Yes, the Ultra Music Festival lives up to its rep as a sea of dancing glow sticks, billowing from five stages, intense, trans-like energy and festivalgoers clad in metallic, platforms and fishnets. But the fest also welcomes and represents most every walk and lifestyle from all over the world. A melting pot exploiting new trends and wanting to accept all … as long as you’re willing to except them back.
This is people-watching paradises. But don’t let the guy in the full body makeup and spikes detour you. All he wants is a little admiration for his creativity and maybe a good pat on the back. Relax and let the tranquil thuds of bass and synthesizer coax you to move a bit and rejoice in the fact that — by any means necessary — anything goes.
Ultra No. 11 is branching out this year, with stages featuring live instrumental acts like Brit dance-rockers the Whip. Also outside the DJ stratosphere is Santogold — an R&B-influenced singer who also toys with new-wave synth sounds. Her obvious love for the crowd resulted in ear-to-ear smiles and high-fives. Also a nice touch: the melancholy dancers transfixed on either side of her, complete with robotic choreography and shades.
A late addition to the festival was the Black-Eyed Peas, performing their latest electro-techno single "Boom Boom Pow” live for the fist time. With a history of high-energy stage shows chucked full of dancers, lights and all the fabulous Fergie abs one can handle, the performance was married to the heart of modern electronica ... and Fergie’s solo album. It was successful in blending what could have been a somewhat awkward slot in the world of rave. The hip-hop pop troop preformed proud in the DJ scene. They were unapologetic of their Top 40 status, opening the show with “Lets Get It Started” and “My Humps.” It didn’t hurt that David Guetta, who followed the BEP’s performance, produced their new album, The E.N.D, which comes out in a couple months.
BEP's half-hour set did come off as just a bit of self-promotion, but their first live performance since a slough of side projects was a crowd pleaser — especially the surprise performance with hip-hop duo LMFAO. The combo sprung silly yet energetic vibes with the anthem “I’m in Miami Bitch.” Even more entertaining were the renditions of a few “Jock Jams” tunes. BEP’s front man Will.I.am busted out a solo number (“Heartbreaker”) that was more of a festival fit than the Top 40 openers.
Another welcome break from the Dj’s were the Ting Tings, a Britpop duo that was Friday’s main-stage highlight. They pile on so many noises and sounds on last year's We Started Nothing, it's a wonder they pulled it off so well onstage.
There were more intimate parts of the festival — like standing shoulder to shoulder with other revelers in a tent, bobbing to the beats of DJ Benny Benassi under fanning laser lights. Benassi welcomed VJ’s along with a entire party of peeps on his stage. (The most disappointing news of the night was Bloc Party's cancellation.)
Historically, Ultra belonged to the DJs blasting thuds of bass and synth on many stages scattered across the park. Ultra still brings out the most die-hard DJ enthusiasts — boasting DJs who can bounce, spin and even hula hoop the glow sticks of thousands. Guys like David Guetta, Deadmau5 and Tiesto. These masterminds of glow-in-the-dark dance beats took turns moving acres of enthusiasts.
Mostly, Ultra is bringing creativity from all over the world together. You may not get all that goes down at the fest, but you don’t want to be the one who has to miss a beat. —Carissa Bowlin