UMF 2012: A Recap


If you don’t know about Ultra Music Festival, you might’ve been living under a rock for the past 14 years. I remember when I first heard of the event; It was the day after the 2007 UMF had taken place and the halls of my high school were littered with neon shirts bearing that year’s line up and “ULTRA” everywhere.

At first, I didn’t know what to think or feel. Electronic music had taken on a new generation, my generation. Do I start a new, crazy, electronic path in my life or to continue on the same musical one I was already on? I chose the first. That is how I ended up at 2012’s Ultra Music Festival and this is my review.

This was technically only my second Ultra. Last year I went to all the pool parties and only one day of Ultra and 2010 marked my very first Ultra Music Festival. Now, I know that I may be a newbie to the festival, but it has already made dramatic and noticeable changes than to what I experienced in 2010.


Day One

The first day is always the most exciting! Ultra always has someone prominent  playing right at 4 p.m. to entice people to be at Bayfront Park all day long. This year it was Jack Beats and Kissy Sell Out, great selections to start off the weekend. However, this Ultra’s lineup had a plethora of indie bands, some from the 1970’s and early ’80’s, generating attraction from the older crowd. I chose to see some artists I had never seen before as opposed to the mainstream electro DJ’s I had seen time and time again. Neon Indian with a splash of Martin Solveig and some New Order put me in the right mood for the day; I couldn’t be happier.

The Bionic Beatlab crew was jumping all over the fest on Friday. While I jammed out to the sweet lyrics of British frontman Bernard Summer, fellow bloggers, Silva’s Gold and [I/O], checked out Porter Robinson, Madeon and the beginning of Dada Life, saying that the tent was overflowing with madness everywhere. As soon as you crossed the threshold of the tent, you could feel a heat wave that almost disabled you.

People were everywhere. Madeon dropped his new single “Icarus,” along with those songs that everyone knows him for, like his remix of Deadmau5’s “Raise Your Weapon.” Porter Robinson was rowdy as usual. Dada Life started out with a darker set than normal, playing “Unleash The F*****g Dada” early on. The thing that turned me off about the Korea-Brasil-Ibiza tent was that you could never see the artist playing or find a spot to dance without bumping into someone or overhearing the Carl Cox tent in the near vicinity.

The best set of Friday was Miike Snow. Starting with their song, “Cult Logic,” Miike Snow performed an exhilarating live set, giving me goose bumps from head to toe. Continuing with music off their 2009 debut album, like “Silvia” and “Burial,” the band did not play much off their newly released album but did include hits like “Paddling Out” and “The Wave.”

Sporting an actual piano, rare for electronic festivals, Miike Snow put on the show of the night, closing with a longer, remixed, revved-up version of “Animal,” including an amazing piano solo. To say the least, I did not want them to stop playing and when they did, one hour seemed like hardly enough time. However, legends, Kraftwerk, were up next.

Kraftwerk put on a very dark show, leaving me wondering how they knew how to grab my attention in the way that they did. Forming in 1970, Kraftwerk created music through the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and their journey through time was felt through their music. It was an intoxicating experience with crazy imagery and messages, a minimalistic approach with catchy melodies and repetitive rhythms. It is still surreal that I got to see these electronic music pioneers!
Day 2
Saturday started with Bassjackers, who played an awesome song tributing Miami, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Of course, us here at Bionic Beatlab have seen every Felix Cartal set since the beginning of his WMC career. It was good, but not as good as his set at the Dim Mak Party earlier that week. Meanwhile, at main stage, A-Trak threw down, initiating the use of his Duck Sauce song “Big Bad Wolf” and all of it’s remixes.
I was particularly excited for Saturday because of the Annie Mac Presents stage featuring Jackmaster, Sinden, Nadastrom, Gessafflstein, Brodinski, Tensnake, Busy P, Dillion Francis and the BBC Radio 1 queen herself, Annie Mac, who also made an appearance at the Miami Noize party.
Both Gesaffelstein and Brodinksi played an outrageous set, different to that of their Hard Miami sets two nights previous. It was interesting to compare their club sets to their festival sets. And who can forget Digitalism’s DJ set? Providing a healthy blend of originals, remixes, funk, electro, house and so forth, Digitalism surprised me and made me even a bigger fan. Unfortunately, we did not visit the dubstep tent, but from what I’ve heard, it was nothing short of phenomenal for all you bass heads, especially Flux Pavillion b2b with Doctor P.
The most notable performance of Saturday, for me, was Duck Sauce. The compatible duo of A-Trak and Armand Van Helden busted out the funk with some crazy new songs, along with old ones. They did a new remix of the “Barbra Streisand” beat using what sounded like a children’s choir and mixed it with “Big Bad Wolf,” from which they progressed from the original to the Dada Life remix. Even though it was only my second time seeing Duck Sauce, I am still blown away with the versatility of the couple and how well they work together. Throughout the entirety of the set, I barely said a word to anyone as I danced the day away to the funk of their sound.
However, the main stage on Saturday was on point. After Duck Sauce, Fatboy Slim played an old-school set including originals like “Praise You” and “Push The Tempo.” Fatboy Slim also handed out the coolest 3D glassses ever. Smiley faces all around.
Justice was the pinnacle of the night. As the main stage got more and more crowded, we had to make our way to the back, just so we could dance. The famous French duo opened with the Jimi Hendrix version of The Star Spangled Banner and quickly jumped into “Civilization.”  They continued with a rework to the classic “D.A.N.C.E.,” that I frankly thought could’ve been better, and a mashup of “DVNO” and “Horsepower.”
The set was heavy and undanceable at some points, but nevertheless one of the better performances of the festival. Before wrapping up their set, Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay stopped all music, held their fists in the air and bowed their heads in silence for almost five whole minutes before jumping into “We Are Your Friends” and transitioning into “Audio, Video, Disco.”
Day 3
The chillest of the three days and the most laid back I’ve seen an Ultra lineup, Sunday wrapped up an amazing weekend. There were a lot of trance DJs playing: Sander van Doorn, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren (once at the A State Of Trance tent and closing at main stage), ATB, John Digweed, etc. I didn’t have a chance to catch these artists but I listened to the Ferry Corsten set online and am sad I didn’t spend more time at the A State of Trance arena on Sunday.
My day was filled with much more music though. I started with SBTRKT Live. At first I was confused because SBTRKT is a one man show, but live, it was different. He provided an interesting show with the use of another person accompanying him. With a mixture of dub-based beats that progressed into dubstep and back into glitchy tones and lyrics that SBTRKT is known for, everyone in the crowd was satisfied with the performance. Next, Flying Lotus graced us with his presence. Rarely hearing of him coming to South Florida, this was the set that I was the most pumped for on Sunday.
FlyLo came onto the stage with his MC, a friend, definitely. At first, I was pissed that the MC wouldn’t stop rapping over the beautiful originals that I had waited so long to see. With time, you seemed to get used to it, not only because he was a worthy rapper, but also because he was hilarious, providing a comical flare to the set.
Initiating the hip-hop and rap, FlyLo dropped his remix of “I Feel Like Dying” by Lil Wayne, getting it stuck in my head for the next two days. I love how Flying Lotus’ music can cater not only to those who like hip-hop and appreciate the beats behind the lyrics, but also to the electronic music listener.
Introducing some live remixes to more recent hip-hop songs, FlyLo was on point throughout his hour-long showcase. Not only did he show off his talent for making great music, he was able to portray his unique talent in mixing music. I wish the set was 1) louder and 2) more original based than hip-hop based, but it still left an impression on me, as I am currently indulging in the genre of hip-hop.
After, we caught the beginning of Knife Party‘s set, which was to say in the very least, impressive. It has been one of the better live electro productions I’ve seen and seems to be an unanimous favorite of the festival goers.
Even though Flying Lotus was amazing, the best set of Sunday was The Bloody Beetroots DJ set. These crazy Italians played one of the hardest electro sets. Ever. Having seen them multiple times now, I knew what to expect. Not only did Sir Bob Rifo blow my expectations out of the water, but he surpassed them.
One of the defining moments was when Bob Rifo went to the front of the stage and swung the mic around his head to the beat of the song. Or maybe it was when you could see all of the wires surrounding the stage literally jumping up off of the ground and the video you took turned out blurry because the lens is shaking from the deep bass.
Imagine the music, the volume and the bass progressively getting heavier and heavier with each drop, with each song change. There was only one moment I can recall where The Bloody Beetroots gave the audience a break: during their song “Dimmakmmuication”, which is still an intensively good song.
You could almost see the intensity drip from the speakers as they vibrated with the song as well. With sets as mad as this one, sometimes you can lose your brain, and I’m pretty sure that’s precisely what happened.

After a long weekend, I wrapped up the night with some Lazy Rich, who put on quite a show that everyone couldn’t stop moving to, even if you were sober. Jelo went on afterwards and I made my way back to the live stage to catch some of Bassnectar.

The live stage was absolutely packed. There was no more alcohol to be sold, but the music continued until the very last minute. The night was slowly winding down against the will of every Ultra participant. Who wants to go back to reality after such an epic weekend? Not me. Even almost a week after, I am still trying to find my voice. Perhaps it was left in Miami.
Something new about Ultra this year was that they closed Sunday at 11 p.m. instead of 12 a.m. like every other year. It was kind of a let down, but I know some people were secretly happy that they could get back to their lives and maybe get the ringing to stop in their ears. Work and school on Monday morning would be a drag, a hassle, something irrelevant and inapt, a preposterous idea after what we just experienced. Yet, the only thing left we can do is wait for next year.
It’s hard to describe the essence of Ultra Music Festival. There’s something different about this festival in comparison to others. Maybe, it’s the South Florida atmosphere, maybe it’s the drugs. But there seems to be an extraordinary twinkle in everyone’s eye, an unusual pep in everyone’s step. Maybe, I’m being biased because I am a Miami native. Whatever it is, it’s something that only Ultra attendees know what I’m talking about. Yes, there will be more festivals and shows to satisfy your needs and urges, but nothing quite compares to Ultra. Less than a year to go!
via Bionic Beatlab

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