassheads out here!” Probably the most intimidating crowd I’d seen, as the amphitheater was shoulder to shoulder packed – from the front row of the seats all the way to the end of the lawn by the walkway. He started things off with “Ugly,” the single off his highly anticipated upcoming album Vava Voom. Bassnectar always puts on an extremely energetic, raging, bass-fueled live show. We positioned ourselves right in the center of the grassy area adjacent to the sound booth. I was particularly impressed with this Bassnectar set, considering I’ve caught quite a few of them. Lorin dug deep in his bag of tricks – blending all sorts of genres, all while simultaneously playing the crowd favorites: the underlying commonality – sexy, deep, heavy bass.
We were completely oblivious to the fact that the festival ended at 11PM instead of the usual midnight closing. So we walked over to the Worldwide Stage, and as we sat on the grass next to the water and our secret “back door” entrance, a massive display of fireworks shot out in front of us off a nearby boat. It was the grand finale. The final goodbye to Ultra, Miami, and all the weird shit that went down that weekend. A very surreal and kind of scary moment took place; the second that last firework shot in the air and did its dance, the festival was over. I mean every single sound of music had stopped in unison with the end of the fireworks. It was the perfect way to end a weekend that easily ranks among the top of all our lists. Despite Ultra being atop the biggest festivals in the world (and having a shitty guest appearance by Madonna) we were able to catch some extremely intimate moments and unbelievably great music. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience for all 165 thousand people that were in Miami for Ultra Music Festival.
Don’t forget to check out Lost in Sound’s Exclusive Interviews with Flux Pavilion, Borgore, and Nobody Beats the Drum HERE!
Use Your Head,
Special thanks to Steven, Bianca, and especially Ali!