I am currently planning for my eighth Ultra, and I find myself nervously tapping my foot against my metal desk. No longer a Miami resident, the city seems to change each time I make another visit, which only adds to the confusion and anxiety of getting from downtown to South Beach in order to catch a special afterparty. During those previous seven years, I have been stranded and broke a couple of occasions, looking for food at five a.m. countless times, left standing outside packed clubs more often than I care to remember, and stuck in an unfortunate sexual situation exactly one time. So, if only for my own mental well-being, I hope to add a little hard-earned wisdom to your own Ultra planning.
First off, even if you are from a massive city and rely on public transit everyday of your life, do not plan on utilizing Miami’s public transit system to timely deliver you at your final destination this week; you will end up stranded near Lincoln Road at four a.m. wondering when the next bus will finally arrive. However, if you plan on pre-gaming, then purchase your one-day Metrod fare in advance, and hop aboard to find your way safely to Bayfront Park. Traveling with a group of people, then pre-arrange a large passenger van to get you from the Ultra grounds to your hotel and/or final destination. These vans will be available curbside following the nightly events, but the price tag will cut into your drinking budget significantly. Cabs will be available, but I wish you the best of luck trying to hail one and then pay a reasonable fare. A designated driver is also ALWAYS a great idea, just be ready to really scour for public parking no matter where you go in Miami.
Believe it or not, you cannot live on cocktails alone. Downtown establishments like Ceviche 105, Bali Cafe and Cafe Bastille all offer a taste of eclectic Miami cuisine on a reasonable budget and are all within easy walking distance to Bayfront Park. There is also a food court within the Bayside Marketplace that has plenty of options for those not wanting to wander too far for lunch. For those looking for something higher-end, db Bistro Moderne and Chop House 305 offer fabulous cuisine almost within listening distance to Ultra. Best way to fill you belly between the event and after? I recommend hitting up the Subway and grab-and-go pizza joint on the bottom floor of the hotels that lie just north of the festivities. If you happen to have some spare time, there are tons of great eats within the evolving Wynwood Arts District, tourist-friendly Mary Brickell Village, and on the short trek to Key Biscayne (which offers some of the best views of Miami as you drive back from a place like The Rusty Pelican after a light happy hour).
It’s probably advisable to rest a few days prior to baking by the bay for three days and night; however, this is Miami Music Week and if you are fortunate enough to make it down to SoFla prior to Friday, the rest will just have to wait until March 31st. While my personal tastes appeal more to groove-based sexiness, I have often strayed to the chaos of bass music, so here are a few suggestions to satisfy that exploratory nature within us all.
Wednesday, March 26th
Just Dance: Somewhere in Miami: Planet E + Jackathon vs. Hot Flush
Venue: Treehouse – 323 23rd Street, Miami Beach
Time: 9:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Why: Carl Craig and Moodymann will be bringing some of that Detroit techno soul to the tropics of Miami. Plus, the States can feel what its like to get “jacked” with Heidi and Jackmaster. We advise bring a back-up sweat rag for this one.
Bass Madness: Bro Safari’s Blackout: Miami Music Week Edition
Venue: The Stage – 170 NE 38th Street
Time: 9:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Why: Bro Safari has been a bass tastemaker for years, and tonight he invites all his friends into an ultraviolet immersion. No telling what DJs might show up, but Bro Safari has collaborated with an elite group of bass producers.
Most Epic Night Ever!!: Zedd & Friends
Venue: Mansion – 1235 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach
Time: 11:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Why: A-Trak and Bart B More will keep the club music banging all night, and chances are they won’t be the only “friends” who show up that evening. Zedd runs with a pretty eclectic mix of DJs, many of which will already be in the city. Keep those cameras ready, but be prepared to wait in line.
Thursday. March 27th
Photo via Don’t Forget to Go Home
Booty, Bass & BBQ: dirtybird BBQ
Venue: Cefeina Lounge – 297 NW 23rd Street
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Why: Free barbeque up until 7:00 p.m., or while it lasts. But don’t each too much, because the booty-bass will be popping all the way until 5:00 a.m., and the likes of Claude VonStroke, Eats Everything, Kill Frenzy, and Justin Martin go hard with their eclectic fusions of hip-hop, D&B, jungle, and all things that get the booty low.
Sexy Synth Vibes: Frech Express
Venue: LMNT Studios – 55 NW 36th Street
Time: 10:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Why: Imagine the basement of Studio 54 during the golden age of coke-fueled hedonism. Moon Boots and Perseus both draw from classic disco, splicing the four-on-the-floor kick with their own take on underground garage.
Ear Plugs Recommended: SMOG vs. Firepower
Venue: Mekka – 950 NE 2nd Avenue
Time: 9:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.
Why: Located an easy stroll from Bayfront Park, you can watch as the final touches are placed on Carl Cox’s MegaStructure and Massive Mainstage — remember this proximity when deciding on an afterparty following the main event. Miami’s local Basshead crew might have been replaced, but the likes of 12th Planet, Nadastrom, Doctor P, and Brillz always throw down hard. And, you have the change to check-out up-and-comer Mr. Carmack during all the mayhem.
Friday, March 28th
Soul Clap – Underground Stage – 5:00 p.m.
Remember to show up early on Friday, as the main entrance of Ultra is always a congested mess when doors open on Friday. And re-think pre-filling your water bottles, Ultra security is notorious for dumping out CamelBaks even if you guarantee it is water. Soul Clap’s 5:00 set time allows enough time to get in comfortably, take in all the sites as you walk to the Underground Stage (on far south end of park), grab a beverage, and nestle into the duo’s electro-funk. “Give into your hips, they do more than simply more you”!
Chance The Rapper – Live Stage – 6:10 p.m.
Grab a seat and enjoy the sing-along that is sure to ensue when Chance breaks into cuts from Acid Rap. 2014 sees an influx of rappers compared to prior UMF’s, and the city’s majestic landscape offers a serene backdrop for Chance’s R&B-tinge.
The Glitch Mob – Worldwide Stage – 8:00 p.m.
Fresh off of the release of Love Death Immortality, expect for this trio to perform an array of new tracks on their signature Ableton set-up. One of the few bands that can perform at about every festival (excluding maybe a country/bluegrass set), this set will bring the electric UMF fanbase together.
Gesaffelstein – Live Stage – 10:45 p.m.
This French producer is leading the techno renaissance. While many within EDM are pushing to the extremes of bass and hardstyle, Gesaffelstein is making a career in exploring the space between his dark textures. Also working with the likes of Kanye West, Gesaffelstein’s productions have no borders, and he is prime to expand yours.
After: Skrillex & Friends – Mansion – 11:00 p.m.
Three weeks ago, this probably wouldn’t have been on the list, but after the release of Recess, I have to see the crowd reaction to “Stranger”, “Recess” and “Fire Away”. Plus, Skril has developed quite the friend circle over the last 4 years, so the chances of other big-name producers showing up is quite high.
Saturday, March 29th
Afrobeta – Live Stage – 12:00 p.m.
Miami-darlings Afrobeta rarely miss an Ultra, yet they have never really developed a following outside of the city. Probably because they are either playing at noon or directly against the headliner. Roll out of bed early, or just skip sleeping, because the quirky indie-dance that this duo create will have you buggin’ like a triple espresso.
Nic Fanciulli B2B Carl Cox – Mega Structure – 5:00 p.m.
deadmau5 once stated that Nic Fanciulli was the last DJ to make a name for himself in the industry based on his actual DJ skills (compared to his abilities as a producer). While deadmau5 isn’t exactly correct, it says much about the abilities of Fanciulli. Grab some shade and explore the tech-house underground as the duo of Fanciulli and Carl Cox dig deep into their expansive repertoire.
Audien – UMF Radio Stage – 7:00 p.m.
Akin to Madeon, Porter Robinson, and Martin Garrix, Audien is one of the young guns starting to take over the big room sound. Receiving regular support from the likes of Hardwell and Above & Beyond, the 22-year-old tracks are much more recognizable than his moniker. Catch him at the intimate Radio Stage before he is perched atop main stages across the globe in a few years.
Trentemøller – Live Stage – 8:05 p.m.
Having first seen Trentemøller live during Ultra 2011, I now compare all live stage sets to that performance. Like pulling Hot Chip and Depeche Mode through the Downward Spiral, Trentemøller live is both spiritually moving and demented. Expect leaving with both your body and brain reeling from the experience.
Dillon Francis – World Wide Stage – 11:00 p.m.
Dillon Francis’ comedic exterior (which has helped him gain love from fans, producers, and Taco Bell) only veils his reputation of a fiercely independent artist. Hitting the scene hard a few years ago with him moombaton stylings, his adventures with Tiesto, Zedd, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs have contributed to his genre-bending abilities. Give him at least 30 minutes, and if you are not having an absolute blast, than consider hitting the mass crowd that will be swaying to Avicii.
After: Dusky Presents – Trade – 10:00 p.m.
Only $20 and you will find yourself engulfed in three-hours of Dusky’s tech-house bliss, Matthew Dear’s Detroit-influenced electronica, and the analog decay of Midland. Plus, Maceo Plex will be spinning some deep house downstairs. Stay out until 5 a.m. without forfeiting all your energy for Sunday.
Sunday, March 30th
Tommie Sunshine – Main Stage – 1:00 p.m.
When popular media started hating on the rave culture about 9 months back, New York’s Tommie Sunshine was one of the scene’s most vocal supporters. With a career in DJing that pre-dates the age of his current locks, Sunshine has played some of the smallest underground rooms to the largest festival stages. The set will likely be filled with his standard club edits and timeless house production aesthetic.
Cut Copy – Live Stage – 4:50 p.m.
Just a few years back the likes of Yaz and Duran Duran were playing the Main Stage. The electro-joy of Cut/Copy’s recent Free Your Mind LP shares many of the same qualities of those seminal groups. However, while Yaz and Duran Duran failed to pull a crowd, which is probably why such legacy acts no longer make the UMF bill, the amphitheater is predicted to be thick for this indie-crossover outfit.
Jack U – Main Stage – 5:20 p.m.
Last year it was Dog Blood, this year Skrillex makes his UMF appearance via the Jack U project alongside Diplo. With only three songs on their shared SoundCloud, expect this set to be filled with southern hip-hp beats, some of their fan-favorite solo cuts, personal faves, and recent collab “Dirty Vibe”.
Mat Zo – Worldwide Stage – 7:00 p.m.
Anyone who has heard Mat Zo’s 2013 LP Damage Control understands that this twenty-something is one of the next big things in all of music — not just EDM. Formerly specializing in D&B, genre is of no issue to Zo. The dude is as capable of throwing down a stellar progressive trance set as he is a filthy glitch-hop performance. We expect a little bit of all the above.
Cirez D – Underground Stage – 9:00 p.m.
The techno alias of Eric Prydz, this is the set where Prydz will feature his favorite cuts pulled from the dark techno abyss. Controlling the Underground Stage for two-hours, the set will likely start with a slow minimal roll and progressively build into the harder stylings of Detroit techno. One of the most under-appreciated US-based producers, witness was thousands of others don’t even know they are missing.
Hardwell – Main Stage – 10:00 p.m.
Just last month, Hardwell was quoted as saying “I’m a bit sick of the EDM formula right now”. When Avicii tried to break out of that formula in 2013, the Main Stage was shocked when a group of bluegrass musicians jumped on state. I don’t anticipate for Hardwell to test out such a genre shift. Instead, look out for the Dutch producer to try out sounds and tempos that aren’t normally associated with progressive and electro-house. With rumors of a debut studio album swarming, new cuts are almost a guarantee.
After: Soul Clap’s MMW Closing Party – Electric Pickle – 11:00 p.m.
Located only about two-miles directly North of Bayfront Park, the commute is an easy stroll as you depart from the festival and grab some nourishment along Biscayne Boulevard. I plan to end the festival like I started it, with the future funk of Soul Clap. The event promises special friends, so I am hoping for an appearance from the Wolf + Lamb collective, whom share in the same sense of post-disco fun. Tim Sweeney, Mike Simonetti, and Miami Players Club promise to keep things sweaty downstairs.
Monday, March 31st
Grab a few drinks (with me), put up your feet, and enjoy the view from the Rusty Pelican. You deserve it!