Trying to concisely wrap up the three days of Ultra Music Festival 2011 in Miami is like trying to concisely explain the meaning of life–it’s a pretty difficult task. Hundreds of artists descended on the Sunshine State last week for an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Ultra definitely stepped their game up this year–not only by adding a third day, but by really making the experience one that everyone would remember as an all-around enjoyable event.
Let’s start with the overall setup of Ultra, which was much improved over last year. While last year’s UMF sold out just like this year’s, this time around it actually felt like there was room to move around amongst the crowd–something that was lacking last year. Additionally, the stage placement was dramatically improved for 2011. There was very little noise bleed between stages and it was quite simple to get from one area to another. Some of the stages also sported a gravel or plastic flooring which made things a lot cleaner.
Now, onto day 1. Like all the days, there was something for everyone to kick off the festival. Some notable performances included Benny Benassi, who dropped quite a bit of dubstep destruction to go along with his standard electro house sound, Mustard Pimp, a duo known for their unique sound, and Chris Lake, one of the most consistent DJs out there. Porter Robinson also did an excellent job of rocking the 21+ Heineken Dome, a curious structure that proved to be a psychedelic mishmash of lights, colors, and beer ads once you entered. We are also happy to report that Trentemøller is still alive and well, bringing his uniquely minimal sound to the revelers at the Live stage toward the end of the day.
Day 2 was arguably the strongest of the days. Avicii performed twice–once on the main stage and once in the Heineken Dome, and both performances were glorious displays of Avicii’s vocal house prowess. The guy can do no wrong with his tracks, and he proved it over and over by dropping many new songs such as Blessed and Jailbait. Ultra definitely underestimated the draw this guy has by putting him in the smaller Heineken Dome; it was a madhouse trying to get in there. Other notables throughout the day included mau5trap boys Feed Me and Skrillex, whose unique electro/dubstep blend leaves little wonder as to why they were signed to such a prestigious label. As for Carl Cox, I don’t think any of us LT3-ers were ready for the set he delivered on Saturday in the Carl Cox & Friends Arena. A mainstay in techno and tech house circles for many years, this man seems to be picking up steam again, as his sound and overall image has once again become even more relevant to the mainstream than it already was. From the moment he dropped Nicky Romero’s remix of Flash by Green Velvet, it was lights out musically. Speaking of Flash, there is little doubt that it was the track of UMF 2011. Everyone from David Guetta, to Carl Cox, to Fedde le Grand, to Sander van Doorn was dropping this percussive monster.
The ravers were noticeably tired by day 3, but that didn’t stop a relentless assault of beats from overtaking everyone. Perhaps the most notable event of the day was the A State of Trance 500 tent, which was the Carl Cox tent on the first two days. Armin’s world-renowned radio show turned into a 12-hour nonstop trancefest, and was an event that is widely regarded as an event that will set the stage for the sound of trance in the coming year. If that’s true, get ready for a lot of dubtrance, or trancestep–whatever you’d like to call it. Ferry Corsten and Sander van Doorn both had some wobbles for the crowd, and if the trance guys are dropping it, well… everyone is. Armin’s set went absolutely bananas once it hit the halfway point; he started dropping hard Eastern European sounds that had people from all corners of Ultra running to the tent, demonstrating that even America gets it now. We don’t need a bunch of commercial trance; give us the crazy good beats. Sander’s closing set was also spectacular and featured his trademark electro trance sound and a few new tracks that we can’t wait to get our hands on. A few other great performances from the day came from the likes of Zeds Dead, whose hip-hoppy dubstep sound annihilated the Heineken Dome, and the glitch hop beats of Glitch Mob.
LessThan3 was privileged enough to be able to interview many of the artists who performed at UMF, so be sure and stay tuned here for ongoing coverage from the most important dance event in America. Also, we did a bit of cross-collaboration with music website juggernaut Billboard.com, so for more coverage check out other highlights from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. UMF has already announced that its 2012 dates will be March 23rd-25th, so all we can say in conclusion is… hurry up and get here, 2012.