Review: Deadmau5, Faithless, Sasha and Digweed rule Day 2 of Ultra Music Festival
Close to 100,000 people attended a sold-out Ultra Music Festival in Miami over the weekend, a new record for the mack-daddy electronic music event that debuted in 1999.
Here’s a summary of Saturday’s scene at Bicentennial Park, where big sunglasses, swimsuits and mouse gear (more on that later) were the norm, and beats pulsed for a steady 12 hours.
UMF Brazil Arena, 1:25 p.m.: Ferris: The opening DJ’s funky house set gets the blood pumping. Only at Ultra Music Festival can you see this many young, tan-bodied dancers bouncing in unison before 1:30 in the afternoon.
Biscayne Stage, 1:50 p.m.: FreQ Nasty: Not to be confused with the Da Dip hitmaker Freak Nasty, FreQ Nasty lays down jungle and breakbeat with enough bass to shatter the windows of the neighboring luxury high-rise. In fact, the people watching from the balconies look terrified.
Bayfront Live Stage, 2:25 p.m.: Diplo: M.I.A. and Santigold collaborator Diplo shifts between a MacBook and turntables in front of fans in neon tights and headbands. He’s from Ft. Lauderdale, but says it’s his first Ultra. The chirpy Bucky Done Gun, which he wrote and produced for M.I.A.’s Arular, is perfect under the mid-day sun.
Ultra Main Stage, 3:05 p.m., Nas and Damian Marley: On intro song Hip Hop is Dead, which samples Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, a spry Nas tells the crowd to “f--- the radio.” Ultra concurs. His If I Ruled the World turns into singalong before Marley hits the stage. The duo’s union of dancehall and hip-hop was unexpectedly stellar – kind of like the $10 festival empanada and fruit plate I had during the set. Nas alludes to the fact that he and Marley have an album in the works. If it sounds this good, we’re in for a treat. Welcome to Jamrock, Road to Zion and Made You Look are other highlights.
Biscayne Stage, 4 p.m.: Planet of the Drums: If you’ve ever been a drum and bass enthusiast, this might be your “dream team” of sorts. Planet of the Drums is made up of AK-1200, Dieselboy and DJ Dara. Their MC, Messinian, makes an announcement prior to startup: “They say the scene is dwindling -- well, this bitch is sold out!”
UMF Brazil Arena, 5:05 p.m., Sander Van Doorn: This is the first DJ we’ve seen spin with half-naked female dancer accompaniment. Because throbbing trance always sounds better with hot chicks, right?
Bayfront Live Stage, 5:30 p.m.: A-Trak: I am verklempt that I only caught a few minutes of the scratch man and former Kanye West DJ’s set. But judging by A-Trak’s next-day tweets, it seems like he enjoyed Miami. “Went to bed at 9am, got up at 11, my head hoits,” he wrote.
Ultra Main Stage, 5:45 p.m.: Benny Benassi: The Italian DJ draws big. A remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Heads Will Roll and robotic dancefloor hit Satisfication make the place go off. Kelis, who worked with Benassi on her upcoming album, provided guest vocals in a silver face mask and lace-up boots.
Ultra Main Stage, 6:45 p.m.: Faithless: The announcer introduces Faithless as the “Rolling Stones of electronic music.” Singer Rollo Armstrong (brother to Dido) looks a bit like Seal, but sings about tearing off tights with his teeth. Speaking of, Insomnia, one of the biggest songs to come out of dance music in the last two decades, incites major finger-pumping from the crowd. Sister Bliss looks like a rockstar behind the tables and Maxi Jazz’s live percussion, including congas, timbales and cymbals gives the set great body.
Carl Cox and Friends Arena, 8 p.m.: Sasha and Digweed: It’s progressive house like only Sasha and Digweed can throw down. A three-dimensional LED stage cube and copious amounts of laser lighting give even the sober viewers a buzz. A girl in a ladybug costume and a guy in a sea captain’s hat hop together during a glorious crescendo.
Ultra Main Stage, 9:15 p.m.: Swedish House Mafia: There’s a moon over Miami (seriously)! Bearded DJs, including the man who famously scuffled with Paris Hilton (she asked him to play better songs at his own party), Steve Angello, remix Daft Punk’s Around the World and MGMT’s Kids (calling it Kidsos). Unfortunately, Florence of Florence and the Machine doesn’t appear for guest vocal duties. Word has it she played at an earlier Winter Music Conference party with the group.
Bayfront Live Stage, 10:30 p.m.: Orbital: After a six-year absence, the Hartnoll brothers of the UK’s Orbital return to the stage. Energy was high on classics Chime, Lush and Satan, especially among old-school fans who longed for their unique, mid-90’s electronica sound.
Ultra Main Stage, 11 p.m.: Deadmau5: Cheese-headed and mouse-masked superfans come together for Ultra headliner Deadmau5. The Canadian star DJ, who named himself “Deadmau5" (pronounced "dead mouse") after finding a fallen rodent inside his computer, rolls through uplifting house and trance, including hit banger Ghosts n Stuff. Was that Tommy Lee playing live drums for a hot minute on the intro?
Biscayne Stage, 11:30 p.m.: LTJ Bukem: For a guy who merely smiles and nods behind the tables, LTJ Bukem puts forth a delightfully deafening drum and bass set. It’s the last hurrah, and the Ultra crowd dances accordingly. It has been a grand affair.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*