New Stages & Changes – Ultra Music Festival (UMF) 2015

*written by Crystal Garcia for Electronica Life
ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL 2015, where do I even begin. First and foremost, it’s important I admit that I had my doubts about attending the 17th edition of Ultra in Miami this year. We all saw videos of the girl from 2013 dosed up on god knows what having her 15 minutes with a tree. Let’s also not forget about the photos that surfaced last year which are more risque than I’d like to mention here. I’m not one to believe everything I see, but I can’t say media coverage from prior years didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. Just as the saying goes “assuming only makes an ass out of you and me”, so I decided I needed to find out for myself what 3 days at Ultra is REALLY like.

After having spent a few days in Miami last week for the throng of events during Miami Music Week, it was finally Friday and time for Ultra 2015. Already on little to no sleep from prior late night shenanigans, another day of non-stop music seemed to be quite the feat. I entered the festival a bit past four just in time to catch a decent amount of Bakermat’s performance at the LIVE Stage, and I was pleasantly impressed. An outdoor amphitheater of sorts, the new stage boasted talented live electronic acts in the perfect setting for passers by to discover new artists they may not be used to seeing at most ‘EDM’ festivals.

The music was bumping throughout the festival at all eight stages as attendees began to filter in and then BOOM,  the absolute unthinkable occurred. Mother nature decided to pay Ultra a visit unleashing her typical Florida rainstorms throughout the festival grounds. Due to the severe rain, the Live stage and most stages closed for the night cancelling the Ultra premieres of acts such as Odesza and Chromeo. The rain most definitely put a damper on the first nights festivities, as I decided to wait out the rain backstage with friends. About an hour before midnight, the rain seemed to subside and I made a mad dash to the newly added RESISTANCE stage for a much needed fix of Maceo Plex.
Once I laid my eyes on the Resistance stage, it was a sigh of relief after the chaos of the last few hours. Tucked away in a back corner at the very end of the festival behind mainstage, it was a trek that only true house and techno heads would consider. A stage that looked as though it could have came straight from Burning Man, The Resistance was a 360 degree DJ Booth spaceship structure of sorts fully equipped with self inducing smoke and fire flaming powers, and the crowd was welcomed to dance in and around the stage. Maceo Plex salvaged what was left of the first night with nothing less than his signature sound of straight up sexy techno. That one hour alone with the techno master made waiting out the rain for hours worth it a hundred times over.

Day 2 kicked off to a perfect start with clear skies, beautiful weather and good vibes. Once again the LIVE stage was on point with acts such as Gorgon City and Clean Bandit with Lulu James live performing their hit “Rather Be” a new track “Stronger”, and even a rendition of “Show Me Love” which had the entire crowd dancing in the bleachers.

Carl Cox took over the Megastructure stage for the 2nd night in a row with stunning visuals and dazzling displays of ever changing dramatically colorful lights. The likes of MK, John Digweed and Loco Dice joined the king of techno as he closed out the Megastructure for the second night in a row. Meanwhile at The Resistance stage Marco Bailey, UMEK and Joseph Capriatti played back to back sets of house and techno for those in the crowd opting for a change in music.
Mainstage acts of the day included Martin Garrix, Armin Van Buuren, Hardwell and Axwell ^ Ingrosso who drew in the typical massive crowds as expected. At the Worldwide stage, a rare U.S. performance by Deep Dish aka Sharam and Dubfire unleashed a frenzy on the crowd opening with their hit “Say Hello” and all around incredible performance with remixes of classics including Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education” and The Prodigy’s “Smack My B Up.”

Tropical house reigned on day 3 as acts such as Robin Schulz, Klangkarussell, Goldroom, Thomas Jack and Kygo headlined various stages of Ultra. German newcomer Robin Schulz kicked off the last days festivities warming up the mainstage with none other than his major 2014 hits “Waves” and “Prayer in C”. Goldroom played all but 20 minutes of his set under 120 bpm at the Worldwide stage while Ultra anthem’ creator Kygo closed out the night at the LIVE stage with a few new tracks and a stunning visual display in melody with the music. Netsky and Porter Robinson also wooed fans at the stage with appearances of their live shows, as the multi-talented Porter sang vocals on his own tracks with a full crowd singing along to a jubilant closing with “Language”.

Back at the Megastructure, A State Of Trance 700 took over with headlining trance acts Andrew Rayel, Markus Schulz, Andrew Bayer, Eric Prydz, Paul Van Dyk and of course ASOT founder himself, Armin Van Buuren. Andrew Bayer delivered a true trance set to fans long awaiting his Ultra premiere with his angelic new track “Superhuman” and ended the blissful set with none other than Above & Beyond’s “A Thing Called Love”. Prydz hit the decks next for yet another much anticipated and unexpected ASOT performance, and Armin followed with his signature sound and closed out his set with a beautiful acapella of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which quickly brought tears to my eyes. I’m no longer the trance head I once was, but I most definitely got those trance feels of goosebumps and chills all over again as if it was my first ASOT show from years ago.

It’s obvious that I didn’t spend much time at Mainstage, if any at all. I passed by a few times throughout the weekend and attempted to stay put, but I just couldn’t do it knowing there was so much incredible music to be explored at the 7 other stages. Thankfully this is the reason I have an entirely new perspective of Ultra and the masterminds behind the brand. The additions of the LIVE stage and Resistance stage put an entirely new spin on things, as it’s a coming of age for Ultra ultimately. To break away from the mainstream and add a live music stage along with a stage infiltrated with underground sounds, is not a feat easily decided or executed. This is the future of electronic music, and I can only wait in anticipation for the changes that festival organizers have up their sleeves for Ultra 2016!
Photos by Josh Payne