Ultra Music Festival: 15 Years of Magic & Mayhem

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Ultra Music Festival: 15 Years of Magic & Mayhem


If you’re a festy addict who’s never ventured to the sweaty streets of downtown Miami in March for one of the biggest dance music events in the world, then sorry to tell you this, but YOU’RE SLIPPIN!

As a 5-year vet of the UMF US edition (working hard on earning my Ph.D. in Raveolutionism) I am continually amazed by the fact that Ultra really does get better every single year. As with most massives, part of the allure lies in how organizers continually  up the ante by extending the length of the event, selling more tickets, adding more stages, and doing pretty much anything legally possible to increase the overall epicness annually. Ultra made history this year by becoming the first EDM massive ever to span two full weekends.

But what makes Ultra stand apart from the growing number of massives around the world? Not all festivals are created equal, so perhaps the most important reason why Ultra is so special is because of its beloved 15-year legacy. It sounds cliché, but beyond the extravagant stage setups and incredible production quality, the amazing lineup and sound systems, the pure energy at Ultra is really what makes it an utter joy to attend over and over again.

After 15 years of coming together for a shared love of music, the UMF community has established itself as a dedicated family. It’s not uncommon to see long-lost raver buddies reunite serendipitously in the Carl Cox Mega Structure, or watch new friendships bloom while everyone is packed shoulder-to-shoulder at the main stage.

That’s not to say it’s all hearts and rainbows; of course you’ll witness (or participate in) insane acts of passion, like hordes of kids without tickets violently gatecrashing the entrance, or obnoxiously inebriated fools trying to become the Internet’s next viral " target="_blank">wasted sensation. But for the most part, Ultraheads are a very friendly, fun-loving group of people, despite their rowdy streak. 

It’s tough to fathom how the city of Miami was able handle back-to-back weekends of UMF this year, but it’s also a bit surprising that Ultra is downsizing to a single weekend for 2014, flying in the face of that “bigger-n-better” tradition. It must have been a bit too much insanity for one city to contain. But either way, 2014 is destined to be huge, especially with the potential addition of Daft Punk to the roster. So if tragedy strikes and for some reason you can’t make it next year, don’t fret; you can always live vicariously through the UMF TV livestream with millions of other virtual ravers. This year over 10 million unique viewers tuned in.

Here’s a few of our favorite moments from Weekend 2.



Carl Cox’s Mega Structure is always a favorite spot at Ultra. You could literally stay there the entire time and not feel like you missed out on anything – at least if you’re all about TECHNO. Carl Cox played on Friday and Saturday, and as usual, absolutely rocked our world. He was joined by some friends of course, including Richie Hawtin, Adam Beyer who played a stellar set, and techno’s legendary grand daddy Sven Väth closed Saturday night with a mind blowing performance, on vinyl no less.

This year the Mega Structure had a new delightful feature — honeycomb shaped LED lighting installations that functioned as a retractable ceiling, so that at certain moments they would hover right over our heads. Check out this clip of Carl Cox and you’ll get a sense of the spectacle:

The almighty Main Stage lived up to its name in more glorious form than ever before. As you probably heard, the Swedish guys’ LED structure injured some workers setting up before the party, and THEN the stage caught fire during their final hurrah. But damn, that was a lot of people – out of control doesn’t begin to describe it.

Playing host to progressive kings over both weekends, the massive scaffolding setup towered in the center of the park as a shrine to UMF. Topped like a Christmas tree with a cocky Ultra logo, it flaunted to the world what this premier dance music festival has grown into after fifteen years. Appeasing EDM, the stage was a perfect tribute to electronic music’s explosion into commercial dance. Outdoing even Psy, Swedish House Mafia’s “One Last Show” drew a sea of faces, undulating like a unified wave in the warm Miami night air. Packed in far past view of the stage, ravers, bros, old timers, Djs, and yes, even Daft Punk showed up to give the trio, who made size matter the most in electronic culture, a proper send off.


Mark Knight’s Toolroom Records Stage was a treat on the very last night if you preferred to avoid the colossal clusterf*ck of SHM fans at the main stage. The Toolroom stage was mini, but Mark Knight’s set was massive. It was flanked by sets from Space Ibiza’s resident Wally Lopez, Stefano Noferini and Funkagenda, for an overall bumping Toolroom turnout.

Rocked by the likes of Dog Blood, Azealia Banks, Disclosure, Krewella, The Weeknd, Pretty Lights, Faithless, Booka Shade, Hot Chip, and Crystal Castles, The Live Stage was lit up in more ways than one. Especially during Snoop Dogg’s performance, with his entourage of sassy dancers and blunt smoking homies. Alternating egos, he rapped classics like “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” and “The Next Episode,” and morphed from kanine into his felinesque form as Snoop Lion to sing a few songs from his new album. The Lion stuff was alright but obviously everyone was more stoked for his Doggy originals.

The Worldwide Stage was a huge LED archway featuring a mix of electro house and dubstep heavyweights, from Afrojack to Kaskade to Fedde, Bassnectar, Sub Focus and 12th Planet, as well as Hardwell, Knife Party and Porter Robinson.

Tucked in a faraway corner of the park behind the main stage insanity was The Bayfront Space Ibiza Stage, a delightful oasis at the bottom of a hill, and a perfect place to chill out after charging through the crowd to get there. Alongside Scuba, Tiga, Steve Lawler, and Joris Voorn, George Fitzgerald made his Ultra debut with a gorgeous set full of seductive house vibes. Wolfgang Gartner took care of closing the Worldwide stage on Sunday in all of his bangerlicious grandeur.

There’s always so many artists to see and not enough time to see them, so if we left out anything that you think was too epic to go unmentioned, share your Ultra tales and write about it below!

Until next year…



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