The UFO team was in nearly full force in Miami last weekend, branching out as well as we could to absorb the magic that was Ultra 2012. Apologies if you weren’t there and are tired of hearing about it, or if you were there and have already drooled over all the recap videos. We sat down as a team to try and piece together all that we could, even after agreeing that it even though it was a “you had to be there” kind of experience, and decided to share that discussion with you.
Sandwiched between South Beach flickering in the distance of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the looming architecture of downtown Miami on the other, Bayfront Park really felt like the Rave-opolis. The weather was pristine, the lineup was jaw-dropping, egos were left at the entrance, and it’s rare you see a festival crowd this beautiful.
Some of us were there for rowdy house music, some of us for dubstep, others for deep trance and still others for electro. Some of us stayed in ritzy South Beach hotels, while others of us stayed in neighborhoods in Coral Gables where no one spoke any English. But none of this was clear except in hindsight, because we all came back feeling like we had witnessed something remarkable. The energy of that many people having a good time, well, it just makes you smile.
The following is a post-fest conversation we recorded and transcribed for your reading pleasure.
PJ: I had the greatest fucking time in Miami. People kept saying to me “Damn, you must be tired after Ultra,” but I felt it was the opposite. I felt recharged when I got back, fully rejuvenated. Now I understand how DJ’s can play big shows night after night. I played a DJ set myself on the Tuesday after we got back. There were like 15 people there, but I’ve never performed with that much energy before, ever. EDM is a source of renewable energy.
MIKE: State of Trance (stage) was something else. I was there all of Saturday.
EMILY: I did not like that tent.
MIKE: You didn’t like it?
EMILY: I went for the spectacle of Carl Cox, but we were there on Friday for ten minutes and I couldn’t even deal. It sounded like one song for twenty minutes.
PJ: That’s kinda what trance is.
EMILY: Yeah, I don’t fuck with that. [Laughs] Did we even see Carl Cox? I think Friday we saw him. The Bloody Beetroots too, I was not feeling it.
PJ: I was at Ultra to expand my perspective, but I definitely regret how little time I spent at those stages. We always passed them on our way to something else and kept walking by these crazy big acts: Porter Robinson, Dada Life, Pendulum. You can argue that any of the stages was worthy of your full attention, but that UMF stage went off this weekend, people were consistently losing their shit in there. Kids were standing on every available surface and hanging from every reachable bar, the energy coming out of there was undeniable. I met some of the coolest people of the weekend right outside of there, it was leaking good vibes into the street.
MIKE: When I was at the State of Trance tent, I caught half of Armin van Buuren and all of Gareth Emery, and I was one of the first two people there on the railing. The energy there was insane, I’ve never sweat so much in my life. Between that and Masquerade I think I lost 30 lbs. of water.
And everyone was just dancing and happy – no one was mad at anything. I elbowed a kid in the head, he just looked over and was like “Don’t worry, it’s cool dude!” and I’ve got a huge welt on my elbow from hitting this kid really hard. But he didn’t care, he was dancing and having fun, and that was the whole atmosphere with A State of Trance. It was happy music, Armin doing his arms-out head-up kind of thing, like “I’m God” and then it drops.
PJ: Yeah, I camped out there on Sunday for Armin van Buuren’s first set, then Gareth Emery and ATB. Those EL-wire Tron-suit stilt-walkers with the fog cannons walking around on stage were worth the trip over just by themselves.
And this was either a totally cool or totally uncool part of the experience, but people in the second-story VIP balconies were filling up jugs of water and dousing everyone in GA. Every three or so minutes there’d be another wave splashed down. A lot of people were loving it, but others weren’t so stoked. I cracked up when I saw some guy flip two middle fingers up saying “Fuck the 1%!”
I was loving it. I felt like Gareth Emery was playing at the kiddie fun house at Water World. That was the home stretch, too, when the end was imminent and the final day was closing. I felt pretty emotional in those last few hours.
NICK: Friday we were at UMF Worldwide all day (Paper Diamond, MiM0SA, Alvin Risk, Treasure Fingers, Camo & Krooked, DJ Muggs, Nobody Beats The Drum).
EMILY: Magnetic Man and Alvin Risk were really tight. The two of us only went to the Main Stage three times: we saw Laidback Luke, Justice, and Fatboy Slim. Fatboy Slim was really sick.
PJ: If I had to pick three, I’d say Laidback Luke, Kaskade, and Fatboy Slim. Fatboy Slim definitely got a lot of people talking. Honestly, I’m not a reliable source of set listings, and beyond that we never stayed anywhere for longer than a half hour. But, I do remember thinking that Fatboy Slim was going to bring a lot of variety to the mix and he ended up blending in with the rest of the acts. I don’t remember “Weapon of Choice” or some of the really funky tracks – damn, if he had played “Love Life” my jaw would have hit the floor.
He did play “Bird Of Prey,” I remember that seeming a little out of place, a little more out in left field than most of the PLUR-life samples we heard. But I loved it – basically anything that stood out from the pack became my favorite, and that’s why I gave a thumbs down to any DJ who played “Levels.”
Just one more thing, I cannot believe how much Avicii promotional stuff was around at Miami. There was a plane flying around all weekend with and LED screen talking about his tour – there were endless amounts of buttons and backpacks and even ice cream, I think. And if that weren’t enough, every other DJ at Ultra gave him promotion by playing “Levels.” Screw Madonna, clearly Avicii should have played at the Super Bowl this year.
MIKE: Everyone dropped Tommy Trash, too. Between Masquerade and Ultra, I heard “The End,” I heard “Ladi Dadi,” I heard all Tommy Trash all weekend by every headliner. Tiesto I think dropped it twice. Everyone was remixing “The End,” which is an old Tommy Trash track, maybe a year and a half old. That song got raped this weekend with remixes. Raped. He murdered it this weekend, I felt like his sound was the secound loudest only to Tiesto. And he blew out half the speakers on the left side of the stage. It was pretty wild.
EMILY : It was hard to run from UMF Worldwide to the Live Stage, or UMF Worldwide to Carl Cox or something like that. But there was so much room to chill, even at UMF Worldwide it was right by the water, so you could sit on the fence near the water, or on that hill. Or even at the dubstep tent at that hill before the tent, you could chill on there. Our friend fell asleep while Borgore was playing… so take that how you will. [Laughs] I didn’t see any of that last year.
NICK: It was a lot different than last year. I thought the whole layout was really sick, the Live Stage especially. The amphitheater brought a whole new feel to it. Last year was a lot of dirt and jumping around, whereas the Live Stage was a little more organized, I appreciated that.
PJ: This was my first year and I was expecting a lot of time standing on your feet, so I thought the grassy area where you could sit and chill was so clutch. Definitely made a lot of stops there during the day to hang out, definitely checked a lot of never-before-seens off my list there.
NICK: Yeah, it was cool. There was a way different feel between the Main and Live stages.
EMILY: Chase & Status was my favorite, I can’t stop watching videos. They blew my mind. We just saw them at the Gothic, this time they had four different live singers, guitar, live drumming, it was sick. You should see the video I posted on my Facebook, the opening number was this guy dressed as a skeleton singing the words. The MC was on-point, too. Every visualizer was like a music video. They did a VIP of “Time” and they had the singer Delilah there, and when they dropped it I was absolutely mindfucked.
PJ: There was a surprising amount of low-key indie stuff over there too, like SBTRKT and Metronomy – I heard M83 was really good but suffered a really devastating gear failure. Flying Lotus was insanely high-energy, and DJ Shadow was really cool to see but I couldn’t believe how dubstep-y it was. Pretty much nothing but, y’know? Then when he announced he was unveiling a new track… yep, more dubstep. It sounded good, but conceptually it was very sad to witness.
I was also pretty stoked to see Kraftwerk there too, you don’t get that opportunity too often. But it was close to the end of the first night, I was too amped to wait, and I couldn’t watch them stand on stage more motionless than frightened bunnies. It sounded great though! And it was such a trip to hear them playing and also hear more modern stuff in the background at the same time, and think “This is exactly the distance that electronic music has traveled over the years.”
MIKE: The main difference I saw between this year and last year was the open space. Last year the stages were twice as big, so they had a lot more space for people. For headliners like Avicii and Tiesto, there was room to get up in front – or at least in the front half – of the crowd. This year you could go back half a mile and you’re still stuck shoulder-to-shoulder with people.
I didn’t really like that aspect of it, but it was cool that during the day, there were so many people you could see that no place was really THAT packed. You could go to who you wanted to see.
And with getting up to the front, you just had to dance your way up. You’d get to the front, people would let you through, they’d be like “Yeaaah, that’s awesome!” You could get wherever you wanted, you just had to dance and be nice about it, not be a dick.
PJ: One of my preconceptions coming into my first Ultra was that the crowd was not going to be forgiving at all; in my mind, this was going to be one hundred thousand juiced-up meatheads who each need a lot of room for fist pumping. I’m so glad I was wrong about that, the crowd was super chill and everyone we met was incredibly nice. It was PLUR pretty much all the way. So many people just fucking stoked on life.
EMILY: Oh, I almost had a panic attack getting out of Bassnectar to go pee. It was at the Live Stage and we were sitting down in the seats, and I’m like only “this” big, so I’m pushing through these people, and all I see are these huge moon-eyes sticking out everywhere and everyone’s like “No, fuck off dude.” That was bad, getting out was bad. But they had actual bathrooms by the Live Stage which was legit. And the port-o-potties were way cleaner than last year.
PJ: Part of the adventure was navigating the festival, I really liked that aspect. Beautiful, half-naked people everywhere you looked. Aside from the clusterfuck that was the main stage – the quickest way was going all the way around it – but all the different ramps and chill areas, it was a lot of fun just to walk around. Especially with all the palm trees strung up with lights. And finding the Eco Village hammocks, that pretty much blew me away.
After I realized how impossible it was to see everything, I spent more time chilling, and made a more concerted effort to do things like… eat. [Laughs] Get out of the sun for a bit, chill, hydrate. Hang out rather than rush around, literally running from one stage to the next.
MIKE: Last year, yeah, you could run around everywhere. There was room to move, you weren’t ever stuck in a crowd. Whereas this year, there were all these little passageways for thousands upon thousands of people to get through, and it just doesn’t work like that. Especially when someone ends and everyone wants to go to the Main Stage, you have this twenty-foot-wide path for twenty thousand people to go through, and it just doesn’t work. I didn’t really like the setup this year as compared to last year in that sense, but at the end when we were leaving, it made it more fun to try and get out while trying to weave in and out of people. The spaces were too small to get through, they needed to widen everything in my opinion.
EMILY: UMF Worldwide was tight. Dillon Francis killed it. I found myself more open to not only listening to dubstep. Even the day when we would normally be at that, what was it, UMF BRasil? I did not like that tent, that dome thing. We saw Borgore and Flux and Doctor P again, but I felt myself not wanting to listen to generic dubstep sets of the same songs I hear all the time, so I had a lot of fun at Laidback Luke and other stuff I normally wouldn’t listen to. I felt like I opened myself up way more this year to different types of music. I got new perspectives.
PJ: I feel the same way too. Another preconception I had was that house was going to completely own the weekend, and the cool indie stuff like Flying Lotus was going to be on a tiny stage in the back. The Live Stage had the best variety by far. But there was lots of cool stuff happening all over, and one of my biggest regrets is that I missed all the great DJ’s playing on Friday at UMF Radio: Pierce Fulton, Sandro Silva, Deekline, motherfucking DJ Icey! We made it for a little bit of Stanton Warriors, then caught the end of both Plump DJ’s and Krafty Kuts. I should have just stayed there all day!
If anyone sold me on the Main Stage energy, it was Laidback Luke. Truthfully I don’t know the names of any of his songs, but after being there for 30 seconds I felt like I was totally present in the Ultra moment. The energy was definitely there, the first time of many throughout the weekend when I thought that people playing earlier in the day deserved later sets.
Why the fuck was Netsky and High Contrast on at noon?! I was proud of myself I made it to the festival grounds by 2 one of the days, noon just was NOT going to happen after staying up all night. That’s not to say that I had a huge issue with the headliners, but especially Bingo Players – who played at what, 2? – they brought such massive energy to crowds that hardly had time to fill out. Some of the best acts were on early – shit was popping off right when the gates opened. It encouraged me to get there as early as I could and take a nap on the grass if I got tired.
EMILY : Did you guys see that video of the girl humping the tree? Did anyone actually see that? I thought that was funny.
PJ: No. But when I was in the bathroom I heard something pretty funny. This kid picks up his phone and goes “Hello? Mom, I gotta call you back, I’m rolling tits right now.”
MIKE: Buy your tickets for afterparties ahead of time. It’s really the only thing. As long as you get them in advance you’ll have no problem getting in, but if you don’t buy any tickets, you’re really not going to get in unless you buy a table. Besides Liv, everything is $125 and below, which IS pretty bad, but you’re going to be up until 5 in the morning anyways.
PJ: Both Mekka parties I went to were $30. Great deals for an absurdly stacked lineup in a really cool, small club. They had four stages for Smog vs. Basshead, it was like a mini indoor festival: KOAN Sound, Gemini, 12th Planet, Caspa, Pendulum, MRK1, AC Slater, Drop The Lime, Zeds Dead, and that’s only half of the people there.
MIKE: Well it all depends on where you go. Amnesia is going to be $250, Arcadia is $70 to go in, but then you can see Tiesto for $70… and Bingo Players, and Dada Life, and Diplo, and it went until 6 o’clock in the morning. It all depends on where you go and what you’re looking for. But if you want the best, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money.
EMILY: I’m not raging that late to have the need to go to an afterparty. I don’t do a lot of drugs, so I’m spent at 1. [Laughs] I’m trying to go home, I need to go to sleep, I’m over it. But I got into that Eve show for free because the owner was all fucked up. He’s like “You need to be over 21” and our friend Cole is like “I paid for a ticket,” and he’s like “Don’t raise your voice at me!” and he’s like “I’m not raising my voice, I’m trying to see Dieselboy, can you let me in?” and he’s like “No! No!” And I just walked in.
I feel like you could either do Ultra and no afterparties, but I feel like you could also do only afterparties. [Laughs] You can do all that and see the same shit you see at Ultra.
PJ: Absolutely everyone I talked to told me the same thing: “If you hit an afterparty, remember you’re in Miami; dress like you’re going to a club.” So on Thursday I break out the slacks and dress shirt, my girlfriend wears a dress, and we head out to be all classy at Mekka. We figure that Ultra hasn’t even started, we won’t be overdressed, right? Wrong. Fuzzies and tank tops all over. I guess that’s just how Mekka is.
So then on Friday, we both say fuck that, we’ll just rock it in whatever we bring to Ultra. And that happens to be the night we visit you guys at the Fountainebleau. Go figure. I was wearing board shorts and a dirty v-neck with a pizza stain, people there wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.
NICK: We went to Eve one night for Dieselboy. It was Cervantes of Miami, this little-ass bar with no roof and just a tarp hanging over it.
EMILY: It was a piece of shit.
NICK: But it was cool being in Miami just seeing people walk around. We saw Smash Gordon in the crowd, we saw Datsik just walking around, they all said what’s up, they were all really friendly. I guess that was cool in that sense, but that was the only night we hit an afterparty.
MIKE: I stayed at the Fontainebleau, so going to an afterparty there was… relatively expensive. But the outside bar there is pretty sick, because literally you can see everyone there. We saw Tiesto, Deadmau5, Avicii, David Guetta, Bingo Players, Tommy Trash, Dada Life – just chilling in the lobby in between when they were supposed to play. Musical Freedom, which is Tiesto’s label, had a party on Friday night at Arcadia, which is one of the clubs in Liv, and if one of the DJ’s wasn’t playing they’d be chilling up in the lobby, grabbing drinks. People were going up to them, saying what’s up. It was a surreal feeling, saying that we’re staying in the same place as all these world-class DJ’s and you can just walk right up to them, and say what’s up. Really, it was amazing.
PJ: On that note, I heard an interesting story. A friend of a friend got a VIP table at the Mau5trap party on Saturday, and after shelling out a ridiculous amount of money to get the table, they try to spend another couple grand to meet Deadmau5 in person. They get taken to the lobby and wait for him to show up, and when he does, he addresses his manager or whoever and simply said “Tell these people to get the fuck out of here,” and walked away. These people apparently did not get any money back.
Many people who hear this story say “Well yeah, what else did they expect? Deadmau5 sucks as a human being.” And personally, if I were him, I wouldn’t be too excited to meet someone who wrote a check just to shake my hand. But this just adds to the mounting evidence that Deadmau5 is a jerk.
EMILY: Did you guys blow your nose?
PJ: Yeah, straight black! You guys got that too? Thank god.
MIKE: I felt like Friday was the dirtiest day, that’s when they laid down all the wood chips and all that, it gave it a really dry feeling. Because of that, my nose was literally just black. And my face… I washed half of my face when I got back and I was two different colors. It was hilarious. I looked at the face wipe and that thing was dark as night.
PJ: The spray-on sunscreen we used was like flypaper for all the dirt, my feet were the same color as my black flip-flops.
MIKE: But then it calmed down a little, last year at Ultra it was a little humid and just hot, it wasn’t dry. Like EDC was really dry, and you could feel the ashes in the air hit you and burn you. It was like that on Friday, but as the days went on it got a lot more humid in the air, so you weren’t getting burned by every single person smoking a cig.
EMILY: Can we talk about security?
NICK: There was none.
EMILY: [Laughs] I know! My purse was glanced at. The guys just went like that [one hand quickly down one side]. The one day they shook my shoes, but that was it. That was even more lax than last year.
MIKE: And no one died this year, too. It’s like the first time ever. It was a monumental day for electronic music festivals. Water wasn’t free though, that is my biggest complaint.
PJ: Camelbacks were essential gear. We’d hit up the indoor bathroom, for the guys bathroom it maybe took two minutes to fill up. Everyone was talking about how ridiculous the water costs were, people really felt like they were being fleeced for all the money they had. I heard Masquerade had a Camelback station, where you could just hit the tap and fill up.
Yeah, I thought the security was very easy to deal with. They hassled me over some LED’s I was bringing in for Wear The Party, I didn’t have to put up much of a fight and they gave them back to me after a minute. Definitely was tighter than SnowBall, though!
NICK: I dunno, I saw a kid with a fifth of alcohol inside.
PJ: People seemed pretty calm though. I think I saw security chasing after one person, but sometimes you go to these things and every other minute you see ambulances, handcuffs, etc. I don’t know if that’s just luck or if people were just partying safely. That’s good that no one died, though! [Laughs]
BONUS — Two fan videos from Ultra 2012 we’d like to share.
The first was shot by our new friend Eli Tawil, whose website is full of Ultra coverage and some pretty crisp photography of random other bits — check it out here.
The second was shot by another friend of ours, Mike Spaniol, who rocked the GoPro stick with a steady hand and looked like he had the time of his life.