Dancing Astronaut’s guide to Ultra 2014: Memory lane, the 365 day rewind
Dancing Astronaut's guide to Ultra 2014: Memory lane, the 365 day rewind
The countdown to Ultra Music Festival is rapidly closing. While North America’s most famed electronic music festival has plenty to speculate about for its 2014 jaunt in Miami, to understand the festival’s place and influence in dance music year after year, it’s best to relive last year’s moments and examine the trends they set in motion. See what was significant then, in March 2013, and how that weight still carried now.
Disclosure debuts as calm before storm
Then: Guy and Howard Lawrence stepped onto the Live Stage for their 3:00 p.m. set and despite their youthful inexperience planned to take Miami by storm. Guy began on vocals and the pair spent much of their afternoon set introducing tracks off their forthcoming debut artist album. The set up was modest — with the brothers using their arsenal of drum pads, live instruments, and mixers on two small tables — but the results were a sea change that would shift the sounds of 2013.
Now: That first Ultra appearance would become their last as below the radar artists. And that music they’d premiered? Settle. 3pm in Miami and the rest was history.
Technical difficulties kept artists on their toes.
Then: Whether it was Krewella with a short stint of tech failure, Kaskade coping with a 10 minute Main Stage power loss, or Afrojack using his headphones as a microphone, the resolve of the artists and understanding of the fans was impressive. Sh*t happens, right? Audiences were more concerned with dancing to their favorite DJs that any downtime only built the anticipation.
Now: Note to lights, sound, and production: bring on the hurdles, DJs are capable of leaping.
Kaskade's Atmosphere leads year in premieres
Then: As Kaskade’s set was just barely warming up, fire shot from the stage’s peak and seemed to cause a power surge that left the entire structure powerless for about ten minutes. Once the crews got it working, Kaskade did well salvaging the crowd’s and his own energy, playing a more electro-focused set than what we usually see out of Ryan.
Now: Leading his set off with a previously unheard record that had Kaskade himself on vocals, what appeared to be an experimentation proved to be a well-calculated kick-off of an artist album that could be better described as the birth of Atmosphere.
Nick van de Wall vs Afrojack
Then: “Do you guys know my name?” A strange question coming from a man who introduces himself with powerful shouts just about every time he touches down on stage. “The reason I’m playing as Nick van de Wall is because not everybody knows my real name.” If that had truly been the case, it no longer was after Friday of Ultra’s second weekend. The dark sky began to pour at Bayfront Park and the Jacked stage helmed by Afrojack created the perfect storm.
Now: Nearly half of Nick’s set had been comprised of his older productions, but the other half would be the Afrojack-music catalog to complete his year. Both personalities and styles went over well, but it was hard to tell which one had fans climbing trees.
Krewella make live vocal breakthrough
Then: Rain Man, Yasmine, and Jahan filled out the Live Stage more than most other afternoon sets that took place at the Klipsch Amphitheatre. It was clear from the very start that the trio was ready to bring the party on Sunday. The girls alternated on vocals and Rain Man operated the decks but it was the crowd reaction that truly set the tone. Krewella was destined to be one of 2013’s most successful acts after they made their statement from atop Ultra’s Live Stage..
Now: Although it didn’t seem like it, that had been the first time Krewella performed with live vocals. The first of many, that is. One studio album later and those live vocals are what one of the most in-demand acts in EDM are best known for.
Hardwell and the set heard around the world
Then: From the beach to the sandwich shop, from the hotel to the pool, and all the way to the airport, everyone was talking about Hardwell during Miami Music Week. The acclaimed number six DJ in the world was fresh off his weekend one Ultra Music Festival set turned phenomenon and was the instant favorite of all three days. Fans didn’t even have to be at Bayfront Park to experience what the commotion was all about.
Now: Unanimously, Hardwell’s set had been the festival’s most popular. But the commotion wasn’t limited to Miami Music Week, and it acted as the ideal launching pad that would eventually lead to his title as the #1 DJ in the world.
Zedd streaks across Deadmau5's stage
Then: After some Twitter trash talk, Zedd stayed true to his word and scampered around the Main Stage during Deadmau5′s set in nothing but suspenders and pink boxer briefs. That skinny man gave some 50,000 live and 8 million remote fans a good laugh and one of our best moments of Weekend One.
Now: The next time Zedd’s attire would be newsworthy, it wouldn’t be due to half-naked comic relief, but rather a tuxedo as he accepted a Grammy award for “Clarity.”
Eric Prydz vs Cirez D
Then: Having played the main stage less than 24 hours prior, Eric returned to the Carl Cox Arena to play a two-hour set under his Cirez D moniker. The dark, groovy sounds set an unmatched vibe during the sunny afternoon hours and, to put it simply, Shazam had met its match.
Now: On the Main Stage, Prydz put his Essential Mix of the Year on a live display, shared time with Pryda, and made for one of the weekend’s greatest presences. In the cocoon, all hailed Cirez D. How would he ever up the ante in 2014? Four letters: HOLO.
Live stream gains mass audience
Then: Ultra Music Festival 2013 ended, Bayfront Park returned to it’s normal pristine state and fan’s ears may have finally stopped ringing, but the memories never faded. The floodgates were opened for fans without tickets to join the experience via live stream. Though the broadcast enabled fans around the world to listen in and live vicariously through the film crew, the true Ultra experience can’t be fully transmitted through a camera lens.
Now: What did you have to be on the ground to experience? What did the live stream miss? At least these 99 things that made our shortlist.
Major Lazer become performers of the year
Then: It was a festival within the festival. Major Lazer came decked out in tuxedos, but had no intentions to keep their performance formal. While Ultra’s Live Stage is one that remains shy for most of the weekend, the amphitheater was packed to the brim for Diplo and company, anxious for not only the music but the full Major Lazer 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.
Now: Fans ripped their shirts off, Diplo crowd surfed in a hamster ball, and Major Lazer instantly became the must-attend act of the year. 12 months laters, fans are still inclined to rip off their shirts, crowds across the world have been rolled over by the hamster ball, and “twerk” is likely to become the next unorthodox word to be added to the dictionary.
Avicii rolls the dice
Then: Avicii has the type of relationship with Miami Music Week that most artists dream of, outdoing himself year after year, spectacle by spectacle. On South Beach, he’s had shuttle buses in 2011, ice cream trucks in 2012, and his own hotel in 2013. In Downtown Miami, however, Tim’s legacy has taken on a life of its own. Madonna joined him on Ultra’s main stage last spring for a scene that would be nearly impossible to top and the pressure was on to once again roll the dice on Ultra’s largest platform.
Now: Roll the dice he did. Legendary artists joined Tim on stage with a live instrument performance of brand new, festival-defiant music. And, as the story (most simply) goes; fans were confused, Avicii stayed True (pun intended), fans warmed up, and that music became some of the most praised by pop culture over the course of the past year.
Swedish House Mafia era ends
Then: They said namaste in India, adjö in Sweden, lebewohl in Germany, au revoir in France, dosvedanya in Russia, totsiens in South Africa, hooroo in Australia, and adiós in Mexico. It was time for Swedish House Mafia to say goodbye in America. After closing global chapters it was time to shut the book and end the story — time for the biggest electronic act of a generation to close the curtains on their legacy.
Now: The dust has hardly settled. All three member now seem to be going stronger as solo artists and, the One Last Tour experience is coming full circle with a feature film weeks away from initial screenings.
Clarity, Cannonball, and the songs most played
Then: There were hundreds of artists across seven stages at the world’s most renowned electronic music festival, but some tracks were played dozens of times and were inescapable every day, at every stage. It is the tracks that became the unofficial anthems of Ultra that are immortalized in the memories of fans, and 360,000 fans now have ten major tracks to remember Ultra Musical Festival 2013 by
Now: There are those special records that go down in the books as the year’s biggest tracks, and no festival has been a landmark for making that judgement like Ultra has. Looking back on last year’s ten most played tracks; they’ve all gone on to become some of 2013’s most memorable, most saw airplay soar through summer, and one even scored a Grammy.
Two weekends, six days, one celebration
Every year Ultra manages to outdo itself — from lineup to production to the little things that make up the overall fan experience. Last year was no exception, and the elongated two-weekend, six-day nature raised the stakes even greater. The lineup had improved from headliners to live acts, themes had been incorporated better than ever before, and small changes on the ground made for a more fluid festival experience. As the content to Miami Music Week continues, Ultra will have no problem raising the bar yet again in 2014.