Ultra Music Festival makes it an annual habit of showing the world what it means to party in Miami, Florida. Although the festival takes over the heart of downtown and the sprawling green of Bayfront Park, the week-long festivities spill out into the streets, the hotels, and the city life beyond. High-end clubs like LIV and Story swell with lineups consisting of either the festival’s headliners or outside top-level talent favoring their own parties. Fools Good, HARD Miami, Red Bull Guest House, and Hard 2 Leave are names now synonymous with the festival brand. Yet none ever eclipse the main event.
This year, the world-renowned festival celebrated its 17th anniversary with the type of shindig we’ve come to expect, which raises the question: When did fans decide they wanted to trade in acts like Justice, Kraftwerk, or The Prodigy for a revolving lineup of the same ol’, same ol’? Tiësto, Avicii, Afrojack, members of the now-defunct Swedish House Mafia, and the oft-parodied David Guetta have all topped the festival in recent years to expected success. The days when Ultra once wowed festivalgoers with its billing seem long gone. It’s depressing.
Also depressing is the devastating blow the festival suffered on its first day this year. Thanks to South Florida’s trademark weather conditions, a majority of the stages were shut down, forcing highly anticipated acts such as Odesza and Chromeo to cancel their Ultra debuts. And while Carl Cox, UMF World, and the Main Stage remained open despite the harsh downpour, the majority of the sets were either shortened or completely cancelled. In light of these matters, this year’s coverage of Ultra Music Festival attempted to capture the “criminally under-appreciated” performances.
Photo by Sergey Garbe
RAC, or the Remix Artist Collective (featuring producer André Allen Anjos), brought a refreshing full-band setup to the Ultra Live Stage on Friday afternoon. The second act of the day following Dutch producer Bakermat, RAC immediately came through with staggering musicianship. Granted, the midday set felt like a midday set, with far too few festivalgoers there to fully appreciate what was going down, but they championed on by revisiting their most recent records. One highlight was a magnificent cover of Phoenix’s “Armistice”, fueled by dual vocalists.
Photo by Sergey Garbe
After an unfortunate turn of events, which began as a slight drizzle toward the end of RAC’s set and into a full-fledged onslaught of hardcore rain, Todd Terje’s set seemed completely in jeopardy. Light fixtures swung around, and the entire bottom half of the amphitheater was closed off to the crowd — naturally, in fear of a production disaster. Finally, when things looked their bleakest, Terje was given the okay to play a 25-minute set some 40 minutes after he was scheduled to play.
Almost immediately, the Norwegian performer hit the stage with “Delorean Dynamite”, sparking a medley of highlights from his 2014 debut, It’s Album Time. “Swing Star”, “Inspector Norse”, “Leisure Suit Preben”, and his fantastic single “Spiral” all came to life with LED screens, keyboard maneuvering, and packages of drum loops. He exuded a musical prowess that attracted a heavy flow of traffic, specifically those waiting for an Odesza show that would never come.