MMW recap: Ultra works through new venue kinks with a promise to return triumphantly
It has been 50 years since the beautiful mess that was Woodstock. The historic festival was clearly a poorly organized wreck but it was the first of it’s kind. Additionally before the documentary film made about the festival was released the people who put it on actually took a loss monetarily. Still, one huge take away from massive festivals was made clear, music brings the masses, and the masses have cash.
Fast-forward to the present, where a saturated festival market has peaked and failures are amplified expeditiously via mainstream and social media. 2019 in particular hasn’t been the best for festivals in this arena. From two documentaries absolutely burning Fyre Festival, as it should be, to fan feedback on various happenings at Ultra Music Festival, music lovers are finally setting and speaking out about their standards.
Let’s hone in on Ultra for a moment: it is arguably one of the most profitable music festivals in the world. Over a hundred thousand people gladly emptied their pockets for the cathartic experience dancing freely allows them. So one must ask how, with two decades of experience and accumulated capital, could Ultra end up trending with hashtags like “#ISurvived” and “#FyreFestival2?
A new venue change is difficult for any large-scale festival; especially when it’s an island terrain like the Virginia key. Ultra clearly did its best given its mere four months to plan for the move. The production was there, the acts were there, and even the implementation of a responsible and sustainable mindset for fans was there. The more spacious grounds allowed for greater production as well and room to dance—another plus. However, there were some a few kinks that hopefully the festival will be able to work out if it makes its intended return to the island.
The Resistance area, which housed the incredible Cox Mega Structure that was a “must-see” of the festival, was a 30-minute-plus walk from the main stage. Fans who closed out Carl Cox’s mind-bending and beautiful set dedicated to Keith Flint were at a loss when at 2 AM they realized there were only two ways getting home: a 5K walk to shore after a full day of dancing, or fighting for a seat on one of the buses that sluggishly trotted over the highway in a sloppy slow line. After all that, many Ultra fans still had to fight for an expensive ride back after getting past the stretch of one lane highway. All in all, it took some festival goers well over three hours, and considerably more money than they’d budgeted, to get home from the event.
To make things more contentious, KFC’s sponsored “DJ set” received widespread kickback from fans and artists alike, who felt that both the festival and its corporate partner had stepped over the line in virtually airing a live commercial on stage. Ultra has already released its 2020 dates, leading some to question if the experience is worth doing again.
Things are already looking up for Ultra, however. Within just a day, they’d vastly improved their transport woes alongside the city and surrounding agencies. Surely they’ll fine tune their process even more next year with increased shuttles, ferries, and organization across the board when it comes to exiting the venue. We also predict that there won’t be any more five-minute “performances” by megacorp mascots.
One alternate event, Get Lost, marks a good model to follow for future organization during Miami Music Week. The 24-hour party’s four stages were just out of sonic reach of each other while being perfect walking distance. Each staged housed an array of what seemed like personal and handcrafted items on stage. The Mu stage was wide and gave space for rest, the Lemuria tent gave shelter from the sun during the day and was equipped with fans for the heat, the Garden of Eden stage welcomed all, and the Theia Room somehow captured the feeling of the center floor of a warehouse party in the depths of Brooklyn. Each area backstage was overflowing with love and respect visible to all.
The prospect of b2bs sets was endless, the surprise guests could sell out spaces in New York on their own easily; Black Coffee, Art Dedepartment, and Maceo Plex all rolled through completely naturally like their presence was nothing. The faces in the crowd became familiar and friendly over the non-stop 24-hour fun fest, and that’s truly what Get Lost achieved—festival status. The finesse Get Lost displayed was almost surreal, and we hope to see more events like this happen on a larger scale.
Miami Music Week is a choose your own adventure book. But it is becoming more and more apparent that the path to take is not the one guided by money, it’s the page that leads you to love. We are more than confident that Ultra keenly recognizes this after the week’s minor pitfalls and will exceed itself and then some in 2020.