Ultra Music Festival, first established in 1999, has now become a world-wide phenomenon. Originating in Miami, the Ultra world-wide brand now encompasses at least 28 countries across 6 continents, and continues to deliver a consistently remarkable festival experience, for new and old festival goers alike. The festival has 3 stages: Main stage with the more commercial headliners; the Resistance stage, which one could say boasted the crème de la crème of the underground DJ scene, and the UMF Radio stage, syndicated to FM radio stations in over 62 countries, playing predominantly what I would consider to be energising EDM mashups. The festival was held in Melbourne on the grounds of the Flemington Race Course.
From the moment I walked into the festival I got the sense it was a well organised event. There were water stations in easy access, good toilets which were maintained during the festival, and all the typical festival amenities including a variety of food trucks. DanceWize and first aid also provided support and free sunscreen to all those in need. Drinks were easy to purchase using EFTPOS / paypass, and there was even a phone charging station. Police presence was a standout point, with police trooping around the festival in groups of threes. At one time I could count at least 12 police roaming the festival within eyeshot. There were sniffer dogs at the entrance, but were not inside the festival and the police presence managed to effectively keep the peace in a non-intrusive way. In terms of entertainment, there were roaming artists and models wandering through the venue. Sound quality in all stages was unrivalled, with noise interference between stages being quite minimal considering the proximity of the stages to each other.
Only the Resistance stage had some shade, all the other stages were completely open. You could see patrons lurking in any shadow they could find to hide-away from the summer sun. Even though marquees were set up specifically for shade, more would have been better. Secondly to that, the VIP areas were also devoid of shade, which I found surprising. One festival goer, Courtney, stated that she was not impressed by how “you’re paying $300 to stand in the sun, further away from the stage as VIP, whereas not VIP were closer to the stage”. Lilly, who had attended Ultra last year, also concurred with the sentiment that having the VIP stages on the sides of the crowd, rather than up the front was a bit of a disappointment. However, by being on the sidelines, there was inherently a lot more space this time round – but would you rather have the extra wiggle room or prefer to be right up there, front and centre?
Irrespective of whether you were in the VIP sidelines or down in the crowd, the lightshow at the end of the night was amazing. Mainstage boasted lights, lazers, flame throwers, even a fireworks display to end the night. All the performers / DJs were energetic and capable of bringing a buzz to the crowd. For me, this was exemplified mostly by the Chainsmokers, who would switch from DJ track to a random acoustic track and have the whole crowd (and I mean the WHOLE CROWD) singing along to We are the champions by Queen, Zombie by Bad Wolves (originally by The Cranberries), and they even threw in a dash of Linkin Park, because why wouldn’t you? They rock! The Chainsmokers had a full drum kit on stage, and there was a point when the drummer’s drum sticks were on fire whilst he did a drum solo. It was a sensational performance, and I have to say that Ultra could not have chosen a better headlining act.
The other standout performances I happened to catch were Boogs, who really never stops giving, and Joris Voorn who was in top notch tech form through his pumping set. Adam Beyer was fantastic, Mashd N Kutcher were banging with their high energy EDM mashups. Will Sparks was entertainment 101, managing to DJ, rev up the crowd, and dance on stage, all at the same time. And the best thing (I think) about this festival was that as you walked from stage to stage, you could grace your ears with a little bit of tech, progressive, drum’n’bass, glitch, EDM, all the way to just plain old rock! It was a musical delight, and for those of you who have yet to experience Ultra, my word of advice is: Do Not Miss The Next One!!
(Photos by Rukes, Rudgr, and Nishan Saparamadu)