Major Lazer at Ultra 2013: Diplo’s culturally transcendent, utterly theatrical, electronic circus
It was a festival within the festival. Major Lazer came suited in tuxedos, but with no intentions to keep their performance formal. While Ultra’s live stage is one that remains shy for most of the weekend, the amphitheater packed out for Diplo and company, anxious for the music, but more the experience. The squad became their own electronic version of Barnum & Bailey, pulling out all the circus tricks in the book — only without a ring of fire or a red foam nose. The spectacle was like nothing that had been displayed throughout both weekends — not at Carl Cox’s arena, not at Armin’s, not even at the Main Stage.
Flooded with flags representing every corner of the globe, Ultra is undoubtedly one hell of a diverse festival — and no gathering within had been as diverse as Major Lazer’s. From the people to the music, the Bayfront amphitheater was colorful and animated by culture. With a sonically divergent crowd came an open-mindedness and lack of expectations. Any type of song dropped, phrase shouted, or guest unveiled would have done the trick for the crowd that showed up strictly to party, not to judge.
Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire took to the stage decorated in inflatable letter Ms and Ls, dressed in their finest black tie attire as Rihanna’s “Stay” eased over as the calm before the storm. Major Lazer’s original material, however, rose to the forefront of the multi-faceted setlist and “Original Don” had fans jumping on seats, jumping on railings, and jumping on each other.
Major Lazer – Original Don
Taking on the role of a human hamster, Diplo climbed into a giant transparent ball for his own unique version of crowd surfing. Rolling and bouncing atop the crowd, he returned to toss long plastic trumpets to the fans that wouldn’t let his animal-like antics fail.
Embracing a Caribbean vibe with reggae-influenced everything, an appropriate special guest came darting towards center stage. “Sean Paul? Haven’t heard this guy since ‘Gimme The Light’,” most of the crowd thought, either to themselves or aloud. It was perfect timing as the dancehall star got right into performing his most popular hit circa 2002. This wouldn’t have been welcomed at anyone else’s stage during either weekend of Ultra Music Festival. Not Guetta’s, not Deadmau5’s, certainly not Avicii’s, and perhaps not even Snoop Dogg’s. But this was Major Lazer’s stage — and at Major Lazer’s stage, nothing was off limits.
The “nothing” half of the term “nothing is off limits” is often used lightly, but Diplo continued to prove that there are truly no boundaries in the world of Major Lazer and certainly no boundaries at their Ultra performance. The eerie chants of The Partysquad and Boaz’s “Oh My” began to ring, an introduction known to indicate that madness will ensue. And it did, but for another reason. Diplo took the microphone and commanded the crowd, every male and female, to take off their shirts. At this point, the maniacal party that he had formulated turned the crowd into his loyal legion that would’ve done anything he asked. So they listened, collectively ripping their shirts off and waving them in the air through the remainder of the song. From the highest point of the amphitheater, the sea of half-naked bodies and neon shirts of every shade being waved appeared to be a riot more than a concert.
The Partysquad & Boaz – Oh My
Major Lazer would continue treating fans to the on-stage anarchy, launching confetti through party-weapons and waving flags that read “Free The Universe,” the title of their forthcoming album. Tackling the needs of each and every unique party-goer in attendance, the group drifted towards hip-hop drops. Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” evoked the “WHOA” response and 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” had chants in sync with the raps. Turning back to the handmade tunes, “Jah No Partial” sealed the deal on what had already been deemed the funnest hour of the day only moments deep.
Major Lazer – Jah No Partial
Alone, Diplo brings all that there is to be brought for those looking for a wide range of music, the behavior to accompany it, and the stage presence of the most resilient conductor of amusement. Together with Major Lazer, that force is magnified, and they treated Miami as no exception to the rule. The reggae, electro, hip-hop, trap, and everything in between had all cultures eager dance, mingle, and explore the many ways that each other celebrated music. Ring-leading a circus of deranged festival fanatics, they brought life to the live stage without instruments, but with theatrics that outmatched the hottest pyrotechnics and brightest fireworks that Ultra Music Festival had to offer. Major Lazer united people of all sorts, outdid the visuals of their host festival, and when it was all said and done, they made The Harlem Shake look like The Hokey Pokey.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Catherine