A recap of the weekend – dancing from stage to stage
Hello all! Here's a recap of my time at Ultra. I last went in 2015.
I was staying in Kendall with an old friend so every day I walked ~15 min to the Dadeland South station and rode it up to Govt Center to meet with a couple friends. Then we'd walk the rest of the way, usually stopping at some point for something (wine on Fri, coffee on Sat/Sun). So every time we got to Ultra, we ended up snaking north – along the west side of Biscayne Blvd – towards the main entrance. Maybe not the most ideal path b/c we always ran into traffic coming from the Metromover but ah well. Had a jacket shell wrapped around my waist on day 1, expecting rain.
Friday, we got into line sometime around 5ish? Maybe took about 40 minutes to get through. At one point there was a full "stop" for like 10 minutes while we were in the ID line and that was a bit annoying. No real hassle with security for either me or my friends though.
We got in around 5:30pm and wandered around for a bit. Found a good meetup spot for the end of the night and I split off to do my own thing.
I like to stomp out the beginning of a dance day, so when I heard Jon Rundell at the Megastructure that's where I ended up for a while. Hopped up all the way to front, weaved in and out of the left side of the crowd, to the back, and alongside the VIP section.
After an hour or so I got pretty hot in there, so I walked through the park again and decided to head to the Spider where in the past I had learned that the breeze along the ocean would be refreshing. Hung out there for a while – Technasia was been playing. Cooled off and decided to wander the park a bit more. Heard Tchami's house sound coming from the mainstage while getting my first of many $8 smoothies of the day. I was always partial to the strawberry one although I noticed they were putting orange juice instead of using oranges in there.
Smoothie in hand, I strolled through the Live stage and checked out the little Eco Village and caught a bit of Gryffin's set. Nothing really seemed to catch my attention at the booths that day, so after hanging around the grassy hill for a bit I decided to see what was going on at the "new" stage that was there in 2015. The Biscayne stage was kind of in a weird place, right up against the exit by a bunch of food stands and food trucks, and the dance floor was all asphalt. DJ Icey was playing some breaks so I kicked around for a song or two but admittedly there was a bit of sound bleed from mainstage at the time, so I decided to walk down the street towards Worldwide.
Worldwide's quirky layout was still there. Inside the arch, sounded good, but outside the edges and there either was a ton of rumbling from the Megastructure (on the asphalt), or noise from the Live stage (up the woodchips). I hung out near the back left and chatted to a few Ultra newbies while Netsky played. I tried to get a dance groove going but the crowd traffic was too much for what I wanted to do.
Moved on to Marco Carola at the Megastructure for a while, it was way more crowded than earlier. I got tired after stomping a bit so then I went up the hill and got a seat by one of the ampitheater columns. I noticed one of the screens said "Gorillaz" and I hadn't remembered them being on the lineup so I thought that was kind of cool. After talking to a skater from Miami next to me, turns out it was Zhu. The shredding guitar solo and smooth jazz that followed were quite fun but I rested up and was ready to dance again. I followed the path that led directly to to the main stage (instead of going down through Megastructure). At this time I noticed that the space where the 7-Up stage use to be was gone. Probably for the better because I remember it always stinking due to its proximity to the bathrooms below. I did notice a cute little camera/video booth though in the corner
After passing through the woodchips I heard some drum and bass from the Biscayne stage so I went over to check it out. Around this time I think it started to rain too. I didn't know who it was at the time but looking at the schedule it had to be Trace. I was there for a while gettin down to drum and bass, during this time probably like 5 carts rolled through with injured or passed out people, which kinda killed the vibe at times. One of the first carts had a girl with a smattering of medical leads on her; it was definitely a sight.
There weren't too many people around at this time, maybe like 10:40 or so? It was just me, one other guy sorta coming in and out of the area, and the security/staff hanging around. They seemed to take a liking to my groove, one of the older staff actually came up to me and gave me a high-five. Probably the highlight of the weekend happened when the set switched up from drum and bass to breakcore for a while. As far as I can remember, I'd never heard breakcore at a massive before. What a feeling just air drumming and jamming to the music, and the security guards there all just smiling, jumping around too.
That set tired me out, so I decided to end the night over by the Spider. Not sure if I caught the end of Nic Fanciulli but I definitely got down to Maceo Plex until the end of the night.
Second day I ended up getting in pretty early, maybe 12:30pm. Line was a breeze. I headed straight for the mainstage; I like to go right up to the front b/c I know that's the only time I can get there super easily. Tommie Sunshine was dropping some electro house, old guy still getting booked on mainstage, always makes me smile.
As fun as being able to hop all around the mainstage dance floor was, the sun was also beating down with no nearby shade. I ended up moving to the spider for a while, basking in the breeze while Elio Riso and Hector played a bunch of chill tech/deep house. I decided to make the rounds and ended up at Vindata's set at the UMF Radio stage. Around this time I figured out that the normal fountains by the bathrooms were dispensing much cooler water than the refill stations, good stuff indeed. Also around this time I found out that if you went to ask the smoothie people to just refill a cup, most of the time they would just ask for a tip instead of full price. At least this is what happened to me the rest of the time!
Around 4pm I had cooled off a lot, so I went down to the Megastructure and The Martinez Brothers were playing straight bangers at this point, so I ended up there for a while. Black Coffee came on after and this ended up probably being my favorite full DJ set of the whole weekend – a darker, groovier feel, a bit different than most of the Megastructure sets I'd heard. One of the later songs in the set was really great, a soulful/tribal/deep sound that's always refreshing in the midst of a sea of bangers
I headed to the Biscayne stage to see what was going on, maybe miraculously hopeful that I'd hear some more breakcore again. Nate Campbell was playing, but I couldn't get into it. I went back to the Spider and it was super packed – I found a little bit of dancing room on the grass by the back left (if facing the food booths) speaker. I guess the special guest was Nicole Moudaber – I think during her set the rain started to come down, and unlike the first day I didn't have a jacket – so I got wet for a while, but by the time Marcel Dettmann was playing, I realized the rain wasn't going to stop, and decided to hide under some trees by the mainstage. I must have heard some of Tiesto's set but at the time I was just trying to hug the tree so I wouldn't get soaked.
It seemed to clear up a little bit and I felt like finding better shelter, so I ran through the wood chips to the Live stage, knowing that the covering over the walkway would keep me dry. Ice Cube was going through a bunch of classics at the time, I decided to hang out and sway a bit to the hip-hop beats. The rain came in varying waves of heaviness – everytime it increased in intensity, you could see crowds of people scramble from the hill under the covering. It got a little tight, but everyone seemed pretty chill actually. Someone next to me asked for a lighter, and after that I probably gave it out 5 more times, honestly lost count. Weed smoke filled the air as the rain rushed in again, then faded away. I had seen Ice Cube's name on the lineup and didn't think there was any way I'd actually end up there for it, but there I was, chill in the blaze.
Finally the rain seemed to let up a bit, and I went down to catch the second half of Sasha/John Digweed – crunchy tech house blasted what seemed to be the largest crowd I'd seen there. I dance a bit in the back, then moved out to the street as the crowd got more dense, bouncing around in the space just past the porta potties. Carl Cox came on, oh yes oh yes, and I gave him a few tunes before deciding to get my last smoothie of the night and head to the spider.
The Spider was also very crowded, although I found a bit of space on the grass for Dubfire and Adam Beyer. Finally, I came back to the Live stage and ended by checking out a bit of the Prodigy on the way to the meetup point. I thought it was kind of odd that Nicky Romero was on the Worldwide stage; that crowd was easily overflowing the space.
Sunday started similar to Saturday, fast line in and all, except I skipped the main stage and went straight for the Spider – I was pretty hot by the time I got in, and we were at the spider all the way through Josefin Rosen and most of Cristoph's set. I went to get my first smoothie of the day and was surprised to find BT finishing up a set on the main stage. Seems like he should have gone to the trance stage, at least in another lifetime! I visited the Eco Village again; the guy at the Shake 108 (107.9 FM) booth was pretty funny and we chatted about random shit while Apster b2b D-Wayne blasted trap in the background. On the way back through the Live stage, I heard Goldfish play. I wanted to give the live instruments some love, so I went down concrete just behind the left-side of the stage and began to dance. I was surprised at how funky they got – their Watermelon Man take/remix was maybe my favorite tune to groove to – and all the little flute/electric piano/sax solos were a lot of fun.
Eventually the sun got to me, and I headed to the Spider again for that breeze. Patrick Topping was playing high energy house tunes and I found myself dancing hard again, this time on the grassy area closer to the water. During this set, a bunch of people were taking pictures/videos with me, an emergency cart rolled through the crowd while the guy on the back of it kept fist pumping with the music, seemed like a really fun time for everyone around me. Somehow a rock ended up in my smoothie cup though, that wasn't cool. As far as crowd interaction/energy goes, this was definitely the peak of my weekend.
Sometime during Jackmaster's set, I left the Spider and went around just chatting with people all over the park. Eventually I had to use the bathrooms and ended up by the ones near the Megastructure. I think this was during Andrew Rayel's set. A few people hopped the fence by those porta potties but it seemed like the security was quick to get on them and I saw them being dragged out the exit in a matter of minutes.
I had to make a final dance trip to the Biscayne stage, and was treated to some rolling techno/tech house by Rob B b2b Bob B (I can't find them online, tbh). The sun set during this time, a lovely set indeed. Sometimes I had to get pretty close to the stage to avoid the mainstage bleed, but there were definitely good spots to be.
After the sunset, I chilled by the Live stage, wore myself out jamming to Underworld, went back to the Spider one last time and got funky with Jamie Jones/Seth Troxler. Never seen it so packed. Finally, back to the Live stage to meetup with my friends. Justice's last tune was great, what a stomper.
Thoughts on the setup
- Lines – The single-entrance thing still baffles me.
- Production & sound – fantastic as expected.
- Layout – Still places to get away from the sound (e.g. that whole area to the right of Live stage). If Worldwide structure keeps getting names that big, the crowd will always overflow into the street, and consequently get blasted by the Megastructure. I think it's kinda funny at times and I don't have any answers for it, but yeah it might be a problem to some
- Bathrooms – turns out the area behind the porta potties is a common place for people to piss. At least there wasn't a stage above toilets this time
- Cell service – was surprisingly good all weekend long
- Metrorail running til 2am is dope af. The walk from Dadeland South to my friend's apt was really quite chill. Miami at night, this time of year, lovely.
- So many good sets to jam out to online. Good job internet
- Met an old raver couple in their 30s, real estate types now, first Ultra. Super chill peeps, actually emailed me to see if I was OK after I got back home. A+ vibes
- Met a dad and his son. Dad's 35th anniversary that weekend, son's 6th anniversary. Everyone at Ultra. One of the more interesting times during Ultra – relating stories about my nieces to dads, cigars in hand, waiting to take a dump.
- Volunteer fire fighter finding me at the Live stage during Underworld and taking a selfie – "I've been working all weekend and you just keep on going man" ❤ ❤
- Met a local rapper who apparently said he'd never paid to get into Ultra, maybe 5 times? His soundcloud is still on the back of a card in my wallet
- Met a TSA agent at Ultra by himself for the first time. A couple sat down next to us, did the whole PLUR kandi exchange, and it turns out they live a couple hours away from each other. Cute
- I might be on some of your ig/snap videos, I don't think I dance that crazy but I do like air drumming. Hope y'all had a good time randos!
- Overall, good vibes in my experiences, although I tend to avoid thick crowds. Beyond the music, probably the #1 reason why I avoid most of the mainstage acts
- I've found myself on the be-at.tv stream XD