This is a world where the people are dressed in colorful imagery and harlequin clothing, where the Bacardi girls walk around in vibrant, glittery swimsuits. Where guys and girls in oversized pants and tight halter-tops groove to the music with candy in their mouths, adorned with butterfly wings and bunny ears. It is a raving bohemia with an eccentric edge and a booming, carnival-like energy. But even more, it’s arguably the ultimate venue for the best electronic music from around the world.
Ultrafest, part of the Winter Music Conference, dynamically took over Bayfront Park for a full-day and evening event last Saturday night.
Big screens provided pulsating visuals on eight separate stages. Rows of food and drink stands, “cool-off” mist tents, glow stick and candy tables, piercing stations, and massage tents selling ecstatic pleasure tended to a colossal audience in dire need of the vigorous pulse of electronic music.
Jim Ubl, CEO and founder of UBL Recordings, considers the event to be the biggest festival in the United States for electronic music. The “biggest and best talent from around the world” shows up for performances, Ubl said. This year included such notables as Roni Size, the Crystal Method and Deep Dish, among others.
Electronica, a musical movement largely based on the experimentation with technological innovations and chemical substances, has a much less organic, or perhaps, natural feel when performed live. However, it possesses a digital throb that generates movement and creates an intoxicated energy that is aggressive and much more impulsive.
“This electronic movement has to do with technology and will continually progress,” Ubl said. “The music scene needs something fresh and exciting like this.”
“While people may think that it’s just pushing buttons on a computer,” Ubl added, “it’s actually much more complicated than that. There’s a lot more musicianship and songwriting involved.”
Students like Mary Showstark, who drove down for Ultra from the University of Florida tended to agree.
“The event seems more organized this year and has a lot of energy,” she said. “This music is progressive technology and creates positive energy, bringing people together.”
In the early afternoon, the crowd was sparse, but it continued growing substantially throughout the day as people gathered to contribute to the flow of energy.
By the time dusk fell, the grounds were crammed and people began to take creative advantage of the darkness. An expressive revolt of the youth, seemed to walk continuously around the park.
Three people with neon yellow shirts that each exclaimed in bold black letters, the words “obscene”, “immoral”, and “filthy.”
Others chose to express themselves differently. At the break dancing tent, Jay, a breaker from Chicago, twirled around on his hands, doing acrobatic jumps with the beats.
“This is a positive, creative form of expression that goes along with the music and gives me some kind of inner peace,” he said.
Each stage engendered a surge of energy throughout the crowd. Tommy Larock played a hardcore techno set while topless dancers sporting afros took the stage drenched in silver glitter. DJ Rap and Wildchild exuded momentous dominance over people’s bodies with strident jungle beats and throbbing bass. Other artists arrived on stage with painted faces and rainbow-tinted clothing.
The revelers came to hear and feel, expose themselves in imaginative, intrinsic ways. Artists and disc jockeys provided their own escapism, spawning a universal rhythm upon the crowd. Each set could be simplified down to an almost primal response-react system, an exchange between electronic machines and human organisms.
The drum and bass tent was especially lively this year, most fans agreed, producing considerable amounts of energy from the people. Disc jockeys such as Bad Company, Krust, AK1200, Dieselboy and DJ Craze rocked the crowd with sharp, dynamic beats, stimulating the people to dance with the digital rhythms.
Jungle dancers euphorically threw their bodies in the air, losing themselves in the beats and responding rhythmically to other’s movements. Dancing’s typical sexiness was almost inexistent; it was more about coordinating the rhythms and allowing the bass to impact on the senses.
Experiencing a live electronic show is different than that of a live instrumental show on numerous levels. The artists perform music that has been produced on computers. Many attempt to build up a rash, aggressive type of energy that elicits people’s impulses. In contrast to a band equipped with musical instruments, one disc jockey controls the tempo and introduces new samples and sounds that can be slowed down or sped up as he or she desires, taking on the integrity of a whole band.
“It’s a whole different kind of creativity,” said bass disc jockey AK1200, who played with Dieselboy. “To make tracks electronically, you have to create your own instruments and sometimes that’s more challenging.”
At the Coolworld Revolution stage, Kosheen played a live set that incorporated live instruments as well as turntables. The live percussions, bass and cello, contributed to an active union between electronic and musical instruments. Other sets that experimented with this union were performed by Planet B, Kevens and Rinocerose.
“This combination is the next evolution in music. It’s a fusion of soul and technology and creates an eternal rhythm,” said DJ Schemes from Orlando.
Joel Koslosky, a volunteer at the Greenpeace stand, explained that music stems from our basic needs, that it’s “part of our natural needs.” In this light, electronica is yet another form of music adapted to technological innovations to serve these needs.
Here, the music is created digitally and almost single-handedly, while the fans and the artists, who are often one and the same, create a lifestyle built totally around energy.