THE CASE FOR ULTRA
long before “edm” was even a twinkle in a music executive’s eye—before every song this side of Kenny Chesney came complete with a face-melting drop—there was Ultra Music Festival, the 72hour climax to Miami’s annual Winter Music Conference. Over the past 17 years, Ultra has evolved from a “nobody listens to techno”– era beachside rave to a seminal event in pop culture, establishing the styles and trends that will permeate the airwaves for the next 12 months. It’s the place where everything seems to start. It’s where Madonna asked, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” It’s where Swedish House Mafia performed their final set and where Disclosure made its American debut. Even Deadmau5, who swore he’d never return, came crawling back a year later.
Sure, other EDM festivals are larger, but none can contend with Ultra’s mix of industry titans and innovative up-and-comers. And music isn’t the only reason more than 160,000 people converge on Bayfront Park every March. There’s an alchemy achieved only when you combine throngs of ravers, party-perfect beach weather, a pervasive I’ll-sleep-when-i-die mentality, and enough MDMA to sustain world peace for the next decade. It’s a bacchanalian paradise, a vibrant sea of sun-kissed skin, whirling glow sticks, and scantily clad girls in booty shorts, all orbiting the main stage, which illuminates downtown Miami. You want a melting pot? Where else are you likely to find drugged-out fairies (bikini, nylon butterfly wings, furry boots), abdominal demons (pleated shorts, Camelbak, on the prowl for “vitamin P”), and über-rich foreigners (shirtless, wearing their Eastern European home flags as capes) inhabiting the same space? And if you’re looking for some musical variety, just stray from the glow and check out the satellite stages—house and techno in one direction, hip-hop and electro in another.
So pack your novelty Spongebob tote, your disco whistle, and your pogo stick for advanced crowd maneuvering. Leave behind your dress clothes and stodgy attitudes. And save your sleep for the voyage home.
Put down the glow sticks, move away from the Molly: Ultra is more than just ground zero for the newest and greatest electronic dance music on the planet. You just need to know where to look.