Highlights from Ultra Music Festival

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I’ve been sick with a sore throat the past couple of days.  Perhaps it was from all the cheering at Ultra or trying to shout over the music.  Either way, it’s a small price to pay for getting to check out two days of performances by some of the biggest DJs and producers in the dance and electronic music scene.

Ultra Music FestivalWhat I enjoy about this genre of music (besides the music itself), is that it brings all sorts of people together.  Between 50,000 and 60,000 people attended Ultra each day, united by a love of dance and electronic music.  The fashion ranged from preppy to sporty, from hipster to raver.  A guy in a polo shirt would be enjoying the same music as a girl wearing a neon-colored tutu and black fuzzy boots with bead bracelets halfway up to her elbows.  It was truly an international event — music fans from approximately 80 countries made up the crowd and waved flags in beat to the music.  Maybe all they need at the G20 summit is a little dance music.

Even hip-hop artists are getting into the electronic scene.  The Black Eyed Peas chose Ultra as the venue to unveil the first song from their upcoming album.  Their performance Friday night (their first performance as a group in three years), kicked off with the hits “Let’s Get It Started” and “My Humps” before the debut of the beat-driven “Boom Boom Pow.”  If the audience’s reaction to the group’s high energy performance is any indication, The Black Eyed Peas will have huge success with their new album, due out June 9th.

Black Eyed Peas and LMFAOThis being Miami, the audience cheered loudly anytime The Black Eyed Peas mentioned the city by name.  And they went insane when the duo from LMFAO came on stage and joined them for an extended version of “I’m in Miami, B—-,” their song that’s huge right now in Miami clubs.

Ultra seemed to have several surprise appearances.  My favorite was during David Guetta’s set on Friday when he was joined by Kelly Rowland (of Destiny’s Child fame) to perform their new song “Love Takes Over.”  And wow, this woman can really belt it out!  The song has a great melody and you’ll want to sing along.  It’s definitely going to be a huge club hit this summer.

On Saturday music producer Timbaland tried his hand at DJing.  He mixed together beats from his hit songs like “The Way I Are” and “SexyBack.”  It seemed like he was a little unsure of his DJing abilities at times, relying on a hype man for encouragement and to pump up the audience.  Maybe he’s practicing for a new career?

Paul van DykTiësto and Paul van Dyk didn’t disappoint, headlining Friday and Saturday respectively with their brand of techno and electronic music that brought them to the top of the dance music scene.  It was incredible looking around at the massive audience during their sets; performing to a crowd of around 50,000 must be an incredible rush.

During his performance Saturday night Paul van Dyk debuted his latest single “Home.”  It has a warm mix of house music and pop vocals, but seems to rely too much on the same formula as his other popular singles.

Ultra Music Festival is loaded with so many different performances at a number of different stages that it makes it tough to choose where to go.  I found myself running from stage to stage, trying to get in as many performances as possible.

Roni Size and GoldieI’m a big fan of drum & bass so I made sure to be right up front for Roni Size (who performed in the U.S. for the first time in seven years with Reprazent), and Goldie.  Years ago it was music from these two who piqued my interest in drum & bass.  If you’re not familiar with this kind of music, I’d describe it as a heart-pumping frenzy of beats and bass that would make the heads of many parents (mine included) explode.

A big disappointment was the Prodigy, who started their set 20 minutes late and then proceeded to spew out a string of epithets to get the crowd going.  The cursing got old after a few minutes and I ended up leaving to check out the other stages.

Deadmau5Another disappointment was the no-show by Kaskade, whose song “Move for Me” with Deadmau5 is currently one of the most played songs on my iPod.  I did enjoy seeing two sets by Deadmau5, who took the stage wearing a helmet that was one part Mickey Mouse and another part Takashi Murakami.

Ultra Music FestivalIn between the main stage performances I spent a lot of time in the Carl Cox and Friends tent.  With friends like Moby, Pete Tong and Eric Morillo, there was a great mix of songs and beats.  I always made sure to return for Carl Cox, who is great at manipulating the energy of the crowd through his music.

Ultra Music FestivalIn the middle of all the action was the international food market, which tempted me with delicious smells even when I wasn’t hungry.  There was pizza, burgers, gyros, fried chicken, crepes, frog legs, gator bites, pasta and more.  My favorite was the stir-fried noodles, which were among the cheaper food items at $7 (my slice of pizza Friday night cost $10).  I did go a little overboard on eating but I figured I’d work off all the calories while dancing!

With non-stop, electrifying performances, Ultra Music Festival is the highlight of the Winter Music Conference.  Now that my ears have finally stopped ringing I’m ready for Ultra 2010!