Ultra-anxiety: The disorder that occurs when you attempt to jot down a logical schedule of your favorite performers at the Ultra music festival and realize that it is simply impossible.
The organizers at this year’s Ultra festival crammed more than 200 disc jockeys and electronic artists into nine stages, ranging from small wedding tents to the mega-arena. How could you catch Goldie from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Ultra Space stage when Deep Dish was playing the Club Space Stage, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien from Gorillaz was rapping at the Coolworld Revolution Stage? Especially when most of these performances were delayed by half an hour. You either had “luck” on your side or you missed out on something. Better luck next year.
Those who arrived early stood out in the sun to reap irreparable damage to new tattoos and pale skin. The raver crowd, generally scoffed at for their clownish attire, laughed last, proudly wearing space gear from head to toe.
“Girls to the left, boys to the right,” a chubby security guard blasted at high multitude as he squeezed into the entrance, adding to the mayhem. People trickled in and were immediately stopped at the second entry barrier for the body search. Guards seemed more concerned with barring food and water than drugs. Was this because anything small would find its way in anyway or a precaution to ensure that people would cough up $5 for a bottle of water?
Bacardi, with a “hip” slogan, “Never needs a remix”, had its bat logo displayed on every possible surface, including the facade of the Intercontinental Hotel. The Bacardi man, however, failed to show up with free cocktails. At times, the curling lines for booze attracted more people than the nearest stage.
Two of top three disc jockeys in the world, according to the UK’s DJ Magazine, were nowhere in sight. Sasha and John Digweed opted to spin just down the street at the Miami Arena, kick-starting their “North-American Delta Heavy Tour.”
Spring break brought in people from as far as Connecticut, Michigan and Illinois. Three girls from Northwestern University wanted to see Tiesto, “because he is so cute,” and planned on staying sober. A student at Michigan State sporting a French soccer team jersey said he preferred raves in Toronto because the setting is surreal. “They have these raves in front of monuments, it’s incredible,” he said. “Here they don’t trust people enough to do that kind of thing. Americans are too crazy.”
Big stages such as Club Space and Coolworld had their amps set between 30 and 50 kilowatts, though numerous engineers said speakers were being heavily underutilized. For good reason, however, as stages were so close together that fans near the fringe of a stage could hear conflicting beats pumping just meters away.
Police inside were on the lookout for stoners, though most folks under the influence looked unconcerned while massaging each other and practicing Jamaican origami. One officer claimed to have made 11 arrests, but said the crowd was “very, very peaceful overall.” Another officer said her main focus was to help people suffering from exhaustion.
The designer of the drum ‘n bass arena speakers openly said that he had been abducted by aliens, hence his company’s name, Alien Technologies. One of the youngest partiers in attendance was Pedro, only 5. After standing with his Uncle Al right in front of the speakers at the Coolworld Revolution stage, Pedro showed signs of permanent hearing damage, unable to answer any questions.
Sound engineer Einar Johnson, an expatriate living in Glasgow, commented on disc jockeys who merely spin extensive record collections, and those who produce their own sounds, like Ultra headliner the Crystal Method. “But eventually, if it sounds good, it doesn’t matter who made it,” Johnson said.
Patife and SUV, just in from a gig in Puerto Rico, gave the drum ‘n bass crowd a good “rum” for their money, flavoring their set with mixer-induced samba percussion. Patife, a very skinny kid from Sao Paulo, Brazil, looked unconcerned with the celebrity status he has won among fans of drum ‘n bass. Not long ago he was hopping on buses and trains to play in remote parts of the Brazilian megalopolis.
The self-proclaimed junglists, the roughest and most intense crowd at Ultra, also had the most accessible backstage, with very little hassle or supervision. Some of the well-known artists present were Roni Size, Krust, Die, Ray Keith and Ed Rush. Closing off the d ‘n b arena was Miami’s own three-time DMC disc jockey championship winner Craze, who shared the stage with DJ Marky, Brazil’s first drum ‘n bass representative. Towards the end of their set, an incredulous Marky watched as Craze showed off his unmatched skill at extracting a universe of sounds.
Over at the main stage, Paul Oakenfold, George Acosta, Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk sealed the fates of a fanatical crowd while they tried not to fall from their Bayfront Park seats. BT’s set squeezed in enough cross-genre variety to give the audience a break from the thumping repetitiveness of the evening.
At 1 a.m., the sweaty, disoriented throng gathered up their bones and emptied out of Bayfront Park. Those with leftover energy pursued flyers handed out on the sidewalk, promoting more musical chaos in the city.
Clearly the opposite of Ultra’s shear mass of confusion, was the performance of Vienna’s resident ambient re-mixers Kruder & Dorfmeister, last Sunday night at Rain. The entire audience grooved as one boogying Leviathan. Rain’s intimate size allowed for a generally warmer musical experience; one could watch ash growing from the tip of Peter Kruder’s cigarette as his eyes zigzagged between turntables. After their lengthy set, the duo chatted with fans and friends as if they were at a backyard party in Vienna. Then they lugged their equipment into a taxicab and disappeared into another tranquil forgettable night at the WMC.