Recounting the legends of Ultra Music Festival
Recounting the Legends of Ultra Music Festival
It should come as no surprise that countless legends in dance music have graced the stages at Bayfront and Bicentennial Park to make their mark on Ultra Music Festival. With the ability to shape the sound of the forthcoming festival season and production styles in the year ahead, UMF sets are carefully crafted to showcase an artist’s best work.
Many iconic performances have been seen at Ultra in the last few years from Swedish House Mafia to Jack Ü, but being a dance music visionary that can spin for an hour doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what qualifies an artist to be classified as an Ultra Legend. A necessary combination of international fanfare, festival influence, and Miami-based legacy clash to form a definitive yet growing list of legendary Ultra performers. Check out the artists we believe to qualify for this prestigious list.
Rabbit In The Moon
It would be foolish to begin a discussion regarding the most defining and legendary Ultra artists without speaking on Rabbit In The Moon. The three man act whose styles ranged from breakbeat to house to even a dash of drum ‘n’ bass headlined the first ever Ultra in the sands of Miami in 1999.
Their set was said to be groundbreaking in respect to the future of the festival; the performance took the energy of the entire UMF experience to new heights. From the festival’s inception to 2010, the group held a strong reputation among Miami electronic music fans and kept returning to the ever developing festival. Shortly thereafter their 2010 Ultra performance, the group disbanded, but their legacy as UMF legends carries on.
Photo Credit: Rukes
After only one successful year, festival organizers upped their ante and brought in internationally recognized acts including the likes of Sasha. Rocking Miami with his progressive house sound, Sasha tore apart the Excession stage while underground and mainstream fans alike grew adept to the sounds of Europe.
Sasha returns to the Ultra stage at this year’s rebranded Underground Story stage entitled Resistance, upon which Sasha will push his progressive champion title to new bounds.
Joining Sasha’s 2000 – 2015 long-running legacy, and even often going back-to-back with Sasha himself on the Bayfront Park stage over the years, is the legendary John Digweed. Also hailing from the UK, Digweed sat atop the world in the early 2000s, even earning himself DJ Mag’s #1 DJ title in 2001. Rocking a progressive style with a hefty dash of techno, Digweed’s sets never fail to impress, and whether producing under the Nick Muir-assisted Bedrock moniker or releasing tracks under his given name, his originals are no different. Don’t miss this Ultra Legend this year at the Resistance Stage.
Today, most know Pete Tong for being a legendary tastemaker. The story extends further back than many realize, however. Pete Tong, who first headlined Ultra in its third year, picked up his radio presence early in his career, and was soon recognized as one of the UK’s greatest radio DJs and personalities. As his fame rose, so did his demand for live shows — and that’s where Pete Tong put his true DJing talents on display. Few DJs have made the profound impact on electronic music that Tong has, and even fewer have the chops to work with the best of them. From pioneering the first electronic music radio show to his Sunday Ultra Resistance performance, the evidence piles up quickly to cement Pete Tong as an Ultra Legend.
Drum ‘n’ bass may have faded in popularity in the US market, but that only proves that Andy C deserves his appointed Ultra Legend status — after all, you can still catch him in a headlining slot at the Ultra Worldwide stage this year. The man that is said to have played a major role in the genre’s boom in popularity is also the head-honcho of RAM Records, a label as innovative as the bass music monster himself. It’s a rare year that Andy C hasn’t played UMF since his first appearance in 2001 at the festival, and his performances are always exceptional — just make sure to bring a pair of earplugs.
Before getting wasted with Matthew Koma and embracing the emerging cookie-cutter sound of big room house, Tiesto was a trend setter. One of the first DJs to gain mainstream popularity in the increasingly successful North American electronic market, the Dutch producer set a high standard with his 2002 debut Ultra Mainstage performance. Ever since, Tiesto has been a mainstay at the festival missing only a single year from 2002 to 2015. Today, Tiesto’s music has certainly taken a bit of a turn from his trance and progressive roots, but we can’t knock the hustle of this Ultra Legend – he still rocks the mainstage in 2015.
From the debut of Saturday Teenage Kick, Junkie XL’s first project under his soon-to-be-permanent moniker, the world was tuned in. His new style of music, which blended genres from psychedelic rock to techno, caught the ear and heart of electronic fans globally, leading to an instant boom for the Junkie XL brand. XL had his Ultra debut in 2001, when the festival moved from its sacred beach spot to its current placement in Bayfront Park, along with many of his internationally famous peers. With a headlining slot in 2001 and performances at the festival through 2008. Junkie XL’s Legend status is well deserved because of the innovation he brought to the stage in his musical style; no longer was the UMF mainstage a cut-and-dry electro spot – all dance inducing music is welcome. While XL’s style differentiated from the preferred Ultra sound rather quickly, his presence can be felt at every stage in Bayfront Park.
Photo Credit: Irene Lindvall
When Ultra first touched down in Miami in 1999, Paul Oakenfold was essentially untouchable. After two years of being voted the world’s number one DJ by DJ Mag, Oakenfold was busy spreading his wildly diverse taste in electronic music to the North American masses when he first his the Ultra Mainstage in 2001 as the festival’s blockbuster performer. Taking place on what is now known as the Live Stage, Oakenfold’s performance was high energy, packed to the brim with lavishly dressed dancers, and a crowd building in the truest sense of the word. Paul’s international influence soon faded, but he is forever remembered for his five time run as an Ultra headliner, and certainly brought a greater degree of international attention to the festival. Paul Oakenfold is an Ultra Legend in the truest sense of the phrase, and while you won’t catch him headlining the festival in Bayfront Park again today, he set the precedent for other artists on this list to take on the same multi-year headlining duties for the famous festival.
As the second artist on our list to have graced the first ever Ultra Global Beach Music Festival in 1999, Josh Wink’s streak of Ultra performances is wildly impressive. Having never missed the festival for over ten years, Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness” brought a new type of refined and deep tracks to the Miami crowd. His legacy reaches all the way until 2013, when Wink most recently graced the now-gone Bayfront Stage curated by Mixmag themselves. With such a long running legacy, Wink is considered a Legendary mainstay at the festival, and we look forward to his hopeful return in the future.
The man that truly needs no introduction, nor an explanation as to why he is an Ultra Legend, is Carl Cox. For those unaware, the techno godfather figure began his reign at Ultra with his very own stage to curate in 2005, and has gone on to curate the stage every year since. Inviting his friends out to play in Miami, the stage has long been an oasis for fans that appreciate a roomy dancefloor and relaxed crowd grooving to deep, sophisticated house and techno jams. Cox’s arena, which will land again in Miami for its 11th year in 2015, has no defined sound; whatever Carl Cox likes is what goes — even including two sets from the Ultra Legend during the festival.
Armin Van Buuren
The most recent artist to be donned a Legend of Ultra is Armin Van Buuren, the A State of Trance creator and host. Since the festival expanded in 2011 to its now standard three day format, Armin has taken over the Carl Cox Arena on the festival’s closing day for special rebranding of the Mega Structure for his ASOT party. Curating a stage that captures the best of the European trance explosion, Armin caps off the day with his own performance for diehard ASOT fans, often whipping out a dark and special set, including a rare GAIA appearance in 2014. On top of hosting his own show transplanted in the middle of Bayfront Park, the artist doesn’t leave his mainstage warriors behind; before landing at the Mega Structure each year, the trance king blesses the mainstream audience with a high energy big room trance set at Bayfront’s biggest and brightest stage.
Paul van Dyk
In the year 2000, Paul van Dyk took to the GateCrasher stage with his headlining title and brought a special set to the shores of Miami during the second ever UMF. Today, he looks forward to headlining the A State of Trance stage on day three of the 2015 festival. Dyk’s legacy is written in history, and the fact that he continues to pump out sets that are still spoken about amongst the festival’s greatest performances further pushes the case for his Legend status. Amongst the most seasoned UMF artists, Dyk returns to his stomping grounds this year with little to prove, but a ton of talent to provide – if his 2013 set is any indication of what is to come of his performance this year, we’d recommend stopping by the Mega Structure at the end of day three.
Erick Morillo has truly been around since not only the start of UMF, but the break of dance music entirely – you can’t argue with 1993’s “I Like to Move It,” no matter how much you may want to. But Erick Morillo’s music contains a level of careful patience and focused energy that is not found in the productions and performances of many of his peers. As with a few other Ultra Legends, Morillo joined the Ultra festivities for the first time in 2001, tackling the mainstage party with his house and newly developing electro house stylings. The NY-born and Colombia-raised veteran has used the musical sounds of his upbringing to develop his own lane of hybrid house, which rings successfully with fans, even in 2015. Morillo won’t be taking the stage in 2015, but he can take a few years off; he returned in 2012, and we have no doubt he will be back to the festival he helped shape once again.