Maxim - - THE PARTY STARTS NOW - —Kat Bien

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.

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