The Fortunate Warrior watched the Ultra Music Festival Miami streaming over the internet. When I was pricing out this trip – that is, when I thought I might be able to afford attending this festival – I realized it was going to be very expensive indeed. One clue was that hotels were sold out ninety days before the event in downtown Miami, where the event was being held. A single three-day event pass general admission cost about $500 – a VIP pass would cost $1000 – per person. So for everything this festival chalked up to about $3000 at least for the entire 3-day event.
It would have been worth every penny.
Of all EDM festivals this one is the mothership, originally intended to anchor the end of the Spring Music Conference, a gathering of music business professionals. Not long ago it was a single day. Last year it expanded to two adjacent weekends. The City of Miami hated this, so this year it was back to a single weekend. (The site is not ideal in many ways. It’s in a narrow park between the ocean and Downtown Miami, requiring a major thoroughfare to close for this big event.)
There is a wide generational gulf between myself at 54 and the typical attendee in their 20’s. Add the subcultures that comprise EDM and I have a tough time writing about this, even though I watched rather than be present. Even so it was an intense and moving experience. EDM is a spiritual movement within a political movement within a musical movement – the flags, the joyous music and crowds of people, the chant “EAT SLEEP RAVE REPEAT” tells me something deeper is going on. There is a shift in consciousness going on – and not drug induced, as some in Miami city government have decried. This event is an initiation.
The crowd is savvy, chatty, patriotic (national flags are everywhere) in a “we are the world” mode, slutty, vulgar, sexual and yet enlightened. Ultra cameramen dive into the ample cleavage of the many, many voluptuous women on hand, some wearing only pasties with blinking LED’s of the Ultra logo. Look for the blonde in a white bikini on the shoulders of some hapless dude, slapping her ass as she looks back into the camera. Boobies rules here.
Considering that there are seven stages and nearly 300 DJ’s performing it must be tough to make choices. Few of the names you would recognize, (many are Dutch). An American group, Kruella, based in Chicago, comprised of two sisters and a male friend talked the main state audience down to sing a ballad – a first for Ultra. Some of the performers were very young, one from South Africa had just turned 17, flying in to Miami to do this set, then, whisking back to the airport to fly to another festival in Brazil. There are live acts as well as DJ’s.
I don’t know. Bro Safari was a twisted torrent of sound! This unruly music ate the stage, the DJ, the audience, the camera – hungry fucking music! It explains why I have bite marks on my left arm. Jack U — made up of star DJ’s Diplo and Skrillex…, well, how do I characterize their set? The music was a prowling party animal, such ravenous noise, ripping off my ass and bludgeoning me bloody with it. The audience packed so tightly up front that individual motion was impossible- if one person moved many others would have to move with them. When the DJ’s exhorted the audience to jump, acres of them did. Dancing was a frenzy of ecstasy, an odd physical worship of motion and sound, possessed of a maniacal god. Disjointed polyrhythms are fun, with no real melodies, often punctuated by exhortations of the DJ.
It was draining just to watch, often dancing around my small room prowling and jumping and pacing.