SUNDAY, MARCH 17
Attending the Church of Rage on Sunday, the final day of ULTRA Music Festival’s first weekend was more packed than its previous days, luring in curious weekenders looking for a piece of the electro action that echoed through downtown Miami throughout Friday and Saturday. For third-day ULTRA-goers running low on fuel, the refreshing pack of people was vital to maintaining the festival’s dwindling energy.
MOST ANTICIPATED NEW ACT
Alex Ridha (Boys Noize) and Sonny Moore (Skrillex) first began work on their side project collaboration known as Dog Blood last summer. Since then, electro admirers of both artists have been eager to get a taste of the duo’s live show. Taking over the UMF Worldwide Stage at 5 p.m., Dog Blood were an unusual blend of tastes and sounds, making it difficult to truly categorize the genre where the music belonged. House-heavy, yet full of glitch effects and elevated amounts of bass, the experimental act was an invigorating presentation. Since Skrillex is attached to the love-hate dubstep stereotype in the EDM community, Dog Blood were a breakthrough opportunity for the producer to showcase his range. Standout remixes featured a handful of hip-hop samples, including A$AP Rocky’s “Wild For The Night,” but it was the bass-saturated version of “Smack My Bitch Up” by the Prodigy that caused a frenzy on the asphalt.
THE INVASION OF GIMMICKS AND DANCEHALL
As always, electro-fusion, Jamaican dancehall act Major Lazer brought the party to ULTRA, attracting a sea of excited fans to the live stage. For the first time all week, the amphitheatre was packed back to the lawn, because the addictive dance brigade was just too much fun to pass up. As Walshy Fire emceed the hour-long set of antics and tunes, Jillionaire assisted on the decks, while frontman Diplo alternated between mixing tracks and throwing vuvuzelas, confetti and dollar bills into the crowd. An inflatable ‘M’ and ‘L’ on the stage meant business (and by business I mean fiesta), and so did Fire. Following a steamy interpretation of “Jah No Partial,” the act’s leading personality commanded, “Everybody take your shirts off right now. Take your pants off, take your weave out, if you don’t give a fuck.” On cue, a rainbow of apparel flew sky-high. For the Latinas and Miamians alike, Major Lazer cranked out the ’98 chart-topper “Suavemente,” but it was dirty rap tracks like “Pop That” by French Montana and Major Lazer’s own “Pon De Floor” that got the girls grinding on the pavement. During ML’s signature viral dance hit “Express Yourself,” 20 ladies were invited to the stage to show off their best booty-clapping moves, but avid fans seemed more hooked on the drum and bass delivery of “Get Free,” which was accompanied by dancers waving flags with the act’s current slogan.
MOST NOSTALGIC ACT
Naturally, Snoop Dogg greeted longtime devotees by throwing a lit joint into the crowd, a practice he repeated throughout his set. “Is anybody getting fucked up tonight? Somebody pour me some of my favorite drink,” Snoop called out, as “Gin And Juice” blared through the speakers, and a furry mascot from Doggystyle appeared alongside the legendary rapper, pumping and thrusting his hips at the audience. More than a dozen hits featuring Snoop cameos made the roster, including 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” but the underlying (and predictable) theme was sparking up, so tracks like Dr. Dre’s “Let’s Get High” and “The Next Episode” signaled a thick, dank cloud of chronic floating above the crowd.
Though the four most popular spots to see music were all within a five-minute walk of each other, the mini hike to the Surface Stage Sunday night introduced a true treat. London-born Maya Jane Coles served up a steaming platter of deep house, a brand my dancing neighbor Ilya admitted was the electro version of “real baby-making music.” Coles wove her beats effortlessly, as hips swayed together to the cacophony of ecstasy, releasing batches of serotonin sans synthetic party enhancers.
A DIRTYBIRD TAKES FLIGHT
Closing out the festival on the Surface Stage, Detroit native Claude VonStroke returned to ULTRA to unleash a hefty dose of minimal house, with rhythmic bass so thick, it vibrated in my trachea, as though I’d had some sort of electrolarynx implanted. The head honcho at San Francisco label Dirtybird looked merry on his pedestal, humbled by both his time slot and the turnout of supporters that chose to end their festival with the bearded bird’s instrumentals.
ONE LAST HURRAH
Splitting the final moment of ULTRA between two headliners was a tough decision, but German tech-house twosome Booka Shade rarely visit Miami, so the division was a done deal. Closing the live stage with “In White Rooms,” their performance was trippy and trance-y, with Walter Merziger boring down on his set of synthesizers as drummer Arno Kammermeier accented the sound. Both artists delighted in the intimate attendance’s enthusiasm for “Donut” (from 2010’s More!,) with its whiny effects and bouncy chords. “Regenerate” wound down the set, complete with infectious Indian-flavored vocal samples, dual synths and timed cymbal crashing. One final shimmy and another round of fireworks solidified the conclusion to ULTRA Music Festival 15’s first weekend, leaving many eager for the upcoming Winter Music Conference, while others contemplated scalping tickets to the sold-out second installment, repeating with a few additions (and subtractions) to the lineup next weekend. Alt.